Green Dot is a charter management organization (CMO) based in Los Angeles, California (L.A.), a city that houses the second-largest school district in the country. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is known for its largely ethnic student population (75 percent Hispanic and 11 percent African American) and challenges ranging from poor performance to violence to low graduation rates. High school graduation rates in the district were only 45 percent (compared to 68 percent nationally), with Hispanic students graduating at a rate of only 39 percent. Gary Orfield of the Harvard Civil Rights Project called the city’s high schools “dropout factories.”
By 2008, Green Dot had opened 12 charter high schools in some of the highest-need areas of L.A., hoping to demonstrate “that public schools can do a far better job of educating students if schools are operated more effectively.” Founder, Steve Barr and his team had their own ideas about the tipping point and its metrics, which were both quantitative (e.g., 10 percent market share of schools within LAUSD) and qualitative, in terms of gains in political influence.
As Barr and his Green Dot team worked towards opening a new school in the fall of 2008, Barr was both nervous and optimistic. He knew the future of Los Angeles students, parents, and their communities depended on the success of his team. He wondered if this new transformation strategy was the optimal strategy, and if the tipping point made sense.
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