Since 2007, low-performing schools have received more than $5.8 billion in funds through the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The National Alliance’s report Chartering Turnaround: Leveraging Public Charter School Autonomy to Address Failure examines how the autonomies related to staffing, curriculum, and general operations provided by state charter laws can be used to catalyze school turnaround efforts. Specifically, it explores the traditional public school (TPS) restart model through case studies of three successful turnarounds led by charter management organizations (CMO), including Green Dot Public Schools.
Green Dot Public Schools manages 18 middle and high schools in Los Angeles, Memphis, and Seattle/Tacoma. Of those 18 schools, four were formerly low-performing traditional public schools that were converted to charter schools.
Green Dot’s turnaround work began in 2008, when it took over operational control of Locke High School from Los Angeles Unified School District after more than 51 percent of the tenured teachers—in accordance with California charter school laws—voted to turn over management of the school to Green Dot. Consistent with the TPS restart model, their turnaround involved a complete reorganization of the former school, including new leadership and a requirement that all staff members reapply to ensure that they are appropriately qualified and aligned with the new vision for the school.
Reflecting on the process, Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot, explained, “if you’re not doing something incredibly different related to staffing and the instructional model, then you’re not doing a turnaround. This bottom five percent of schools needs radical intervention, not tinkering along the edges.”
The results at Lock High School are impressive. A University of California – Los Angeles study found that the first two cohorts of Locke students were more than 1.5 times more likely to graduate and 3.7 times more likely to graduate college-ready than students were before the restart. The four-year cohort retention rate has doubled at Locke and its students are 12 times more likely to go to college.