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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Lowell Community Charter Public School

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:February 17, 2010

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Last December, I gave you my recommendation that the charter for the Lowell Community Charter Public School (LCCPS) should not be renewed, based on very disappointing academic results during the school's first ten years of operation. At your January meeting, you had the opportunity to hear from representatives of the school. In the weeks following, I had a series of meetings with parents, faculty, and trustees of the school; with the Lowell superintendent and school committee; and with members of the Lowell legislative delegation, to discuss the school's situation.

There are certainly some positive aspects about the school. It has substantial support from a very large group of parents, who appreciate its cultural and ethnic diversity, its language programs and other offerings, and its strong sense of community. I am also cognizant that the trustees have already taken steps to initiate a schoolwide turnaround, including consultation with the Massachusetts Center for Charter Public School Excellence, issuance of a request for proposals to engage an educational management organization, and development of a plan for an orderly transition to a completely new trustee membership. And I have heard the district's concerns regarding the potential problems if it were required to absorb nearly 900 new students next fall.

Based on all of these considerations, I am now recommending that you vote to renew the school's charter. I am also recommending that you place the school on probation and that you impose the following conditions:

  1. A reduction in the school's grade span from its current K-8 to K-4. The elimination of the middle school grades will allow the school to focus its efforts on the primary grades and will reduce the overall number of students served by the school. This grade configuration matches that of elementary schools in the district.

  2. A concomitant reduction in the school's maximum enrollment from the currently authorized 900 to 610 students. (The school had 947 students enrolled as of October 1, 2009.)

  3. No later than April 30, 2010, LCCPS must submit to the Charter School Office a comprehensive self-evaluation that determines the strategies to be used to address academic underperformance and governance in the school, including, but not limited to:
    1. a possible contract with a management company with a proven track record;
    2. implementation of proven curricular and instructional programs;
    3. a comprehensive revamping of school leadership;
    4. the addition of members to the board of trustees with the skills and experience to implement systemic changes in leadership and programs.
    The evaluation must include an action plan with a timetable for the implementation of corrective actions, must set deadlines for the completion of key tasks, and must set clear and specific implementation benchmarks to allow the Charter School Office to monitor implementation.
  4. No later than June 30, 2010, LCCPS must complete the process to receive approval from the Charter School Office for an Accountability Plan, including objectives and measures regarding academic success, organizational viability, and faithfulness to charter in alignment with the implementation benchmarks of the self-evaluation.

  5. By December of 2011, LCCPS must demonstrate that it is an academic success by:
    1. meeting academic growth targets in English language arts and mathematics, as established by the Department, or
    2. achieving Adequate Yearly Progress in the aggregate and for all statistically significant subgroups in English language arts and mathematics in 2010 and 2011, and
    3. by meeting the goals and objectives established the school's Accountability Plan.

Frankly, I do not know if the school will be successful in meeting these very stringent conditions. In my discussions with members of the school community, and with district officials, I have made it very clear that the status quo is not acceptable and that nothing less than transformative change is required. I intend to closely monitor the school's performance in the months ahead. If the school fails to meet these conditions, and in particular if we do not see a significant improvement in academic achievement, then I will return to you with an unequivocal recommendation for charter revocation.

Enclosed is a motion for your consideration, along with another copy of the Summary of Review prepared last fall by the Department's Charter School Office. I have also enclosed the most recent submission by the school. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner, at 781 338-6500; Mary Street, Director of Charter Schools, at 781 338-3200; or me.

Attachments:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Summary of Review
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Letter from LCCPS to Commissioner Chester


Last Updated: February 19, 2010
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