Education / 2013

LAs Promise: Improving Schools Empowering Neighborhoods

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by LA's Promise

LA's Promise’s mission is to improve the education, health, and social outcomes for thousands of youth and families living in one South Los Angeles community, the LA's Promise Neighborhood. By 2050, LA’s Promise will have transformed South LA’s schools to have produced 30 years of successful high school and college graduates and will have rolled out its transformative model across Los Angeles’ underserved schools. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of alumni LA’s Promise will have supported by 2050 will be successful adults giving back to their home community of South LA, which will have shifted from decades of urgent need to a time of prosperous leadership and middle class prosperity. LA’s Promise’s model is its Big Idea: we transform chronically failing public schools and open new schools, both with the underlying philosophy that schools in underserved areas must become community hubs that offer comprehensive support services for students and families. Since its founding, LA’s Promise has become a national leader in the movement to improve public schools. We demonstrate significantly increased student achievement, and our model is scalable to an entire community’s children. LA’s Promise has created a new operating protocol for outside organizations to run LAUSD schools, and it is the first community-based organization in LA history to operate non-charter public schools, proving its effectiveness at scale. LA's Promise works directly with students, schools, and the LAUSD and also screens and manages more than 70 partners who support our school communities by providing more than 200 wraparound services. Recognizing that a young person’s educational achievement reflects a myriad of familial, communal, environmental, psychological, social, health, and physical influences, LA’s Promise combines numerous integrated services to meet each students’ individual needs. Our unique approach is exemplified by two critical elements. 1. LA’s Promise schools are not charter schools: they are neighborhood public schools run by LA’s Promise under a performance-based contract with LAUSD. They are open to every neighborhood child. 2. LAP leverages the community access of school buildings to turn them into community focal points designed to improve all aspects of area life. As the hub of more than 200 wraparound services provided by partners we rigorously recruit, screen, and manage, LA’s Promise schools provide comprehensive support to children and families. LA’s Promise programs are all built on four areas of school and community turnaround: - School Culture Transformation: Before any academic improvements can take root, a school’s culture must be transformed. LA’s Promise relies on a handful of key strategies to promote a welcoming, safe learning environment across its campuses. Strategies include: creating a culture of high expectations, developing school safety teams, implementing a uniform policy (the first at a non-charter LAUSD school); and adhering to research-based, consistent polices on disciplinary issues. - Innovative, Rigorous Instruction: Our philosophy embodies several guiding principals, including: high expectations for all students and staff, a data-driven and systemic approach to all aspects of instruction, and a culturally responsive pedagogy. LA’s Promise educators provide curricular support to LAUSD staff and to all students outside of minimal class time requirements. - Efficient and Effective School Management: LA’s Promise strategically invests in the human capital at each school by providing the ongoing professional development and support necessary for our teachers to become entrepreneurial, strategic, and visionary thinkers. - Wraparound Services: LA’s Promise turns each school into a community hub for delivering essential services all day long. LA’s Promise today works with over 70 nonprofit organizations that collectively provide more than 200 free services to students, their families, and community residents. Services run the gamut from tutoring, to legal assistance and arts programs, to health services. LA’s Promise will use $100,000 across its powerful programs, leveraging the funding to help more than 6,000 middle and high school students in one of LA’s most underserved communities. This will plant the seed for a powerful vision of change by 2050. These 6,000 students will plant the seeds of a bright tomorrow for the region, and LA’s Promise will hone and enhance its work towards a continued broad impact for decades to come.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

By transforming the culture at each of our schools, LA’s Promise has already demonstrated success across our metrics, including early and dramatic gains at both high schools.

  • API Scores have risen 10%, or 57 points, at Manual Arts High School in the two years LA’s Promise has managed the school and 21%, or an impressive 111 points, at West Adams High School in five years. In 2011-2012 alone, the most recent data year available, the overall API across LA’s Promise schools rose by 52 points. Manual Arts experienced a 21-point increase and John Muir a 31-point increase.
  • Four-year graduation rates increased by 6% over three years at Manual Arts and 11% over five years at West Adams.
  • The important indicators of ELA and Math Proficiency have increased across the board. The percentage of students that passed at Proficient or Advanced on the ELA California Standardized Test jumped 43% (from 19.6% to 31.2%) at Manual Arts in the three years LAP has managed the school, and increased 36% in five years (from 15.5% to 24.1%) at West Adams. Meanwhile, the percentage of students that passed Proficient or Advanced on the Math California Standardized Test rose a very dramatic 66% (from 3.2% to 5.3%) at Manual Arts in three years and 77% (from 2.4% to 10.6%) at West Adams in five years. Proficient or Advanced scores at John Muir also increased, including ELA scores increasing by 19% (from 23% to 27.3%) and Math scores increasing by 33% (from 18% to 24%) since LAP management.
  • Over the last three years, the schools average 94% attendance rates. As of today, West Adams itself now has one of the highest attendance rates (nearly 92%) and lowest dropout rates (2.3%) in LAUSD. Manual Arts and John Muir also have LAUSD-topping attendance rates of 93% and 96%, respectively.
  • The number of instructional days lost to suspensions have dropped by 69.6% at Manual Arts, 59.8% at West Adams and 27.3% at John Muir since LAP management began.
  • Seniors at West Adams Prep accepted to a four-year college more than tripled from 9% to 39% over 5 years and seniors at Manual Arts accepted to a four-year college more than doubled, from 18% to 40% in only two years. A full 100% of the recent Manual Arts High School graduates were admitted to a two- or four-year college.

Perhaps most importantly: we are proud to say that, as of this writing our graduates are attending four-year colleges and universities including California Institute of Tech (Cal Tech); Colgate University; Harvard; University of California, Berkeley; University of Southern California; California State University, Los Angeles; and many, many more.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

LA’s Promise operates its program onsite at the following school campuses in South Los Angeles: Manual Arts High School West Adams Preparatory High School John Muir Middle School

In addition, LA’s Promise works with more than 70 community-based organizations and corporations to deliver its wraparound services. These include: 826LA, Upward Bound, City Year, Brotherhood Crusade, Teach for America, Sparks, the YMCA, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, LA Child Guidance Center, USC Trio, UCLA Outreach, various California State University outreach coordinators, the American Heart Association and more.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

LA’s Promise measures success largely through our increased high school graduation and college attendance rates. As more students cycle through LA’s Promise’s programs, we anticipate an increase in college graduation rates.

Our instructional programs and strategies are measured and monitored through a comprehensive Performance Matrix that tracks, among other things, graduation rates, attendance rates, suspension rates, standardized test scores, college matriculation and job placement details, incidents of violence and campus disruption, grades across subject areas, individual grades, school performance scores, and more. The goal of the matrix is to: identify systemic issues and barriers, highlight successful strategies and potential solutions, and empower schools to make better, data-based decisions. The matrix reflects goals and academic targets established by LA’s Promise, LAUSD, and each school. Three times a year, our instructional team and school leadership review student data to assess student progress, refine instructional practices, and realign resources. Emphasis is placed on academic intervention, credit recovery and meeting college-prep course requirements. The data used to inform this process comes from periodic assessments, grade analysis, and diagnostic testing. The executive leadership and school administrators monitor academic outcomes, report findings to the Board, and share findings with staff during bi-annual staff retreats. In addition, school sites engage in regular Data Dialogues with teachers and departments to ensure they are fully aware of and respond to individual student progress as well as department trends.

Service program evaluations are planned and conducted by LA’s Promise staff. In-house process evaluations are utilized to examine the degree to which each program reflects the original implementation plan. LA’s Promise evaluations focus on promoting accountability and broadening the organizations knowledge base. In coordination with our Director of Data and Strategy, program staff evaluate each program’s impact through: (i) the examination of public statistics and LAUSD data, (ii) participation tracking and surveys, and (iii) observations. Evaluation findings and program improvements are monitored by the executive leadership, reported to the Board, and shared across the organization during bi-annual staff retreats.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

The zip code of a child’s home should not determine their academic success, let alone their future. In the next 5 years alone, LA’s Promise will expand to feeder schools to create a comprehensive K-12 community and educational infrastructure serving more than 20,000 children and their families at flagship high schools we have helped improve. By 2050, this work will have changed our region, and through all of it, LA’s Promise aims to prepare every child it serves to be college- and career-ready, healthy, and successful in life.

Based on its core vision, LA’s Promise focuses on six hallmark programs, each of which will be brought to benefit at least 6,000 students in the short-term and tens of thousands more in the years to come:

  • Innovative Education, which implements research-based programs including Blended Learning that links technology to learning; Linked Learning that advances career-based learning; and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) career-themed educational and study tracks.
  • Go for College, which works with partners to create a college-going culture for all students by providing college tours; assisting with financial aid, application, and college fair processes; and by generally exposing the student body to an array of public and private colleges and universities.
  • Teachers & Leaders, which provides professional development and instructional support to teachers and administrators to offer high-quality education to every student in every class.
  • 7 to 7 offers an array of before- and afterschool programs designed to make the school site a trusted and enriching community hub from 7am to 7pm every day, and often for hours beyond.
  • Promise Parents, which offers ongoing parent education courses, volunteer and leadership opportunities, and consistent and ongoing parent communication to ensure parents are aware of the steps to take to secure their child’s education success.
  • Health & Wellness, which has developed three primary activities to ensure access to fundamental health services for every student at an LA’s Promise school: (i) health, vision, and dental screenings; (ii) restructuring and supplementing health, PE courses, and activities related to nutrition; and (iii) coordinating health and fitness trainings for parents and youth to promote wellness and disease prevention.

Through all of its efforts, LA’s Promise will work to prepare every child in LA’s Promise Neighborhood to be successful, resulting in entire communities being transformed as these children move into successful adult lives. In the coming year the LA’s Promise Neighborhood will see the return of its first set of college graduates, most of whom will also be the first-ever college graduates in their families. LA’s Promise has designed its model to be scalable; in the long-term, the benefits will expand beyond the specific geographic focus of the LA’s Promise Neighborhood to reach underserved and low-income communities across LA.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

As noted above, by 2050, LA’s Promise will have transformed South LA’s schools to have produced more than 35 years of successful high school and college graduates and will have rolled out its transformative model across Los Angeles’ underserved schools. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of alumni LA’s Promise will have supported by 2050 will be successful adults giving back to their home community of South LA, which will have shifted from decades of urgent need to a time of prosperous leadership.

Generally, we believe that success in 2050 for Education in Los Angeles would include:

  • 95% graduation rates across all schools in South Los Angeles, and a minimum of 75% graduation rates across the schools in all of the communities of Los Angeles;
  • 95% college attendance rates across the students graduating from LA’s Promise schools;
  • 96% school attendance rates across the schools in low-income communities of Los Angeles;
  • All Los Angeles schools serving as community hubs and resources, involving entire families and communities in the education of its children;
  • A unified pipeline of schools, beginning with pre-kindergarten, that meet the needs of 100% of the families and communities all across the Los Angeles region; and
  • LA’s Promise graduates returning to work in the communities where they grew up and serving as mentors to current students and as advocates for the LA’s Promise model across the region.

By 2050, LA’s Promise will have graduated more than 500,000 youth and sent them on to pursue college and professional careers.