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The Education Innovator #24
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 June 28, 2004 • Number 24
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Feature
Green Dot Public School System
What's New
Over 2,400 people attended the National Charter Schools Conference; Maryland receives a grant to develop a charter school network; the Florida State Board of Education votes to accept Passport to Teaching as a route to education certification; and Greater Educational Opportunities for Families provides parents with tips on supplemental educational services.
Innovations in the News
1,249 low-income students from the District of Columbia were selected to receive the first federally-funded private school scholarships, plus information on charter schools, education reform, school choice, teaching American history, and tutoring.

Green Dot Public Schools Uses Animo to Empower Teachers, Reach Students
Although most of the students in his class speak Spanish, the class is diverse with students from many Spanish-speaking countries. The teacher, Jose Urias, considers the heritage of his students and decides to revolve his "History of the Americas" class around projects where students take turns describing the problems in their respective native countries as "ambassadors to the Organization of American States." This teacher has the freedom to produce such a creative unit, because he teaches in the Green Dot Public School System of charter schools.

Green Dot began in 1999 under the leadership of Steve Barr, a reformer who, in 1990, co-founded Rock the Vote, a national campaign that markedly increased the number of young voters. With community responsibility in mind, he created the Green Dot Public School System to transform secondary education in economically depressed, primarily minority areas of Los Angeles.

Green Dot is based on "teacher empowerment," and offers a college preparatory program for all students. So far, the Green Dot system consists of three small, community-oriented campuses that operate in collaboration with Loyola Marymount University and the Lennox School District. The schools are Animo (Spanish for "spirit" or "vigor") Leadership High School, Animo Inglewood High School, and Oscar De La Hoya High School. All three cater primarily to Hispanic populations.

Teacher empowerment allows instructors to directly develop classes and programs to meet the needs of students. Without a classic, top-down management structure, where critical decisions tend to be left to administrators and school boards, Green Dot has attracted enthusiastic teachers in droves. To ensure teacher satisfaction, Barr, as CEO, interacts directly with the teachers' union in Los Angeles, since Green Dot has its own collective bargaining unit that is affiliated with the California Teachers Association (CTA).

Students benefit from this personal school environment as well. In five years, all Green Dot schools have seen major improvements in student performance on state-mandated examinations. At Animo Inglewood High School, standardized test scores were double the scores of area high schools. Additionally, this year, Green Dot retained and graduated 93 percent of its first high school class (in a neighborhood where the dropout rate usually hovers somewhere between 70 and 80 percent). Since Green Dot also reinforces college preparation, many students are going on to postsecondary education. Almost 60 percent of this year's graduating class will attend four-year schools, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Wellesley College, and the University of Southern California—many on full scholarships.

With the goal of significantly raising the number of Hispanic, inner-city students receiving a postsecondary education, students are required to apply to at least three colleges or universities before they graduate. Since many of the students come from families where they will be the first to graduate from high school in the United States, teachers are expected to serve as role models to show students, and their families, that a college education is achievable. Families are also expected to become deeply involved with their children's education, and the faculty serves as the bridge between school and home.

Green Dot is partially funded by a grant from OII to New Schools Venture Fund that supports organizations affecting change in public education. Green Dot also received a $2.8 million grant from the Broad Foundation to help build additional charter schools in Los Angeles.

Resources: Note: The program described is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.

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What's New
Remarks by Secretary Paige at the Office of Innovation and Improvement Charter Schools Conference
Over 2,400 people attended the National Charter Schools Conference, sponsored by OII, June 16-18 in Miami. At the conference, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige remarked, "President Bush has adopted the charter school 'model'--higher expectations, focus on the basics, innovations, and real parental options—for all of public education." (June 18)


Maryland Receives an OII Charter Schools Grant
Maryland has received a $3.8 million grant for the first year of its grant to develop high-quality charter schools. OII made the three-year grant to the state under the Charter Schools Program. (June 22)


Florida Adopts for American Board Certification of Teacher Excellence Program
The Florida State Board of Education voted to accept the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence's Passport to Teaching as a new route to full certification for the state's public school teachers. (June 16)


New GEO Parent Newsletter
The Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation has a new newsletter for parents. Greater Educational Opportunities for Families gives general tips on parenting and topics related to parental involvement (e.g., choice, supplemental educational services) in No Child Left Behind, in addition to information about local programs in Indiana. The newsletter is available online. (first issue April 2004, second issue June 2004)


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Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
With a new application process for charter schools in Prince George's County, MD, charter schools could open in the county by August 2005. [More-Gazette] (June 24)

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) plans to open new middle schools in Brooklyn and Washington Heights. This will double KIPP's network of schools in New York City to six by July of 2005. [More-New York Post] (June 24)

With the Marin School of Arts and Technology already open, and one set to open in San Francisco in August, Envision Schools hopes to be operating six schools in the San Francisco Bay area by 2006. Since Envision is structuring its schools more like colleges, students are required to participate in internships, study public speaking, and take digital media electives. [More-SFGate] (May 26)

Education Reform
Chicago Public Schools will combine elements of charter schools, contract schools, and small schools-within-a-school to create more than 100 new schools by 2010. Parts of the "Renaissance 2010" plan include replicating successful charter schools and using one school to house four new, smaller programs, such as an International Baccalaureate program, a military academy, and vocational programs. [More-Chicago Tribune] (free registration) (June 23)

School Choice
A few weeks ago, 1,249 low-income students in the District of Columbia were selected to receive the first federally-funded private school scholarships. The scholarships, worth up to $7,500 per child, can be used at 44 area private schools that have agreed to participate in the program. Last week parents participated in a successful school fair. [More-Washington Post] (free registration) (June 22)

To combat a 14 percent loss of total enrollment, the Minneapolis Public School District plans to expand its pre-K and all-day kindergarten options, and is also exploring specialized programs like gender-and culture-specific schools, performing arts specialties, and dual-immersion language programs. [More-Christian Science Monitor] (June 22)

Teaching American History
Salisbury University's (MD) "Teaching American History" program joins a national movement to catalog the lives of people who have lived through this century's most influential moments. [More-Daily Times] (June 21)

Tutoring
In Waterloo, IA, seven different programs will serve more than 800 elementary, middle, and high school students with enrichment, remedial, and recreational activities during June and July. [More-Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier] (June 15)

Second- and third-graders from four Syracuse-area (NY) school districts participated in a study conducted by researchers from Syracuse University and the Yale School of Medicine to demonstrate that tutoring not only makes children better readers, it also changes the way their brains function. The tutoring was based on principles outlined in the 2000 National Reading Panel Report. [More-Post Standard] (June 20)

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Last Modified: 01/25/2008