GREEN DOT SCHOOLS
Twigg warms to Charter chain in USA because of its collaborative approach
The Green Dot Charter schools network operates 18 schools in some of the toughest areas of Los Angeles. Green Dot operates a mix of independent charter and turnaround schools, serving more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles County’s highest need areas. Its student body is statistically identical to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s, mirroring the amount of students that are English language learners, who receive free or reduced lunches, and are students with special needs.
The network has caught the eye of Stephen Twigg MP, the shadow education secretary, (speech to ACSL-16 March). It is unusual for a Labour spokesmen to highlight the performance of charter schools in the USA, as they are private operators, both for profit and not for profit, running municipal schools under a contract (or charter). That said , some Democrats in the States , including the President, much admire charters for the leg up they can give to the most disadvantaged pupils, in the poorest areas. What resonates with Twigg is the fact that Green Dot’s teachers and management worked closely with the California Teachers Association (ie a Union) to develop a contract for its teaching staff that is at one with the mission of Green Dot and also supports a sympathetic professional environment for teachers. This is all about collaboration, a theme Twigg explored in his ACSL speech . He contends that only through collaboration ,within and between schools, can schools and the system improve. He criticises the current government for creating what he sees as an ‘atomised ‘system, although, arguably, he helped lay the foundations of this system , when he was in the last government. Green Dot also worked with Randi Weingarten, now president of AFT, and the United Federation of Teachers to create the employment contract for Green Dot New York Charter School. So here is evidence of collaboration in this case not just between schools, but between teachers, students and parents, including on curriculum innovation. And, unlike some Charter schools, unions are recognised. Research conducted by UCLA showed students significantly increased their test scores and took more challenging subjects. Green Dot Public Schools averaged a 20-point increase on the Academic Performance Index scores released by the California Department of Education, with two of its schools exceeding the state’s API goal of 800 for the first time. The performance marked the fourth straight year of gains across Green Dot’s 18 schools.
In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. In 2013- 41 states and the District of Columbia had charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600 charter schools.