13 Jun 2013
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Learning Curve

Marshall Tuck (MBA 2000) is helping rebuild Los Angeles' worst schools to give kids a shot at success.
Re: Carl Christopher (MBA 2006)

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Marshall Tuck's exciting new job had a rough start. Selected in late 2006 to head a turnaround of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Tuck (MBA 2000) saw his position evaporate a week before the start date, when a bill signed into law giving the mayor partial control of the city's schools was ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge. Luckily, Tuck was unfazed.

"The schools still needed to improve, right?" Tuck says by phone. "So you take a blow, get up the next day, and ask, 'How can we still move this forward?' "

The solution was the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit spun out of City Hall that is focused on turning around 22 of the district's lowest-performing schools. Serving close to 16,000 students, the partnership is a collaborative effort between the City of Los Angeles and its school district; each partnership school retains budgetary and management independence.

Inspired to focus his career on improving education after teaching for a year in Zimbabwe and Thailand, Tuck says simply, "I'm driven by a desire to help as many people as I can in my lifetime. The greatest social issue we have in the United States is the disparity in children's education. If you don't get a good education, it's extremely unlikely that you're going to reach your potential. That is a huge loss."

"All-consuming" is how Tuck describes his current position, explaining, "Progress takes a long time. When we took over our schools, 10 percent of the students were doing grade-level math. We've doubled that number in four years—but we're still at only 20 percent. The numbers are daunting."

Tuck got a taste of what it means to build something from the ground up when he served as president and COO of Green Dot Public Schools, a start-up charter organization that has since expanded to include 18 schools. Now his days are spent meeting with members of city government; visiting schools to talk with parents and to support teachers and principals; negotiating partnerships with private-sector organizations to help cover the district's budget shortfall; and managing and supporting the partnership's 37 Home Office employees, including Director of School Operations Carl Christopher (MBA 2006) and over 1,300 school-site employees in partnership schools.

"It's very difficult work—like running a marathon in mud," Tuck says. "But when you make progress, it's real progress. Education is not just a civil rights issue; it's an economic sustainability issue. We need as many talented, passionate people in this sector as possible."

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Class of MBA 2000, Section F
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