L.A. charter school shows improvements

LOS ANGELES /*Locke High School*/ in south Los Angeles started its second year as a charter school on Tuesday. School reform here is not easy.

Green Dot took over a neighborhood school that has underperformed for a long time, and test scores did not improve last year with 12.5 percent proficiency in language and just 2.5 percent in math. These results were characterized as lackluster.

"First of all, I would not characterize it as 'lackluster,' we were a little taken aback by that label, because the reality is the first year was phenomenal," said Marco Petruzzi of Green Dot Public Schools.

"The biggest achievement was retention of students and a new culture on campus, a culture of achievement, a culture of safety and respect," he emphasized.

Locke High is a school where students move in and out frequently. Still, a freshman class of 1,300 resulted in a graduating group of only 300.

Nearly 60 percent more Locke students stayed in school last year. It is an improvement the students can sense.

"Yes, I've seen a big difference as far as academic-wise, it's better teachers and more kids want to come to school to learn instead of gang banging and all of that," said senior student Treveon Harris.

Harris, who has his sights set on /*USC*/, is philosophical when it comes to the biggest complaint about Locke: mandatory uniforms.

"Other kids say they did an excellent job, they just have a problem with the uniform. I say it's more the shoes," Harris said.

Another student sees just subtle differences.

"This year, it has a lot more classes that can get me prepared for college like we have psychology and anatomy, and I want to be a doctor, so it's pretty nice," said senior student Breanna Porter.

There is a strong security presence at the school, so the students feel safer on campus. The next step is test scores.

"We expect test scores to go up this year. I mean, we feel that the first year we've laid the foundations, and we've retained students," said Petruzzi.

Green Dot has even higher goals for Locke High School. Last year, 5 percent of its seniors graduated to four-year colleges. Within four years, they would like to make it 50 percent.

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