Life Learning Academy

Posted on September 28, 2016

Life Learning Academy (LLA) is a fully accredited San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) charter high school founded in 1998 by the Delancey Street Foundation and located on Treasure Island. Its mission is to provide a nonviolent community for students who have not been successful in traditional school settings. Toward this end, LLA prepares students for academic, employment, and life success through goal-setting, individualized counseling, preparation for employment, and support for achievement in college, jobs, and their communities.

Population served
LLA annually serves 60-70 students comprising some of the most disadvantaged youth in the Bay Area. Nearly all come from impoverished neighborhoods and qualify for free or reduced lunch; all are involved or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice and/or child welfare system; 68 percent had a drug use problem at enrollment; 47 percent have current or past gang affiliation; 52 percent have been abused; and 52 percent have parents that abuse drugs or alcohol.


Approach
LLA starts with a foundation of social-emotional and interpersonal skills integrated into all aspects of the school, and it offers interdisciplinary, project-based classes that challenge students to develop strong academic, critical thinking and teamwork skills across subject areas. Additionally, LLA helps students gain employment skills, certificates and opportunities throughout the school year and summer, and provides one-on-one college and career counseling. This includes supporting students while they take community college courses during their senior year; helping them apply for grants, set up community college accounts, and complete applications; and guiding them through the matriculation process, including planning for work-school balance and transportation.

Outcomes
On average, LLA students increase their GPA by 1.42 points and miss 17.23 fewer days of school in their first semester compared to their previous semester before enrolling at LLA; and the LLA high school graduation rate was 100 percent in 2010-2013. More than two-thirds of LLA graduates (71%) attend community or 4-year colleges after they graduate. These are students who previously had been completely disengaged from their education, some of whom are the first in their extended family to graduate high school. Additionally, 18% of students find part-or full-time employment after graduating from LLA. The remainder attend vocational school, enter the military or live with their parents.

LLA has been recognized as a model school by the California Department of Education and the National Coalition of Essential Schools, and as a model program by state juvenile justice leaders and local law enforcement.

Challenges and Future
In the past couple years, an increasing number of LLA students suffers from homelessness, unstable housing or unsafe living conditions making it difficult for them to attend or participate effectively in school. In response, LLA embarked on the development of a co-located, non-fee residential component to provide a safe, stable, structured home environment for students so they can focus on their education. The long-term goal is to provide housing for up to 100 system-involved, homeless or disconnected youth to increase school engagement and performance; reduce truancy; improve personal safety, support and self-efficacy; and support students’ successful transition to independent living, continued education and/or employment. The first phase involves the development of a residence for 20 students on the current LLA school site on Treasure Island. LLA is undergoing a capital campaign and expects to open the new residence in the 2017-18 school year. To learn more, go to LLABUILD.