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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Report on Mattahunt Elementary School, Boston, and High School of Commerce, Springfield

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
November 18, 2016

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Mattahunt Elementary School in Boston (Mattahunt) and the High School of Commerce in Springfield (Commerce) have been designated Level 4 schools since 2012 and 2010, respectively. Despite the efforts that school and district officials have made to date, it is apparent from the 2016 accountability data that the conditions for successful school turnaround are not in place at either school. At Mattahunt, fewer than 20 percent of students are proficient in either English Language Arts or mathematics. At Commerce, fewer than 40 percent of students are proficient in mathematics and the four-year graduation rate is less than 50%. Of the current thirty-one Level 4 schools in Massachusetts, these two schools are lagging significantly and appear to be "stuck" in terms of low student achievement. This memo updates the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on recent actions and anticipated next steps with respect to the two schools.

On September 30, 2016, I sent letters to Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang about Mattahunt and Springfield Superintendent Dan Warwick about Commerce. In the letters, I directed each superintendent to present a plan that would rapidly and effectively move the schools out of underperforming status. I informed the superintendents that absent an effective plan from them, I am committed to using the tools that state law provides - including, but not limited to, state receivership - to secure a better educational future for the students, and therefore I designated each school as "Level 4 Under Review." Without expeditious and dramatic action, it is unlikely that either school will be able to build on its modest progress to date and dramatically increase the pace of improvement. In response, each superintendent has taken action as follows.

To improve outcomes for students at Commerce, Superintendent Warwick sought inclusion of the school into the Springfield Empowerment Zone. On October 20, 2016, the Springfield School Committee unanimously voted to endorse the inclusion of Commerce in the Empowerment Zone. The Board of Trustees for the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, Inc. (SEZP) also voted to approve the change and has officially welcomed Commerce into the zone. Based on these respective votes, I sent Superintendent Warwick a letter on November 9, 2016 indicating that I am removing the "under review" designation for Commerce and keeping the in Level 4 status. SEZP leaders will now guide the school through a thoughtful redesign process that will include direct and ongoing community input in order to develop and implement a new and substantially more robust turnaround plan for the school.

With respect to the Mattahunt, Superintendent Chang proposed closing the school and opening an early childhood center in the current facility. The new school would serve students from pre-kindergarten through first grade. Current students at Mattahunt would be given preference to attend a higher performing school closer to home. Superintendent Chang presented the plan to the Boston School Committee on November 2, 2016. He has also held three community meetings with parents, staff, and members of the community to discuss the proposed change. The Boston School Committee voted to approve the superintendent's proposal at their meeting on November 16, 2016.

At our Board meeting on November 29, Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will be joined by district leadership team members from Boston and Springfield Public Schools, as well as Matthew Matera from the SEZP, to provide additional details and answer your questions.

Enclosure:

 
2016 Accountability Profile - Mattahunt Elementary School
 
2016 Accountability Profile - The High School of Commerce


Last Updated: November 28, 2016
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