When Teachers Look and Have Lived Like Their Students

A South L.A. Charter School Offers a Personalized Formula for Success

For three years, I taught English at Alliance College-Ready Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy in South Los Angeles. It’s a charter school at the corner of Century Boulevard and Broadway, located in one of the neediest and underserved neighborhoods in the city, right between the 110 Freeway and Watts.

The average family income in the area is $23,000 a year. The first day I started teaching there, a cold, winter morning, I saw prostitutes out walking. Old couches and mattresses littered the street behind campus. During my first month at …