Saturday, April 11, 2009

Will the Real Jackass Rise? Charles Barron, Whitney Tilson, or Ben Chavis?

It's a tie between Whitney Tilson and Ben Chavis (not the same Ben Chavis who headed the NAACP. We've dealt with Tilson, who fancies himself an expert on education since he once went to kindergarten, when Ed Notes News reported

Whitney Tilson Chooses Ed Notes Editor to Manage Hedge Fund

This comment was left by someone named Andrew on our post linking to Angel Gonzalez' film:

Barron, Klein, Spellings, Sharpton Confrontation

One of KIPP's drooling mouth-breathing fans who blogs under the heading "Whitney Tilson's School Reform Blog" recently posted on an event which apparently occurred subsequent to Mr. Barron's brilliant dissection of mayoral control and the promotion of charter schools.

It points up that a sociopath is loose and running charters in the Oakland, CA area. Keep in mind that Ben Chavis would be in jail in a healthy society but wealthy people in this society have put him in charge of poor and working people's children.

Here's Tilson's idiotic blog entry:

"I owe NY City Council member Robert Jackson an apology for a case of mistaken identity. After I heard he spoke out against mayoral control during the morning panel of the Eq Equality Day on Friday, when I saw a City Council member go off on a rant on the same topic during the lunch panel, I naturally assumed it was Jackson. In fact, it was another City Council member, Charles Barron (I've never seen or met either of them).

Barron, by all accounts, is a true jackass -- he actually said during his rant that inner-city kids should be focusing on home ec and woodworking (this article by Elizabeth Green of on the idiotic things he had to say:

Barron is also a bully and, like most bullies, a coward. Here's more on the confrontation between he and Ben Chavis that I mentioned in yesterday's email, as recounted to me by Chavis and multiple witnesses:

Chavis observed Barron berating one of the conference organizers, bringing that person to tears, and didn't like it one bit -- he thought Barron was being a bully, so and went up to him and, face only inches from Barron's, started RIPPING him, saying (I'm not making this up): "You're a mother f-ing black pimp, you're f-ing our kids. Come to the reservation and I'll beat your ass. You want our kids to take Home Ec? YOU should wear a dress!"

Barron replied, "Well we're here, so let's do it right now." Chavis said OK and started heading for the exit. Barron, seeing Chavis was dead serious about fighting him, quickly wimped out and instead threatened to having Chavis kicked out of the hotel. They shouted obscenities at each other, with Chavis getting the last words as they separated, saying "You're a pimp! You're a pimp!"

I LIKE this guy!

Here's another story I heard about Chavis: when he became principal of the first American Indian Charter School, he went down to the street corner where the drug dealers were hanging out. They said, "What the hell are you doing here, white man." To which he replied, "I'm not white, I'm Indian -- and I'll pay you $5 if you bring back any of my students who should be in school." They said, "Hell, for $5, we'll not only bring them back, we'll beat them up for you!" "No need for that," Chavis replied. "Just bring them back."

As I said, I LIKE this guy! I'm not sure I'd recommend all of his methods, but they seem to work for him -- and, most importantly, his students!"

Wow Whitney. Ben Chavis challenging Barron to "settle it outside" is just the kind of guy we want running schools. And Barron's points about the killing of vocational education where most jobs will lie as opposed to the bullshit the ed deformers are throwing around about college jobs when we know most of them are geared for McDonald's and Walmart and data enty jobs. How much does Whitney have invested in those companies, I wonder? Keep those wages of those kids you supposedly care about real low.

Whitney, you are beyond a jackass. Try total idiot.

More on Chavis from Perimeter Primate:

I am writing to you from Oakland, California, and hope you will pass this information to City Council Member Barron. It is about the man who approached Mr. Barron after the EEP panel last week and launched an abusive verbal attack, Ben Chavis of Oakland's American Indian Public charter schools.

I learned about the interaction here

As an Oaklander who in interested in public school issues, and who has been living less than a mile from Mr. Chavis’ flagship charter school for the past 20 years, I am well acquainted with Chavis’ temperament and local shenanigans. Mr. Barron may like to read this article:

Chavis took over the failing American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS) in 2001-02. By his third year, 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. Here is the evidence of his demographic engineering at his award winning charter school (DataQuest at the CDE):

This is the changing percentage of the school’s students in one of the following subgroups: American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American in the 13 school years from 1996-97 to 2008-09.

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
2008-09 = 42.3

The school's American Indian or Alaska Native percentage in 1996-97 was 100%. This year it is 1.1%.

And on the other hand, here is the changing percentage of the school’s students who are in either of the following subgroups: Asian or White.

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
2008-09 = 54.4

Of course, the demographic changes of the Oakland Unified School District are not aligned to this at all.

Around 2005, the school was starting to get a lot of press. Questions were being raised about Chavis' cherry picking tactics. Demographic reporting for 2006-07 suddenly showed an unprecedented number of students who did not specifying their subgroup (the multiple or no response category).

The percentage of students claiming to be in this subgroup had averaged 0.29 for the previous 10 years. In 2006-07 the percentage jumped to 26.4 percent. During the summer of 2007, Chavis abruptly resigned as principal of AIPCS. Most local people believe his departure was definitely connected to the incident which was reported in the article above.

Following his departure, the percentage of students in the multiple or no response category dropped to 11.1 in 2007-08. This year, it is 2.7%. The district average is 5.8%.

Although he is no longer a principal, Chavis oversees three charter schools in Oakland with the “American Indian Public” prefix. He calls his instructional program the “American Indian Method.”

Chavis' schools manage to avoid having to teach students w/disabilities. The combined enrollment in his three schools of students w/disabilities in 2007-08 was 1.3% (district average = 10%).

Chavis' schools also manage to avoid having to teach English Learners. The combined enrollment in his three schools of English learners in 2007-08 was 3% (district average = 30%).

He likes to boast how he is saving the low-performing groups, but his main technique is to seek out low-income, hardworking, high achieving students from local elementary schools.

Fortunately, Chavis' most recent charter petition was denied by the district; the denial report was quite interesting. Chavis' emotional response to learning the news about the denial is here:

That wraps it up. In my opinion, Chavis is pretty much a highly competitive, scheming nutcase as far as I can tell, but I am quite certain that City Council Member Barron has been able to determine that for himself.

Most sincerely,
Sharon Higgins


  1. I am veteran teacher from Houston seeking a dialogue with current and past Teach for America teachers regarding a pattern of TFA leaders and alumni in leadership positions promoting conservative ideas and profiting from close relationships with reactionary corporations while presumptuously claiming to be the new civil rights movement. I first became aware of this when a former local TFA Director, now a school board member, recently proposed to fire teachers based on test scores and opposed allowing us to vote to have a single union. Having won school board positions in several cities around the country, former-TFA personnel are apparently pursuing these sorts of policies as an agenda.

    The conservative-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide sponsored Wendy Kopp's initial efforts to create Teach for America. Union Carbide's negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize taking responsibility.

    Ms. Kopp wrote in her book she nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved in financial hard times by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project, founded by a Tennessee entrepreneur, was an effort to replace public schools run by elected school boards with for-profit, corporate-run schools. Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of the KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions.

    In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, joined the Bush's at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was pivotal for Bush, since as Governor had no genuine educational achievements of his own These charter schools do great service, but they start with families that are committed to education. They claim to be improving public schools by offering competition in the market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest. It's not a level playing field.

    Superintendent Michelle Rhee's prescription for improving D.C. Schools is two-fold: close them rather than improve them—and fire teachers rather than inspire them.

    TFA teachers do great work. But better schools are only part of the solution. Stable families are more able to be ambitious for their children than insecure, overworked and struggling ones. Our society has failed our schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It's not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity fosters the achievement gap. Its not the other way around.

    Blaming teachers, public schools and our unions brings money and powerful allies to TFA and KIPP but it also feeds corporate ideology and their power. Corporate domination of politics, and the weakness of counter-balancing forces like unions, are the obstacles to national health insurance, generous college funding and revitalized unionism.

    Ms. Kopp claims the civil rights mantle, but Martin Luther King would take principled positions—against the Vietnam War and for the Poor Peoples March—even when it pissed off powerful people. His final speech was for striking sanitation workers. His last book argued for modifying American capitalism to include some measure of wealth distribution. WK is no MLK. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here. My e-mail is Your hard work as a TFA teacher gives TFA executives credibility and a platform to espouse their ideas. Its not the other way around.


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