Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City

Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City

by Ben Chavis, Carey Blakely
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Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City by Ben Chavis, Carey Blakely

The inspiring true story of "one of the country's finest educators" (National Review) and the school he changed forever.

Under the leadership of highly unorthodox principal Dr. Ben Chavis, Oakland's American Indian Public Charter School was hailed as an "education miracle" by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after it was transformed from a failing "nuisance" into one of the best public middle schools in the nation.

This is the story of that transformation and of a man who dared to be different. With his rigorous, no-nonsense approach, Dr. Chavis debunks the myth that poor, minority, inner-city schools have little chance at academic excellence. Focusing on back-tobasics ideals, he has created a structured educational model that, combined with the enthusiasm of his students and teachers, delivers astounding results.

In Crazy Like a Fox, Dr. Chavis recounts how he did it-in his own words and through the stories of the extraordinary young people he's helped.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451228697
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/07/2010
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dr. Ben Chavis was born into a Lumbee Indian family of sharecroppers and as a youngster attended Indian segregated public schools in Robeson County, North Carolina. An athletic scholarship provided him the opportunity to graduate from Pima College and University of Arizona. He has worked in farming, construction, education, and business. He is now Chief Executive for training and implementing the successful American Indian Public Charter School model in schools. His educational model has been replicated in other schools serving low-income students with the same high academic results. During his leadership at AIPCS, it went from the lowest scoring school in Oakland, California, to one of the top in the United States.
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.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Zoo 7

Chapter 2 The Oakland Raider 16

Chapter 3 A Second Chance 28

Chapter 4 A New Beginning 35

Chapter 5 Creating a Family with the Self-Contained Classroom 47

Chapter 6 Looping and the Extended Family 57

Chapter 7 Family Involvement 63

Chapter 8 Meet the Escobars 72

Chapter 9 High Expectations and an Academic Focus 84

Chapter 10 The Quest for Improvement 96

Chapter 11 The Emperor Who Wore No Clothes and the Boy Who Called Him Out 101

Chapter 12 You Are Judged by Your Race Whether You Like It or Not 116

Chapter 13 Poor? If You Say So 124

Chapter 14 Sacrifice 132

Chapter 15 Free Market Capitalism in the Classroom 139

Chapter 16 Schools have Enough Money 147

Chapter 17 Sign on the Dotted Line 157

Chapter 18 Guided by a Firm Hand 167

Chapter 19 Nate 173

Chapter 20 Taming Wild Horses 181

Chapter 21 A Method to the Madness 190

Chapter 22 Ben Fumbles his Way Through Elementary School 198

Chapter 23 Out from Under the Hype of Violence 205

Chapter 24 Up from the Bottoms: Bootlegging and Preaching: How I Learned the Gift of Gab and a Love of Free Market Capitalism 215

Chapter 25 Cleanliness: A Chore and a Mentality 228

Chapter 26 Mental Work or Physical Labor: You Make the Choice 236

Chapter 27 Big Bad Bossman 246

Chapter 28 Sophath: One Among Us 257

Conclusion: Creating Educational Excellence Through Replication 264

Appendix 277

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Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
ReadingRedHead More than 1 year ago
Dr. Chavez is the kind of principal I would love to work for, but have not been fortunate enough to find in my career. I agree with so much of what he says: self-contained classrooms, strict discipline, and rigorous academics. It is fortunate for his students that he's been able to implement the changes he has. If he were a principal of a typical public school, these changes would have been difficult if not impossible to implement. I enjoyed the book and wish Dr. Chavez continued success with his schools. The only problem I had was that I was hoping for a more professional read. This book might appeal more to parents and the general reading public than it will to education professionals. I wanted to see greater detail about how he achieved the results he did. He included test scores before and after, but did not get as specific as he might about how the school went about making those changes day-to-day. Overall, a good read. I'd love to pick his brain further.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you liked the movie Lean on Me, you will definitely appreciate reading this book! As a long time teacher and administrator for a low performing school district, I found Crazy Like a Fox to be entertaining, realistic, and educational.  Dr. Ben Chavis’ story of raising the bar and reframing several communities’ perspective on education in impoverished areas is incredibly inspiring. I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Page-Turning Read on Education In a world of mediocrity, this guy Chavis swept into an inner city school like an avenging angel and shook the school and the entire system to its core. He has the guts to commit to his kids and well-performing teachers in order to reward both for jobs well done while flying in the face of the educational establishment. Some of the stories within are very funny, others uplifting and still others will make you see red with the way that most of our public schools are run. What's really clear here is the "revolutionary" idea that kids crave discipline, the basics and high expectations, which were once the tenets of our educational past. Through Chavis' sometimes hilarious and unorthodox methods, we see that accepting less from children in the lower echelons of society is the true bigotry. Blakely, the co-author, was the principal of the charter high school that they started to prevent their middle school kids from falling back into the swamp of the Oakland School District. You get a strong sense that she knew the inner workings of what she writes about and that she provides a balance to the sometimes mercurial Chavis. It isn't just one person's juggernaut that brings about results. I picked this book up off the coffee table of a friend of a friend and just leafed through it, but I became hooked enough to buy it the next day. Until then I really didn't think one way or another about our education system. But, as I read, I became both angry for what we accept today and yet hopeful that others will see the results from a system like the American Indian Public Charter School and push for similar methods in their school districts. If you are an educator, you'll want to read this book to demand no less from your students. If you are a parent, you will want to read this to demand no less of your educators, and if you are a taxpayer, you will want to read this to demand no less of our politicians.
LEX16 More than 1 year ago
This book is about leadership as well as how to turn around a failing school. The stories Dr. Chavis tells are good natured and fun with inspiration and perserverance weaved in. I found the book gives the reader experiences that can be used for their own personal growth as well as strategies for leading others. The humor keeps the reader engaged and will have them contemplating their own life stories on how success is achieved.
Booknut62 More than 1 year ago
As a school principal, I am always fascinated with the stories of other principals who have done the miraculous, turned around failing schools. Apparently, Dr. Chavis has done this. He is certainly to be commended for his accomplishment. What turned me off in this book is his constant bashing of viewpoints opposite his own. We all know that the "one-size-fits-all" approach to fixing what ails education is not going to work. The solutions he describes in this book worked for him at American Indian Public Charter School. That does not mean they will work at other schools. I took away some inspiration from this book. However, I see little universal application in many of the things he discusses. For example, he talks at length how "embarrassing students successfully changes behavior." What you do not hear in his book all those students who did not succeed from his high-handed tactics. While I would agree that schools have sometimes went too far with the self-esteem emphasis and the feel-good curriculum, I still have problems with using hurtful words and tactics that tear down students further than they are. But you know, there might sometimes be times when Dr. Chavis's approach could work. I am not the type of principal who can do those things with a clear conscience. Dr. Chavis seems to spend a great deal of time blabbering about his own rise from the ashes of his childhood, for which he is to be commended. His constant pontification about the promise of "free market capitalism" is a bit tiring by the end of this book. His complete dismissal of all efforts to address racial problems and multiculturalism completes his narrow-minded view of the world. Yes, Dr. Chavis has apparently turned around some schools, but his ideas are of limited value.