The Locke project is in many ways a risky undertaking. It's hard to turn around miseducated ninth graders. And Locke is unlike other charters, in that families don't have to fill out a special application to attend. If they live in the neighborhood, Locke is their high school. As the L.A. Times pointed out recently,it's one thing to make progress with students who voluntarily sign up for a rigorous academic environment and whose parents actively support the endeavor. Green Dot's experience with Locke's many doubt-filled teens will provide a more realistic measure of what charter schools can do for poor and minority students who typically have lower test scores and higher dropout rates. And if it succeeds, Green Dot will have created a blueprint for public schools.
I certainly hope Green Dot succeeds, for the good of its students and community, but also because it will be a step forward in a long, well-trod path of urban school reform. Trying to fix urban high schools is difficult. I don't really think it is risky, because one can walk away pretty easily without blame and most people will agree that your biggest error was taking on an impossible task. Nonetheless, it is a task that thousands of teachers and principals have engaged in for decades -- centuries even -- with little fanfare. And if Green Dot is successful, it will be because they're following through on established principles that are very, very familiar to everyone in working in urban education over the past couple decades.