by George J Elbaum
American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS), is a K-8 charter school with predominantly low-income, minority students and current enrollment of 794 that has had an unusual history since its founding in 1996. Its current incarnation, however, is definitely an admirable success, earning a rating of 9 (out of 10) from Great Schools based on its test scores, equity overview, and year-to-year academic progress. According to Great Schools, its demographics are 47% Asian, 34% Black, 11% Hispanic, 5% White and 3% all other, with 76% students from low-income families, yet its students score a proficiency rating in math of 73% vs. 40% state average and 65% in English vs. 51% state average, especially impressive since 33% of AIPCS are English learners. Furthermore, its advanced STEM courses participation in Algebra I is an impressive 60% vs. 25% state average and pass rate is 80% vs. 79% state average. Also unusual are the statistics of its teaching staff: with 19 students/teacher (vs. 22 state average), its teachers with 3 years of more experience are only 46% of total vs. 91% state average, and full-time certified teachers are 76% of total vs. 98% state average. This means that AIPCS has a much higher percentage of young teachers, and in my 250 talks to date I’ve noticed repeatedly how responsive are students to young teachers. (An example of this are students enthusiastically greeting these teachers in the halls, and when I ask the teachers if these are their current students I learn that they were in the teacher’s class a year or two ago!)
My presentation was to the AIMS College Prep Middle School (6-8), specifically to 6 classes totaling 180 7th grade students in English and History, and was organized by teacher Jennifer Ko, who impressed me with her handling of this large, youthful group with an amazingly friendly yet authoritative manner. The students were reading The Diary of Anne Frank and learning the basics of the Holocaust and the role of propaganda and policy. They’ve watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and read excerpts of child experiences from the Holocaust and many have families who fled from the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
In addition to Ms. Ko, also attending the presentation were the teachers of the other 7th grade classes; Ms. Yuan, Ms. Solis, Ms. Vasquez, Mr. Worley, and Ms. Rodriguez, along with the Dean of Students, Mrs. Glass, and the Head of School, Mr. Williams.
Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator of JFCS Holocaust Center, arranged the presentation and attended it. Also attending were Larry and Lisa of JFCS Next Generation Speakers Bureau.