For years, Locke High School in Watts has been a poster child for failing inner city schools. In the summer of 2008, a charter company — Green Dot Public Schools — took over from L.A. Unified and vowed to turn the troubled school around. This is the story of three typical Locke students told in their own way. In their own words.
Locke High is notorious. It's a school where students were more likely to drop out than graduate. Academically, Locke ranked third-lowest in the state. About 1 in 9 students scored grade-proficient in English. In Math, it’s 1 in 25. The chaotic campus sits in the midst of rival gang territory. Graffiti marred the halls. Fights broke out daily. Last year, nearly half of the 3-thousand-plus students were suspended at least once. In May of 2008, LAPD officers in riot gear had to break up a school-wide brawl. Four years ago, a 15-year-old student was a victim of random gang violence - shot and killed while waiting for a relative to pick her up after school.
Now, in a move that’s attracting nationwide attention, Green Dot - a charter operation - has taken Locke over. The sprawling campus has been subdivided into separate academies. Students wear neat uniforms. Fencing separates each academy and keeps students in assigned areas. New teachers have been hired. Administrators stand sentry duty at the school gates. Tardiness isn’t tolerated. Students aren’t allowed to roam the halls. Armed guards patrol the grounds and surrounding neighborhood. The school is freshly-painted and graffiti-free. In the quad, which was once just barren dirt, there’s newly-planted grass - and even trees.
Bottom line - there’s a new sheriff in town.
To understand the changes and special challenges facing at-risk kids, we meet Joanna Alatorre, Damon Horton and Bryan Ordaz - three Locke students who candidly share their personal stories.-->
Green Dot Public Schools
Eduwonk.com - Education news, analysis and commentary
NPR.org: Working to Make School Work