What Educators Can Learn About a Southeast L.A. Turnaround

The Addition of a Bold College Readiness Program Transformed a Struggling High School in a Poor Community into an Example of High Academic Achievement

Bell Gardens High School in east Los Angeles County was a sorry mess when science teacher Liz Lowe arrived in 1989. It was overflowing with trailer classrooms and graffiti. More than 3,000 students crowded into school buildings surrounding a concrete quadrangle with patches of grass and some trees. Expectations were low. Not much learning was done.

“It hurt my soul that here were these wonderful students who were very, very capable, but they were expected to be the working poor,” Lowe recalled. They needed an opportunity to go to college, but …