“Alexander Russo’s new book on the remaking of Locke High in Los Angeles… is a must-read, nerve-jangling thrill ride…. I plan to read the book again…. Anyone interested in fixing bad schools anywhere in the country should do the same. We will never have a better guide to how to do this right, and wrong.”
—Jay Matthews, Washington Post
“ Stray Dogs is definitely worth a read, especially since the book reads more like a thriller than your run-of-the-mill school turnaround story…, painting a gritty portrait that readers may find tough to believe outside of a Hollywood film. Actual suspense is built as we’re taken into secret meetings and brought through confrontations.”
—Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld
“Here, finally, is a book that recognizes the excruciatingly incremental pace of school reform and the monumental significance of the community's willingness to stick it out. Russo delivers…in this well-balanced, complicated account of school reform.”
—Laura Varlas, ASCD Express
From the Inside Flap
A high school campus marred by disorder, teacher turnover, and hopelessness. A secret plan to break free from faraway district administrators and powerful union leaders. A hard-charging outsider who wants to revolutionize public education. A group of tireless educators banding together to rescue the school and redeem the community.
Located in the Watts section of South Central Los Angeles, Locke High School was once known for its pride and excellence. Decades of neglect and indifference turned it into a low-scoring "dropout factory" avoided by teachers and students alike. Then, working in secrecy, a handful of teachers and administrators plotted to give their school to an upstart nonprofit charter school organization called Green Dot, led by charismatic and controversial founder Steve Barr. The move turned Locke into the poster child for a national effort to "turn around" broken schools that now includes nearly 1,000 schools.
What's it like to try and turn around a broken school without stripping it beyond all recognition? It's the hardest work in educationdeceptively simple at the beginning and increasingly difficult the deeper you get into it. It's a trickle of halting, incremental successes totally incompatible with the familiar Hollywood portrayal of instant results and individual heroes. And at times it can seem like everyonenot just the district and the unionwants it to fail.
Stray dogs still sometimes sneak onto the campus despite all efforts to keep them out. The "saints"Locke parents, students, and alumniwatch carefully. And Green Dot, Steve Barr, and the staff of Locke valiantly try to make good on the promises they've made to the students and to each other.