Our Work /


Improving Education

Our Goal: Increase the graduation rate to 75%

United Way’s education strategy is guided by research on best practices in student achievement. This research demonstrates that students are more likely to succeed if they receive rigorous preparation for high school in the middle school years; parental engagement to support student learning and effective teaching.

Because of heroes like you:

Marina’s Story

 Eighth grader, Marina Mendoza was struggling in school. When she found she couldn’t read as fast as her peers, they began to tease her and her grades began to slip. Thanks to your support, today Marina is now reading at a ninth grade level and has her sights set on college.

The Leadership Matters Middle School Pilot

Students at one of our
Leadership Matters Schools,
Northridge Middle School

The Leadership Matters Middle School Pilot is training eight LAUSD middle school principals and their leadership teams by directing increased resources and technical assistance to these schools. The goal of the program is to prepare students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds for success in high school, thereby leading to reduced dropout rates, increased graduation rates, and improved readiness for college and career.

The Leadership Matters Middle School Pilot is also training LAUSD middle school leadership teams of four, including the principal, an assistant principal or counselor, and two department heads, in high-need schools. The goal is to improve teacher effectiveness, implement school-wide student support systems, and increase parent involvement at home and at school.

Leadership teams convene every month to two months to tour and observe high-performing middle schools of similar demographics. They then receive on-site coaching and support to implement best practices on their own campuses.

The Diplomas Now Model
As a part of our mission to improve the quality of our children’s education, we’re continually investing in innovative middle school programs that are proven to work.

Created by Johns Hopkins University’s Dr. Robert Balfanz, the Diplomas Now model uses key performance data to identify children in our region’s lowest-performing schools (children at highest risk of dropping out), and provide them with tutoring, peer mentoring, case management and customized curricula.  By delivering these vital services to each Diplomas Now school in the region, we’re striving to:

Public School Choice

United Way has partnered with LAUSD and community-based organizations throughout L.A. County to engage local residents in the process of turning our lowest-performing schools around and ensuring the quality of its newest schools. Through the Public School Choice (PSC) initiative, teams of teachers, principals and nonprofits have submitted proposals for operating these campuses.

A critical factor in the District’s decision-making process is parent and community input.  We recently released a report called Voices for Change: Public School Choice 3.0 that highlights their top principles and priorities for each of the 25 Public School Choice campuses with regards to Curriculum & Assessment, Student Support, Parent & Community Engagement, School Staff and Health & Safety.

In partnership with LAUSD and community-based groups, we also convened parents, students and community members to learn about the elements of a high-quality education, and how to use school performance data and review PSC proposals.

The engagement process included a series of four sessions for each PSC campus and provided parents with clear, accurate information and tools to effectively support their children’s education while empowering them to shape the competition’s final outcome. The success of these efforts hinged upon the hard work and dedication of participants, local organizations who partnered with United Way and LAUSD staff.

For more information about our efforts to ensure a high quality education for all of our kids, contact Ryan Smith, Director of Education Programs and Policy, at 213-808-6407 or rsmith@unitedwayla.org.