LPS was founded in 2002 by the first CEO, Mark Kushner, supported by Board Chair, Scott Pearson. With strong backing by New Schools Venture Fund, it was one of the early charters in California. The founding mission of LPS was to provide high-quality college-prep education in underserved communities with the aim of preparing students to return as leaders to those communities. Student leadership was a strong component of the initial model, drawing on the successful practices of Leadership High School in San Francisco (unaffiliated with LPS) where Mark Kushner had been the founding principal. Five schools were opened over the next four years in Richmond, San Jose, Hayward, Oakland and Campbell. Struggles with facilities led to the early closure of LPS Campbell and have remained a challenge for some sites. Early difficulties locating and supporting strong site leaders, now no longer an issue, slowed the building of program infrastructure and curtailed plans for continued expansion.
With the start-up pains over, when the second Superintendent & CEO, Dr. Louise Bay Waters, joined LPS at the end of 2008, her first task was to put in place sustaining systems and structures. The next four years saw building of the signature LPS assessment and data systems to guide everything from tracking college readiness to cycles of inquiry on common benchmark exams. During this era, achievement of the California HIgh School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the California State Test (CST) grew dramatically as did the cohesion of the LPS program. At the same time, despite a precipitous drop in State funding, enrollment and attendance grew and LPS finances were stable with no layoffs and employee bonuses every year. In fact, the Network undertook an ambitious program to build a robust technology infrastructure enabling a 1:1 laptop program that began in 2012.
A Reputation for Innovation and Impact
By 2012 LPS was developing a reputation for collaborative innovation – the signature practice focusing bottom-up experimentation on common imperatives. Many of these leveraged the growing strength in technology. This included creating College Access Readers: open, free, online textbooks with access supports in partnership with CK12. As work expanded it came in house with the development of ExitTicket, a realtime data application; Learning Lists personalized pre-algebra access program; and Crowd-Sourced Grading, a rubric scoring tool, all of which have been incorporated into the Gooru Learning Navigator; as part of our close collaboration with Gooru, a premier ed tech non-profit.
The LPS collaborative innovation approach also resulted in non-technology innovation with a restorative justice and tiered intervention program that dramatically reduced suspensions and expulsions; a highly successful dual enrollment program utilizing Merritt College online courses; and a strong college advisory program. Taken together these practices led to increasing recognition for both academics and innovation: