Fifteen years ago, in 1999, the world was a different place. Austin Powers was a hit at the movies. Britney Spears was an unavoidable presence on the radio. The Euro debuted in Europe, while in the US, the Dow climbed past 11,000. Apple released its colorful “clamshell” iBook. Y2K was on the horizon. And in Los Angeles, a group of citizens came together to launch Green Dot Public Schools.
Green Dot was founded with a single aim: to give every child the chance to attend a good public school.
We began as one class of 140 ninth graders at Ánimo Leadership Charter High School and quickly grew to become five schools (2004), then 12 (2008), then 17 (2011), and—for now—22 schools. Between 2000 and 2006, we opened eight startup schools in Los Angeles with wholly minority student populations, 25% of whom were English Language Learners.
First Startups, then Turnarounds
Realizing we weren’t reaching enough at-risk students with startups alone, in 2008 we decided to take on one of the worst-performing public schools in the LAUSD. That year, we successfully transformed Alain LeRoy Locke High School—whose 2007 graduation rate was 11%—into four small learning communities. Three years later, Locke’s graduation rate was 60%.
Based on our success at Locke, we were invited to turn around Jordan High School where, after just two years, the renamed Ánimo College Preparatory Academy was recognized by the California Department of Education as the state’s most-improved school.
Green Dot opened its first middle schools in 2010: These included Henry Clay Middle School, ranked at the time as one of California’s worst-performing. By 2013, we had transformed Clay into a pair of small community schools where, within one year, English proficiency had increased 32%.
From Middle Schools to Memphis
We’re continuing to open new campuses. This year, we opened two new middle schools in Los Angeles and our first turnaround in Memphis. Our first school in the Seattle-Tacoma region is set to open in Fall 2015. With nearly 11,000 students and an average of 1,600 graduates every year, we’ve become one of the largest school districts in the country.
Along the way, we’ve embraced a school model based on exceptional teachers, strong leadership, and community outreach. We push ourselves every day to grow as educators, mentors, and role models for the next generation of leaders and scholars. Throughout our history, we’ve proven how a small, college-preparatory program can empower students to recognize their own potential and successfully prepare them for college, leadership, and life.
Fifteen years from now—2029!—is closer than it looks. Still, staying focused will be easy, because some things never change: Students will always deserve the opportunity to attend great public schools. Courageous educators will always need to open new schools in disadvantaged communities or transform schools that are struggling. And Green Dot will always welcome committed supporters who support educational reform.
As we take a moment to reflect, we invite you to stand with us as we celebrate our past 15 years…and look ahead to the positive possibilities of our next.