Locke High stops the sag

Locke High School, a disorderly, low-performing Los Angeles school, has reopened as a Green Dot charter school. LA Times columnist Steve Lopez reports on uniformed students tucking in their shirts and hustling to get to summer school on time. Can Locke change?

Zeus Cubias, who has taught at Locke for 14 years after graduating from the school and going on to UC Santa Barbara, says the early indicators are encouraging. There were skeptics who said the uniforms alone would doom the experiment. Not only has there been compliance, but only a couple of the boys seem to feel bold enough to test the ban on sagging pants.

But will higher pockets mean higher grades?

“Part of it is setting the right tone,” says Cubias. Right off the bat, you step onto campus knowing there’s control, discipline and high expectations, and the reality is that’s something most kids wanted.

“We had to step up our game, too,” Cubias says. “I’m wearing a tie every day now.”

Only 40 of 120 teachers are returning in the fall. Some quit and some were fired. Green Dot will cut class sizes from 40 students to 28 students.

Cubias was opposed to the Green Dot takeover at first, but was won over. He’s mentioned in Relentless Pursuit, Donna Foote’s book on four novice Teach for America teachers assigned to work at Locke. In addition to describing how TFA tries to fulfill its mission, Foote describes the incredible frustrations of teaching at an out-of-control school. I’m planning to write more on the book soon.

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  1. Marc Lebendig says:

    I didn’t teach at Locke when I taught in LA, but I taught nearby. It would be an incredibly positive sign if Locke, the perennial “bad boy” of LA Unified, can finally be turned around, and if it’s Green Dot that does the trick, it would say a lot about their model. I’m pulling for their success.

    On a side note, I wish Mr. Cubias hadn’t mentioned wearing a tie every day as an example of “stepping up [his] game.” Like many teachers, I wear a tie every day (with rare exceptions) and have never thought anything about it. His comment doesn’t exactly send a great message about our professionalism, especially for some of our profession’s detractors in the private sector.

  2. one need not confuse a tie with professionalism: gender questions aside, I’ve worked with many people who had ties and not professionalism and many professionals without ties.

  3. It’s about how the kids perceive the adults on campus…are they casual and so you can get away with more, or do they look like they mean business and you know to behave?