Green Dot Public Schools is perhaps best known for running a dozen small charter high schools, in some of LA’s toughest neighborhoods, that outperform traditional schools in graduation rates and other indicators.
But in July 2008, the network founded by Steve Barr with a stated goal of transforming public education in the nation’s second largest school district, took on a whole different assignment.
With a 51 percent vote of the staff, Green Dot took over Locke High School in Watts, a school where only 22 of every 100 freshmen graduated four years later – and only 12 of those 22 graduated meeting the requirements to apply to California’s university system.
Friday, Green Dot’s chief academic officer, Cristina de Jesus, and Kellly Hurley, who oversees Locke’s eight principals, spoke in Denver about the lessons learned – and some signs of success – in their first year at Locke.
They admit they had extra help, in the form of about $3 million in private donations to supplement the school’s $30 million budget. The goal is to operate on the same budget as every other school within five years.
They also described identifying 150 issues that Green Dot had never faced before, from dealing with the full gamut of special education needs to how to educate the hundreds of students who traditionally show up mid-year from juvenile detention centers.
Green Dot divided the 3,000-student campus into eight small schools, separated them by fences and security, required students be in uniform and hired a new teaching staff. Only 40 of the school’s 120 former teachers stayed.
After a year, student achievement did not change much at Locke. The LA Times’ editorial board described the results as “lackluster.”
But the editorial board, and Green Dot leaders, point to other hopeful signs – attendance is up, the graduation rate rose, 532 more students completed the academic year than had done so in 2007-08.
Can a charter network show the way to transforming urban high schools? Stay tuned.
Click here to download a podcast of Green Dot’s talk in Denver on Friday.
To learn more:
Green Dot’s work at Locke is being followed nationally. In August, ABC’s Nightline broadcast a two-part series about the first year at the school:
Or visit the Green Dot website here.