Locke liberated

Locke High school in Los Angeles will become 10 small Green Dot charter schools. The Los Angeles Unified board voted 5-2 to accept a petition by a majority of teachers who want try something new, reports Celeste Fremon of WitnessLA.

“If you do this,” (United Teachers of Los Angeles vice-president Linda Guthrie) says, “you’re going to send a message throughout this district, that the district is unable to heal itself.”

“Well isn’t that the point?” mutters one Green Dot supporter.

Board chair Monica Garcia later pointed out that LA Unified spends $7.7 billion a year and graduates only 40 to 50 percent of students.

“I’m supporting this charter today because I’ve had enough of yesterday.”

Today Locke. Tomorrow . . . ?Steve Barr predicted teachers at other troubled high schools will decide to join Green Dot, which offers a non-UTLA union. “I think we’ll eventually get Jefferson.”

Fremon agrees:

In some ways, Jefferson and Santee are more pressing cases that Locke. Certainly, Locke is a perennial low scorer in the district (of the 1318 ninth-graders that enrolled at Locke in the fall of 2001, only a terrifyingly low 332 managed to actually graduate in spring, 2005. And only 143 of those getting diplomas had the right credits to apply for admission to the University of California and/or California State University systems). Sadly, however, Santee and Jefferson’s scores — and graduation rates — are worse.

Green Dot, on the other hand, graduates on average of 80 percent of its 9th graders and nearly all have the necessary A-G credits to apply to a state-run college or university. Moreover, the Green Dot schools run on a comparative shoestring and, both Jefferson and Locke have been recipients of some of the district’s biggest influxes of money.

The Gates Foundation will give Green Dot $7.9 million to create new charter schools in Los Angeles, which should help with the Locke conversion.

The LA Times has more.

About Joanne


  1. The LA Times link at the bottom is bad; here’s the right one: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd12sep12,1,7966616.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

    I must say the story shocks me. Shouldn’t our children learn compassion? That no matter how lazy and incompetent you are, no matter how corrupt, we’ll always give you more money?

  2. Thanks, I’ve fixed the link.

  3. This is awesome! I will be watching to see how this works.

    Our high schools are being broken into small learning communities yet each one will have a work-to-school theme; meaning if you want to study medicine you go to these two schools, auto mechanincs, these two schools, etc. We will be watching to see how strong the academic track remains for those who decide they want to go on to college instead of work out of high school.

  4. I understand the excitement over trying something new to break the maddening deadlock of trying to fix Locke, but I am cautious about Green Dot’s — or any charter’s — chances of being the silver bullet. Let’s focus on specific organizational reforms:

    1. I believe, but am not certain, that $9000/pupil is more than is currently being spent on kids at Locke, so if more money is what’s needed, than we have reason for hope.

    2. Breaking Locke into two or three small schools (approx. 500 students) is based on proven small schools reforms, and is hopeful. It should provide more individualized instruction and improve attendance.

    3. Cleaning house is almost certainly on the plate. If Locke’s problems partially arise from poorly performing teachers, than this should help.

    One big caveat here is that Green Dot has had admissions processes and parent involvement requirements, which means their student populations have been cherry picked at least to some extent. This fact confounds reports of Green Dot’s success: might these students, with their motivated, concerned and active parents have succeeded elsewhere as well? To what extent can we attribute their performance to Green Dot’s model?

    My point? Let’s be calm, collected and rationale about this reform. Throwing out the bathwater — even the baby — is the response to a frustrating situation, but will the new bathwater be better? Really? Or is it hype? Let’s really observe this with an impartial, even independent, evaluation. Then we’ll know.

  5. Andrew, the Green Dot take-over is as much, more, of a political battle then it is an educational battle. When evaluation time rolls around it’ll be an evaluation of whose political muscles are bigger.

  6. True enough, but I’m an educational researcher with an agenda: at the risk of being called a spoil sport, I’m trying to push back and get people to take off their partisan hats and use their ability to reason and think clearly for a moment.

  7. Andrew said:

    “1. I believe, but am not certain, that $9000/pupil is more than is currently being spent on kids at Locke, so if more money is what’s needed, than we have reason for hope.”

    The statewide average is well over $10,000 per student. The unions love to point to the ~$7,600 figure, which is only the Prop. 98 slice. All other funds, Federal, lottery etc are ignored. You can verify this at the Legislative Analyst’s website.

    So what is the $9,000 figure quited in the LA Times article? I suspect Green Dot still won’t get as much as the regular (failing) public school.

    As for more money being needed, do you have something to back it up?


  1. […] Joanne Jacobs reports that Locke High school in Los Angeles, one of the worst high schools in the country, will broken into 10 small Green Dot charter schools. More on the great news here. […]