At L.A.’s worst high schools, gangs controlled the bathrooms and students regularly set hanging artwork on fire. Today, Green Dot Public Schools have dramatically increased graduation rates and college preparedness at a fraction of the cost. Here’s how they did it.
“We treat each principal like the CEO of the school,” says Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools, which has undertaken the ambitious task of turning around Los Angeles’s worst schools, all while keeping a unionized teaching force and spending roughly a fourth as much on each college-ready graduate as the city did before.
Rather than centrally manage every school, each Green Dot charter is run like a startup: The staff is given broad discretionary powers over finance, faculty are given the reins to innovate with a new curriculum, and the union contract is performance-based rather than a guarantee of minimum work requirements. To maintain its unusual level of collaboration, a Green Dot overhaul physically splits schools into autonomous units of around 500 students (in some cases, by using chicken wire for temporary walls).
A UCLA-Gates Foundation study released today shows that Green Dot’s prescription is paying off, with 25% higher graduation rates (80% vs. 55%) and 35% higher college readiness (48% vs. 13%). Green Dot even managed to bring sanity to one of L.A.’s worst schools, Locke, where rival gangs maintained control over bathrooms and students regularly set hanging artwork on fire.
Green Dot’s example has impressed educators. “I would love the culture where it’s the fear not to do it better, as opposed to the fear to try it differently,” says John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is trying to instill Green Dot’s sense of urgent innovation into the culture of the nation’s second-largest school district. (cont … Fast Company)