- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: NAL Hardcover; Second Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451228189
- ISBN-13: 978-0451228185
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #715,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City Hardcover – September 1, 2009
About the Author
Carey Blakely grew up in Massachusetts and California and majored in English at UC Berkeley. After teaching at American Indian Public Charter School for three years, she helped launch American Indian Public High School (AIPHS) and was appointed the school’s leader. During the time she headed AIPHS, it ranked as the fifth-highest-scoring high school in California. She now lives and writes in the San Diego area.
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Be forewarned, this book will not please everyone. Dr. Chavis is controversial, to say the least. He is openly scornful of a lot of popular views of how to reform education and at one point accuses certain facets of liberal ideology as having done more harm to minorities than the KKK. He is frequently not P.C. in this book or in his verbal interactions with his students in a way that will make some uncomfortable: for instance, he believes that embarrassing kids who are being rebellious is a legitimate learning tool. That said, love or hate Dr. Chavis' more contrarian views, there are lots of valuable lessons in here that people of every political stripe should be examining.
A personal note in closing: in the book Dr. Chavis invites readers to visit his charter school, and I took him up on the offer. The first thing I noticed at the American Indian Public Charter School was how clean and quiet the campus was -- very different from some other Oakland schools. Dr. Chavis, who retired from being the principal a few years ago, showed me a few classrooms -- the kids were respectful, engaged in the subject-matter, and (when I glanced at their coursework) doing advanced stuff for their grade-level. I was impressed. Another thing I noticed was that, despite critics accusing Dr. Chavis of being too harsh on his students, every time he interacted with a student (patting them on the back, asking about family) they had the biggest grins on their faces; they clearly love him, probably because it is so clear how deeply he cares about them and their future.
Chavis' method is simple and traditional: Hold everyone accountable to very high standards, and you will get very high results. If a student messes up, punish them. If a teacher is ineffective, fire them. Use simple curriculum that is proven to work, and make everyone follow it.
This book is how Chavis applied this basic philosophy to an actual failing school and turned it around. Some of the tactics he uses are not only effective, but wildly entertaining to read. I read excerpts to my students and they LOVE it. This is a great read, well worth your time and money, but I do caution that the last roughly third of the book mostly talks about Chavis' childhood, not the school. His childhood is somewhat interesting and explains how he got to be the way he is, but the real gold is in the first two-thirds where he talks about how he turned a school known as "the zoo" into a national success story. This is a fun book, and more importantly, it's an antidote to all the fluffy nonsense like "Love and Logic" and "Positive Discipline" which tends to make schools less effective and sets teachers and students up for failure.
Careful. How you answer will determine what you think of Dr. Chavis' methods.
If you agree that the purpose of public education is to PREPARE students live productive, constructive lives, then you'll agree that Dr. Chavis' method, "AIM to Educate" (American Indian Model) gets results where only a few years before, the "school" had been totally out of control.
The school takes a non-nonsense approach to teaching the basics, and tends heavily towards strict structure and discipline. And its students are all the better for it.
Full disclosure: I discovered the[...] (American Indian Public Charter School) website a couple of months ago. The remarkable results (especially for an inner-city school) inspired me to send it a booklet I wrote, "Booker T. Washington - American Hero" (free for the asking at www (dot) [...]) as BTW began his teaching career at Hampton Institute (VA) by getting feuding Indian tribes to cooperate.
To my surprise, Dr. Chavis phoned me and I decided to visit the school to see for myself. I had unlimited access for four days (mandatory math summer school was in session).
From my own eyes and ears, I say he has the answer. GET THE BOOK!
But do not simply read it. Make your own middle and high school principles read it and better yet, start to implement AIM to Educate. Or else, for inner city kids, their future will be bleak indeed.