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California Charter School Aims to Stay Successful but Change Disciplinary Measures

Notorious California Charter School Aims to Keep Success but Change Disciplinary Measures

American Indian Model Schools (AIMS) is one of the highest performing charter chains in the state of California, and has recently gained a new superintendent who has her work cut out for her. She must decide what to change and what to leave in regards to the network's controversial practices all the while retaining the high test scores.

Before Maya Woods-Cadiz took over, according to The Hechinger Report, prior leader and proclaimed creator of the network, Ben Chavis, ruled with questionable leadership.

"Chavis, who once taught in the ethnic studies department at San Francisco State University, is famous — in California education circles and beyond — for berating students and faculty members, sometimes with racial slurs," The Hechinger Report article said.

Now, Woods-Cadiz and other AIMS educators are embarking on a journey to determine "which part of the schools’ unusual style helped propel them into the ranks of the best schools in the country and which part created the mess that angered parents, worried officials and nearly cost the chain its life."

When Chavis took over the AIMS network, it was in poor shape and was one of the worst performing schools in the area. As he took over, he made several changes that benefited the performance of the network's students.

For instance, "[i]nstead of having students move to a different classroom and teacher for each new subject, with new sets of teachers each school year—the practice in most middle schools — Chavis kept students together in the same room and gave them the same teacher for several years in a row," the article said.

Despite dropping enrollment rates towards the end of his leadership at AIMS that critics blame on the network forcing struggling students out, the network consistently earned praise for the results of its instruction.

"Last year, the Washington Post, named the high school among the most challenging in the country, based on a ranking system that rewards schools for, among other things, having a high percentage of seniors taking college-level standardized tests like AP tests. U.S. News & World Report ranked it the nation’s 11th best charter."

As far as disciplinary tactics, Chavis stood firm on the "broken window theory," where even small infractions are believed to be in need of firm punishment to stop larger ones from occurring. Other AIMS educators agree with the instruction, saying that there is no mixed messages sent to students about expected behavior and that it best prepares them for real-world expectations.

Though scores have dropped for the network in recent years, they still remain above the state average. Though Chavis questions whether his legacy will be able to persevere without his dictation of harsh discipline, AIMS educators will continue on.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

05/21/2015

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