Five years after Green Dot Public Schools made history by becoming the first outside organization to assume control of a low-performing high school (Alain Leroy Locke High) in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the organization’s agreement is up for renewal and the matter will be taken up by the school board at its Feb. 12 meeting.
According to comments by teachers at the school, initially the LAUSD charter division recommended not to renew the contract. However, according to the Alain Leroy Locke High Alumni Foundation, the charter operator submitted a plan to reorganize the school, which prompted the charter division to change its recommendation to renewal.
Green Dot’s takeover of Locke in 2007 came with a complex set of challenges that included a low college-going rate, high numbers of dropouts, and most recently an incoming ninth-grade class generally performing below and far below basic on standardized tests.
According to a study conducted by the UCLA Center for the Study of Evaluations and released last month, it is too soon to say that Green Dot has had a clear impact on student academic achievements, but there has definitely been improvement.
“It is important to note that it is premature to expect clear evidence of impact,” said the report. “The Green Dot Locke (GDL) transformation began in fall 2007 with two small, off-site schools; the majority of Locke students were not included in the transition until fall 2008. Yet, since assuming responsibility for Alain Leroy Locke High School’s student community, Green Dot Public Schools has made important strides in turning a struggling urban school into a set of small schools that support students’ progress toward higher academic performance. Based on our statistical evaluation of various student outcomes-we assert that there are reasons to be optimistic with GDL’s progress thus far.”
The report, “Evaluation of Green Dot’s Locke Transformation Project: Findings from the 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10 School Years,” noted promising trends in GDL students’ persistence, school attendance, course-taking and completion, and standardized test scores. Results suggested increased retention rates, and analyses also revealed that relative to comparison high schools, there was an increase in GDL students’ overall total enrollment in core courses and an increase in pass rates for some courses. Scores on the California High School Exit Exam have also continued to rise.”
Additionally, the report found that ninth-graders who entered GDL generally performed better on a range of student outcome measures than they would have if they had attended a comparable LAUSD high school.
But despite this upbeat report, the Locke High Alumni Foundation is concerned that keeping Green Dot as the operator of the Watts-area high school will further erode the school’s connection to the community and continue to diminish its treasured legacy.
According to the foundation, implementation of the Green Dot plan: (1) undermined the heart and soul of the school; (2) detached Locke from its community and decreased the number of advanced placement courses.
The foundation also accuses Green Dot of reducing the breadth of educational options available to students because of the elimination of programs such as fashion apparel arts, computer networking, the music/performing arts professions and athletic skills development during the regular school day.