Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal’s Triumph in the Inner City is Ben Chavis’ book about how he turned a failing charter school into one of the highest scoring middle schools in the state, even though 81 percent of students come from low-income families. Mark Hemingway writes on National Review Online:
It’s true that Chavis is a controversial figure — the book provides ample evidence of that. He’s profane, boasts of humiliating his students when they “act a fool,” and isn’t afraid to tell a teacher or a parent who he feels is out of line where to stick it. He’s beyond politically incorrect and talks about race with a frankness that would make Chris Rock blush.
Jay Mathews of the Washington Post points to Chavis’ decision to keep American Indian Public Charter School students with the same teacher for all subjects and for all three years of middle school.
Chavis says his kids, given all the turmoil in their lives, need the stable presence of one caring teacher. Whatever his method loses in content knowledge, because his teachers cannot be experts in all four subjects, is more than made up by the fact that the teacher knows those children very well. He or she can reach them in ways that teachers who have them just one period a day, for only one year, cannot, Chavis says.
Of course, it’s possible to set up such a system because the AIPCS principal can fire ineffective teachers quickly, easily and cheaply.
Thanks to commenter PM for the reminder to plug my book, Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds.