How to Turn Around 15 Public Schools

After decades of failed leadership from Sacramento and stagnant student achievement in California public schools, you may be wondering: Is there anything that can be done to change the trajectory of public education in California?

Yes. And it’s been done before.

Marshall Tuck led the turnaround of fifteen public schools in Los Angeles, in one of the most notable education successes in our state’s history. It’s proof of his commitment to public schools, his bold leadership and how he’d get the job done as State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here’s the story:

2007— The Partnership is Founded

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the City of Los Angeles and education leaders join forces to try to tackle the systemic inequities and dire circumstances at ten of L.A.’s most underserved public schools.

The mayor of L.A. chooses Marshall to lead this ambitious project, a nonprofit called The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. The goal: Make bold change and unleash innovation to boost student achievement and turnaround the schools.

Under Tuck’s leadership, the Partnership implements new teacher training programs, brings in math and literacy coaches, and founds the Parent College, an empowerment program to increase engagement and train parents in education advocacy efforts.

2009 — Keeping Schools Funded

LAUSD slashes its budget by $1.6 billion. The draconian cuts only increase pressure on students and teachers already reeling from the rolling layoffs of 5,000 teachers and program cuts.

Marshall and the Partnership worked tirelessly to bring funding into Partnership schools, tapping outside resources to stave off cuts and allow for new opportunities like Students Helping Our World, an academic achievement program that hosts celebrity appearances and concerts at four Partnership schools to incentivize student success and attendance.

2011 — Early Signs of Success

99th Street Elementary, Stevenson Middle School, Ritter Elementary, and Sunrise Elementary, already achieve growth in average reading and math scores. Sunrise Elementary alone records a 41-point increase in its API score compared to the year 2008. 99th Street Elementary sees a 20% increase for each testing grade in 2010’s California Standards Test.

2012 — Five Years & Five More Schools

By its fifth anniversary, five more schools have joined the Partnership. Owing to its success, the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Los Angeles and the LA Unified School District is renewed, and the Partnership continues.

2013 — A Dramatic Turnaround

Marshall Tuck steps down as CEO of the Partnership while remaining an active member of the Board. In his six years at the at the helm, truancy rates drop, school safety improves, and graduation rates soar 60%. Had the Partnership been its own large school district, it would rank as the most improved in California in 2013.

2018 — Sustained Success

Today, the Partnership has grown to 18 Los Angeles schools and 14,000 students. The groundbreaking Parent College now expands beyond the Partnership network and reaches over 8,900 parents.

In academic performance, 63% of Partnership schools have improved their ranking in English and math by 10 percentile points, equivalent to moving past 1,000 California schools. And the improvements extend beyond academic performance to outcomes: By 2016, 80% of Partnership high schools, some of the most underfunded and underperforming less than a decade before, matched or exceeded LAUSD’s average graduation rate. Average college acceptance rates also increased, from 32% to 47% between 2015 and 2017, with one Partnership high school sending 81% of graduates to college in 2016.

Marshall Tuck’s leadership changed thousands of students’ lives over the last decade. It’s easy to fall into partisan traps around education, but what Marshall did in Los Angeles shows that change is possible — imagine what he can do for all California schools.