Los Angeles Times

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Spitting in the eye of mainstream education
Los Angeles Times

Three no-frills charter schools in Oakland mock liberal orthodoxy, teach strictly to the test — and produce some of the state’s top scores. Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: « We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. Multi-cultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots, and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply. »

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Students, almost all poor, wear uniforms and are subject to disciplinary procedures redolent of military school. One local school district official was horrified to learn that a girl was forced to clean the boys’ restroom as punishment.

It would be easy to dismiss American Indian as one of the nuttier offshoots of the fast-growing charter school movement, which allows schools to receive public funding but operate outside of day-to-day district oversight. But the schools command attention for one very simple reason: By standard measures, they are among the very best in California.

So what are they doing? The short answer is that American Indian attracts academically motivated students, relentlessly (and unapologetically) teaches to the test, wrings more seat time out of every school day, hires smart young teachers, demands near-perfect attendance, piles on the homework, refuses to promote struggling students to the next grade, and keeps discipline so tight that there are no distractions or disruptions. Summer school is required.