Green Dot to reorganize Locke High School
In a move to address slumping academic performance of incoming ninth-grade students, charter school operator Green Dot Public School is proposing to reorganize Locke High School in Watts.
The Locke campus is split into five small schools. Rather than dividing the ninth-grade students among the five, most new freshmen will be placed in a single academy on the campus. One of the schools, Animo Watts, will continue to serve ninth through 12th grade.
There will be three 10th-12th-grade academies and the charter group wants to open a new middle school in the area to better prepare incoming students, Green Dot announced Thursday.
While Locke has seen some gains, they have not been distributed evenly across the entire campus. The percentage of incoming ninth-grade students who test below basic, or far below basic in math has increased sharply in recent years; more ninth-grade students need special education services; and enrollment in the freshmen class has been declining.
“We are proud of the advances Locke has made,” said Marco Petruzzi, Green Dot chief executive, in a written statement. “But we are always looking for ways to improve.”
The new structure will help bring more consistency in instruction among all students and help focus increased support for students as they begin high school.
The reorganization, along with the campus' charter renewal, is expected to be voted on by the Los Angeles Board of Education on Feb. 12.
“The changes we will be making in preparation for the new school year will move us closer to our goal of providing every student at Locke with a world-class education,” Petruzzi said.
Green Dot Public Schools became the first outside charter operator to take over a Los Angeles Unified campus in 2008. Charters are publicly funded but independently run.
The move was widely watched across the country. The school had been long-troubled: graffiti marred the walls, fights broke out frequently, students wandered the campus during class time and the graduation rate was dismal. Green Dot replaced most of the faculty, cleaned up the campus, made it more secure and tried to instill a college-going culture.
The group focused on helping students make up credits lost by failing grades and stints out of school, including dropouts and those returning from the criminal justice system. It worked on providing more remedial help for students in English and math and required school uniforms.
A report released in May found that students at Locke High School have fared better than their peers in nearby traditional schools, but achievement overall remains low, according to the UCLA-based National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing. The ongoing research has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Still, students at Locke were more likely to graduate and to have taken courses needed to apply to a four-year state college, the study found.
But achievement wasn't uniform and L.A. Unified schools Supt. John Deasy said the moves are welcome.
"I applaud Green Dot for the progress we have seen at Locke, and commend them for not being afraid to make the necessary changes to broaden and deepen that improvement,” Deasy said in a statement issued by the charter group.
-- Stephen Ceasar
Photo: Students leave Locke High School at the end of the school day in 2007. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times