Note: The information in this profile represents SY2010-11 unless otherwise indicated.

School/organization overview

Name Leadership Public Schools
Type Charter Management Organization
Headquarters Oakland, California
First year of operation
Grades served 9-12
Enrollment 1,500
% FRL 79%
% Black or Hispanic 85%
Per-pupil funding $7,795

Blended-learning program

Name N/A
Focus General
Year launched
Outside investments/grants
Enrollment 1,500
Blended grades
Blended subjects
Math, English Language Arts, History/Social Studies, Science, Electives
Content CK-12 Flexbooks, self-developed
SIS PowerSchool, Filemaker Pro
Independent LMS None
Independent gradebook None
Independent assessment MAP (NWEA)
Professional development

Program model

Program model: Flex

Model description
Teachers use adaptable, digital textbooks for self-paced online learning to help with unit recovery, special education needs, and English-language learners.

Program background

History and context
Leadership Public Schools (LPS) serves approximately 1,500 students in four urban high schools in Oakland, Richmond, Hayward and San Jose, Calif. Dr. Louise Bay Waters, CEO of LPS, has spent her 35-year career focusing on how to accelerate achievement among the lowest-performing urban students and close the achievement gap. The students at Leadership Public Schools are 79 percent free and reduced lunch, and almost all who attend college will be the first in their families to do so. Almost half of ninth graders enter LPS below the 5th-grade reading level. Thirty-six percent are English-language learners. Waters and her team have struggled with how best to accelerate learning for this demographic, particularly because the organization’s mandate is to prepare 100 percent of its students for college by ensuring that all students take a college prep curriculum.

Blended model
Initially, LPS experimented with blending by sending struggling students to computer labs for online-learning interventions. Waters and her team used K12, Inc., Cyber High, Brigham Young University, and other providers to deliver various courses. They concluded, however, that in general, online learning did not work for her schools. In most cases, paying for an online teacher in addition to an adult supervisor in the computer labs, plus the cost of the content, was more expensive than paying for a traditional teacher alone. In addition, online programs were usually text heavy and required a level of independent learning ability that was impossible for most of the students.

Instead, Waters and her team decided that the most promising technology opportunity for their students was the growing adaptability of digital content. They reasoned that by using customizable digital textbooks, they could offer literacy support customized to each band of student, including those at or above grade level, those who struggled with English, and those with major learning gaps. Waters decided to reach out to CK–12, which provided standards-based, mass-customization, online textbooks (flexbooks). CK–12 and LPS agreed to partner to develop and deliver a new generation of custom flexbooks called “College Access Readers.” LPS began deploying these College Access Readers across its classrooms in the fall of 2010. By 2012, it intends to provide the readers for all subjects, customized for all bands of student ability.

Teachers use College Access Readers to support and enrich their traditional classroom model. They display content from the readers using LCD projectors or printouts. Ideally, each student will someday have a digital device to allow individual access to the content.

Thus, most aspects of the LPS model are not blended, as defined in this report, because they lack a self-paced online learning component. LPS does plan to use College Access Readers as self-paced online learning vehicles for subsets of its population, including students who are absent (there are high numbers of pregnant teens), those needing credit recovery, and special education and ESL students who will use online text-to-speech English-Spanish versions of the readers.

LPS provides an important illustration of when online blending has been successful only in meeting the needs of a small fraction of the population in a given demographic.

Notable results
LPS does not have specific results for the small segment of its population using online learning for unit recovery, special education, or ESL interventions. Its College Access Readers deployment, which does not constitute online blended learning as defined in this report, is still too early to produce performance results. Foundation grants are subsidizing deployment of the readers, although the cost of the readers is offset by CK–12’s provision of free online textbook content.

On the horizon
Waters intends to expand and scale the College Access Readers quickly across her member schools. Within two years she hopes to have one-to-one laptops that will allow the readers to be used online. She is interested in using online courses if she can locate some that she feels are appropriate for her students and at a cost that is lower than hiring traditional teachers.


  • Christensen Institute
    Christensen Institute