When it comes to education, we know that a one size approach does not fit all. We’ve long understood that students are unique individuals with diverse abilities and needs, and in order to help students tap into their limitless potential, schools must be flexible, responsive, and primed to personalize the learning experiences of each student. 20 years ago, our first school opened its doors to 140 eager ninth-grade students and a group of educators with an unwavering belief in their greatness. Since then, we’ve grown to serve over 13,000 students in California, Tennessee, and most recently Southeast Texas in our partnership with Beaumont Independent School District. Throughout this time, we have continuously proven that there is a more effective way to provide a high-quality public education to all students regardless of their zip code.
Meeting Students Where They Are
Green Dot recruits, trains, and supports educators in providing high-quality instruction and fostering classroom environments that accelerate learning and improves student outcomes. Our data-driven approach allows us to effectively and efficiently personalize learning for students. In our classrooms, educators leverage adaptive learning technology and other tools to identify students’ skill levels and areas of growth. With this data, our teachers are better equipped to adjust instruction, classroom practices, and apply the appropriate scaffolds and interventions. These tools also allow students to better monitor and track their growth in real time and take ownership of their learning and development.
For example, students track their literacy goals and progress through the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI), a research-based, computer-adaptive reading program for students in grades K–12 that measures reading comprehension. “Reading Club has helped me improve my reading. In the beginning of the school year, my SRI score was 227 and now it's 539,” beamed Darius Smith, sixth grader at Ánimo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School (JBT) in South Los Angeles. Smith entered sixth grade reading at a first grade level and through personalized instruction, blended learning programs, and enrichment opportunities like book club, Smith was able to grow two grade levels in reading in just one semester! This is just one example of how our schools meet students where they are and provide the necessary support to engage them in their learning and help them achieve immense growth.
Removing Barriers to Learning
There are a multitude of external factors that inhibit student success inside and outside of the classroom. To address these factors, our schools have collaborated with local partners and made significant investments in providing students and families with wraparound services, including mental health support and wellness services.
We know that for many students in underserved communities, trauma informed pedagogy alone is inadequate if not combined with the support of mental health professionals.
In Memphis, our school psychologists and counselors work closely with mental health partners such as Youth Villages, to provide students and families with additional mental health services and support. In Los Angeles, we have 23 school psychologists that serve our students. On average we have 1 school psychologist for every 600 high school students; and 1 per 450 middle school students. In contrast, the County's average ratio was 1 school psychologist per 959 students in 2019.
Although a college education is a key vehicle to upward social mobility, students from underserved communities have less access to postsecondary education opportunities. Many of the students we serve, will be the first in their families to attend college. For students coming from families with no prior college history, envisioning themselves at college and actually navigating through the system can be extremely difficult. At Green Dot, we’re helping students build a vision for their life that includes completing college before they even step foot on a college campus.
Our small learning environments ensure our students receive high-quality instruction and individualized support. Students are exposed to a rigorous college-preparatory education combined with the appropriate support and scaffolds to ensure their success. Green Dot students also have access to college counselors, Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses, mentorship opportunities, and college application and financial aid workshops.
We believe it’s never too early to prepare for college, our middle schools are ensuring that even our youngest students have access to viable pathways to college. For example, Ánimo Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School (AEO), partnered with East Los Angeles College (ELAC) to offer its middle school students college courses. Through this partnership, a professor at ELAC teaches a college course at AEO each semester. The collaboration provides students with the opportunity to learn new skills and earn credits that are transferable at both California State Universities and University of California campuses. “I know my school is preparing us for college in our day to day classes, but seeing them bring in a college level class showed me how much they care about my future,” said Jesse Alejo, eighth grader at AEO.
It’s All About the Students
Innovation has been a key component of our success. Over the past 20 years, our educational model has evolved and continues to improve in order to meet the needs of students and address the increasingly complex challenges that stand in the way of their success. Our replicable model is designed so that other schools and districts can adopt it on public revenue so as to improve student outcomes and help transform public education for ALL students.
As we grow to serve communities in Southeast Texas, we’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Beaumont community and the students and families of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. This partnership will build on the school's existing work while implementing our proven academic model to ensure that all students are prepared for college, leadership, and life, as they make the transition to high school.