Signs of hope at Green Dot's Locke

Today is graduation day at Locke High School in Los Angeles. There are subtle signs of a turnaround since the Green Dot takeover a year ago, reports the Los Angeles Times.

For years, Locke, on the edge of Watts, has had among the state’s lowest test scores and highest dropout rates. In 2004, 1,451 students enrolled as freshmen; just 261 graduated four years later. Of them, only 85 had completed the courses required to apply to a University of California or California State University school.

A year ago, Green Dot Public Schools, which runs 12 charters serving the city’s urban poor, took over the school. The effort to transform Locke has been a nationally watched test of whether such a large, deeply impoverished urban high school could be transformed by a charter operator.

Locke has plenty of problems, but more students are earning diplomas and more graduates are eligible for state universities, notes Alexander Russo, who’s been following the school’s transformation.

Students tell the LA Times the campus is “safer and calmer.”

The teachers, although mostly young and inexperienced, receive praise for being devoted and effective. There are signs of academic progress. Students repeat one point over and over: Instruction is better and nearly all teachers work hard and expect them to achieve.

A young teacher who started 12th grade English teaching the difference between a noun and a verb ends the year by asking students about Macbeth.

“What kind of person does Lady Macbeth want her husband to be?” she asked her class a few days after the test.

“A murderer,” said Deon, appearing more focused that day.

“What does Lady Macbeth want her husband to seem to be?” Bridger continued.

“A hero, a leader,” said Daniel, who was awake that day. He works 35 hours a week at Subway, for $8.25 an hour, to support his girlfriend and their two children.

Ninth graders attend separate academies that try to teach students good habits and behaviors and get them caught up on reading and math skills. Green Dot also is working with feeder middle schools to strengthen students’ preparation for academics.

Here’s the LA Times’ photo gallery.

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