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Update: Back To Locke High School

image from www.greendot.org

It's been a long time since Locke High School has been in the news (see this June 2011 LA Times piece) but it still seems relevant to me.  Before the parent trigger, there was the teacher trigger that was used to wrest Locke away from LAUSD and UTLA.  Before SIG, there was NCLB restructuring that allowed Green Dot to restaff the school. Before newTLA and the Gates charter-district collaboration initiative, there was AMU, the union of charter teachers (the topic of a WSJ opinion piece just this week).  And before Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman and Ben Austin, there was Steve Barr (who's opening a new school in New Orleans next year.) 

In any case, I had  an hour to walk around the campus a couple of weeks ago before heading to the airport but that was enough time to get a quick sense of things and I thought some of you might be interested.  

In all, the school still looks and feels good -- calm, safe, solid.  It might even feel a little better than it did last year, the last time I was over there.  The halls are empty and the kids having lunch in the quad seem loose and relaxed.  There are still campus aides patrolling the halls and some private security guards, but it's much diminished since the first and second years of the turnaround.  (Budget cuts may have had a role in that as well as reduced need; I was surprised to find out that Green Dot had joined LAUSD in using furlough days to save money.)  

Those of you who read my book will be happy to know that there are still a lot of familiar faces in the building -- Zeus Cubias is running the alternative program for a second or maybe third year.  Virendia Burnett is at the front office, making sure that everything goes smoothly.  Mike (Psycho) Lamb is still keeping everyone calm in the halls.  The rest of the administrative team -- Ronnie Coleman, Mike Moody, and others -- are at Jordan High School, helping with the turnaround effort there.  Chad Soleo, one of the TFA alumni who left Locke to start a Green Dot school just before the takeover, is back as Locke cluster director.

There are still issues -- it's a school, after all.  There are still tensions among the four different schools on campus and the satellite school known as Animo Watts, and between the Locke cluster and the rest of the Green Dot network made up mostly of new starts.  Amazing but not surprising that even in a relatively small charter network there can emerge conflicts when the model changes.  The Gates teacher effectiveness initiative has generated a fair amount of grumbling.



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Speaking of familiar faces, though, a critical piece of information is whether the same students are present. It seems pretty challenging to track the attrition when a former single school has broken into five schools -- even though having done a lot of research on the attrition at California's KIPP schools and other "miracle" charters, I'm pretty well versed in using the California Department of Education's DataQuest function to track enrollment changes over time.

A time-honored way for charters to achieve their miracles, of course, is to toss out/push out/counsel out the most challenged and challenging students.

What's your take, Alexander?

Your book also described a shockingly high number of students who walked the stage at Locke's first post-"transformation" graduation who hadn't actually qualified to graduate. What's the update on that situation?

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