Monday, August 25, 2008

The Perimeter Primate Takes on George Will

Oakland parent Sharon Higgins left this comment on the Daily Howler critique of George Will I posted Sunday. It is worth sharing as a separate post. Her blog, The Perimeter Primate, touches on a number of important issues. Here, Sharon exposes the myth of charter schools - that they succeed with the same kids who failed in public schools.

photo from Sharon's blog.

The fluff about this school has been driving me nuts for years!

Here's what I wrote to George Will.

Dear Mr. Will,

In preparing your recent column in the Washington Post (8/21/08), "Where Paternalism Makes the Grade," you may have wished to take a look at the demographic changes over the past several years at the American Indian Public Charter School. I am certain that you were unaware of them when you wrote the piece, but their influence must be considered when discussing the changes that have occurred at this particular school. Otherwise, a true picture is not portrayed.

Dr. Chavis’ first year at the school was 2001-02. By the time he began his third year at the school, a new course for the school was in place—the acquisition of more students from the higher performing subgroups and a reduction of students from the lowest performing subgroups. Please note the changes in enrollment which occurred.

(Incidentally, the demographics of Oakland were not shifting in this same way. They have remained stable with the exception of an increase in Latino residents and a decline in African American residents.)

The percentage of the school’s students who were in the following subgroups: American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American in the 12 school years from 1996-97 to 2007-08.

1996-97 = 100.0

1997-98 = 97.0

1998-99 = 93.8

1999-00 = 100.1

2000-01 = 97.0

2001-02 = 100

2002-03 = 98.7
2003-04 = 74.3
2004-05 = 55.4

2005-06 = 65.3

2006-07 = 51.1

2007-08 = 50.5

Here is the changing percentage of the school’s students who were in the following subgroups: Asian or White.

Please note the unusual increase in 2003:

1996-97 = 0.0

1997-98 = 2.9

1998-99 = 6.2

1999-00 = 0.0

2000-01 = 2.9

2001-02 = 0.0

2002-03 = 1.2

2003-04 = 25.7
2004-05 = 44.6
2005-06 = 33.7

2006-07 = 22.4

2007-08 = 38.4

This data was obtained from the California Department of Education @

In 2006, questions were being raised about the selectivity of students.
Suddenly, the school had an unprecedented number of students who were not specifying their subgroup. The percentage in this group had been nonexistent for 10 years. It suddenly jumped to 26.4 percent and has remained over 10 percent since. This certainly appears odd and would be one way to muddy the true demographics of the student population.

Sincerely, Sharon Higgins, Oakland parent

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