In partnership with

Public schools for
Underserved students


There is no achievement gap at birth.1 It’s time to stop questioning what low-income students of color can achieve in school and time to start focusing on learning from the public schools that are beating the odds.

When offered equal access to rigorous coursework, strong instruction, and teachers with high expectations, all students — regardless of race and ethnicity — achieve at high levels, oftentimes closing existing gaps.2 Unfortunately, many kids are being failed by school systems that are not equipping them to achieve their full potential. Many factors hold kids back: poverty, systemic racism, language barriers, and struggles at home or in their community. These are compounded by limited funding to schools, and district and statewide policies and practices that don’t work.

But some schools are finding ways to help all of their students succeed, despite the many socioeconomic barriers and barriers in our public school system. These schools are currently the exception, not the rule. But they each show us what a single school can do. They show us what’s possible despite the odds.

Our Top Public Schools for Underserved Students report highlights those schools closing the achievement gap for low-income African American and Latino students in Los Angeles County. Since 2015, we have produced this report annually for Bay Area schools. This is our first year producing the report for Los Angeles County.

To qualify, schools must beat the statewide average in one or more factors including math and reading scores, and college eligibility rates, and suspension data. Still, when you talk to leaders of schools on this list, they will tell you that it is not enough. “While we are pleased to see some schools closing the achievement gap, we all still have a long way to go to achieve true and equitable excellence for our students who have historically been left behind,” says Superintendent Jeff Pelzel of Newhall School District.

There is much work yet to be done for Los Angeles’ students, but our list highlights the schools that are leading the way. We hope educators, civic leaders, parents, and students across Los Angeles can get inspired by their example. We believe all schools in Los Angeles County can become Top Public Schools.

1. Delpit, Lisa D. (2012). “Multiplication is for White people: raising expectations for other people’s children.” New York: New Press. Distributed by Perseus Distribution.

2. TNTP (2018). The Opportunity Myth: What students can show us about how school is letting them down– and how to fix it.

Low-income Latino
There are


Los Angeles schools


schools serve a
significant number of
low-income Latino


of them are Top Schools
Source: California Department of Education, 2017-18 Enrollment files
*Schools were considered in this analysis if they had at least 20 low-income Latino students and this sub-group comprises 43% or more of the school's overall enrollment.
Low-income African American
There are


Los Angeles schools


serve at least 20
low-income African
American students**


of them
are Top Schools
Source: California Department of Education, 2017-18 Enrollment files
**Schools were considered in this analysis if they had at least 20 low-income African American students and this sub-group comprises 4% or more of the school's overall enrollment.

The 279 Top Public Schools in Los Angeles County span 45 districts from the Antelope Valley to the Harbor and the Westside to Pomona Valley.

Click the map to explore each school’s outcomes for low-income African American and Latino students.

Top Public Schools in Los Angeles County.

What do these schools do differently?

There isn’t one single program or model that leads to the remarkable results these schools have accomplished. In fact, all school governance models — traditional district, charter, and other magnet or pilot models — are represented in this report. Innovate Public Schools has studied high-performing schools across the country and found that they are as diverse as the communities they serve. However, we found that many of the schools on this list do share certain core school-wide practices and beliefs that distinguish them from other schools.

Our World-class Schools Framework outlines these practices. We partnered with the USC Price Center for Social Innovation and the USC Center on Education Policy, Equity and Governance to profile two schools from this year’s Top Public Schools list. Below we highlight schools that show what these practices look like in action:

Brooklyn Avenue Elementary

Learn more +

KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory

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Signal Hill Elementary

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Alliance Patti & Peter Neuwirth Leadership Academy

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King/Drew Medical Magnet High

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How we identify Top Public Schools

Our annual Top Public Schools report examines how well schools in Los Angeles County are preparing students for the futures they choose. We consider multiple factors, including math and reading scores, college eligibility data, and suspension data to identify schools that are closing the achievement gap and ensuring students, regardless of race or income, are on track for college.

How schools are included on the list

In order to make our list as a Top Public School for low-income Latino or low-income African American students, schools must meet the following inclusion criteria:

  • Schools must successfully close the achievement gap for underserved students. The school’s proficiency rates in English and/or math for these two student groups have to be at or above the statewide proficiency rate for all students in English and/or math in a given school type (elementary, middle, or high).
  • High schools must demonstrate that they are preparing underserved students of color for college. Schools’ graduation and UC/CSU eligibility rates for low-income Latino and low-income African American students must be at or above the statewide average for all students.
  • Schools have to test at least 95% of their students. Schools also have to have at least 20 students tested in the given student group and subject in order to be considered. This is key to ensuring their data paints a true picture of their performance and how well they’re serving all of their students.
  • Schools have to enroll a representative proportion of underserved students. Schools must enroll at least 4% low-income African American students and/or at least 43% low-income Latino students, which are the statewide enrollment averages, in order to be considered. In Los Angeles county, there are 1,318 schools serving at least 43% low-income Latino students and 711 schools serving at least 4% low-income African American students.

How schools get removed from the list
After identifying schools that meet the set of inclusion criteria outlined above, we eliminate schools that meet one or more of the following exclusion criteria:

  • Schools with low academic performance on the California Dashboard. We eliminate schools that performed poorly on the California Dashboard’s Academic indicator for the African American or Latino subgroup. Like proficiency rates, this indicator is based on student results on state exams. However, it also measures how a school improved from one year to the next overall, and it measures how far every single student is from mastering the standards.
  • Schools with high suspension rates. We eliminate schools that have high suspension rates (as indicated by “red” performance or “very high status” on the California Dashboard Suspension Rate indicator) for either all students or for the given group of students. High suspension rates can serve as an important indicator that a school has more work to do in order to build a strong, welcoming culture and a positive learning environment that nurtures all students. Students of color are suspended at higher rates than their White peers. Research has shown that these high suspension rates can ultimately track these students into a school-to-prison pipeline. We believe it is important to celebrate high-performing schools that do not overly rely on harsh discipline policies in order to achieve their results.
  • Schools with selective admissions. Schools that are selective in choosing which students to admit are not eligible for inclusion in this report. Public schools should be expected to serve all children, and that is especially important for the schools we lift up as examples of what is possible in public education.