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
My presentation was to the AIMS College Prep Middle School (6-8) to the same 160 students, now in 8th grade, to whom I spoke 16 months ago, December 2019, when they were in 7th grade English and History class of teacher Jennifer Ko, who organized the event both times. Jennifer Ko impressed me in my December 2019 visit with her handling of the large, youthful group with a friendly yet authoritative manner. This time my “visit” was online via Zoom, so no direct contact, but she impressed me by something completely different: because of the difficulties which her students faced during the past 14 months of the pandemic, she purposely asked me to present my story to the same group as before, but now to highlight the resistance that I had faced and the resilience that allowed me to overcome those hardships without being emotionally or psychologically crushed by these. I appreciated and felt the importance of that request.
In preparing for my talk the students watched films and read about the experiences of others who experienced the Holocaust. They also learned about the significance of an eyewitness to history and the importance of eye witnesses being heard and listened to about their experiences.
In addition to Ms. Ko, also attending the presentation were the teachers from across the 7th grade, 8th grade and English Language Department: Ms. Hairston, Ms. Grams, Ms. Readye, Ms. Spencer, Mr. Lee, and Dr. Jay. As well as the co-Head of School, Ms. Glass.
Penny Savryn, Education and Marketing Manager of JFCS Holocaust Center, arranged the presentation.