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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

School and District Accountability and Assistance - Level 4 Schools

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
November 18, 2011


In March 2010, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted regulations to identify and intervene in Level 4 ("underperforming") schools. At that time, we identified 35 Level 4 schools representing nine districts and serving 18,924 students. On November 15, 2011, we identified six additional Level 4 schools in four districts serving 2,829 students. The following is an update on the planning, funding, and turnaround work currently taking place in the Level 4 schools.

2010 Level 4 Schools


The 35 Level 4 Schools announced in March 2010 were the first schools to undergo a new turnaround plan development process defined in An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, the landmark legislation signed into law by Governor Patrick in January 2010 that provided new flexibilities to turn around the lowest performing schools and greater accountability for results. Each district was required to produce a turnaround plan for the commissioner's approval and was given priority to apply for competitive federal School Redesign Grants of approximately $500,000 per year for up to three years for each of its Level 4 schools.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) prioritized these districts for assistance and provided significant targeted supports to help connect them to useful turnaround resources where appropriate. District leaders and local union presidents from all nine districts have been receiving ongoing technical assistance through DESE's Level 4 Schools Network (L4N). The L4N hosts regular conference calls and technical assistance workshops to clarify the expectations of the law and grant requirements, share promising practices for successful turnaround, and network the districts as they develop the conditions for their Level 4 schools to improve rapidly (see Attachment 1 for a Summary of L4N Activities).

Year 1 Results for 2010 Level 4 Schools

After the first year of turnaround efforts, 22 of the 35 Level 4 schools made combined gains in ELA and Math of 5 percentage points or higher in the percent of students scoring Proficient or higher between 2010 and 2011. The following are highlights from 11 of those schools:

  • Charlotte Murkland, Lowell: up 13 percentage points in ELA; up 20 in math
  • Homer Street, Springfield: up 12 in ELA; up 20 in math
  • Alfred G. Zanetti, Springfield: up 11 in ELA; up 20 in math
  • Elias Brookings, Springfield: up 12 in ELA; up 18 in math
  • E J Harrington, Lynn: up 14 in ELA; up 14 in math
  • John F Kennedy, Boston: up 9 in ELA; up 18 in math
  • Orchard Gardens, Boston: up 10 in ELA; up 16 in math
  • William P Connery, Lynn: up 12 in ELA; up 12 in math
  • Jeremiah Burke HS, Boston: up 11 in ELA; up 10 in math
  • Elihu Greenwood, Boston: up 12 in ELA; up 8 in math

A preliminary analysis of the strategies being used in the fastest improving Level 4 schools is included as Attachment 2.

Three of the above schools received federal School Redesign Grant funding during the 2010-11 school year. Eleven of the Level 4 schools received School Redesign Grants last year, and another 17 schools are receiving School Redesign Grant funds beginning this school year (2011-12). Four of the 34 remaining 2010 Level 4 Schools (the Agassiz School in Boston has closed) applied for the federal grants but were not funded; they will be eligible to apply again this winter.

Next Steps for 2010 Level 4 Schools

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will continue prioritizing districts with Level 4 schools for targeted assistance to ensure that the gains achieved in these schools continue, and to assist the other schools in producing stronger gains. For those Level 4 schools that did not improve, DESE is working closely with their districts to share promising practices and troubleshoot implementation challenges.

DESE is commissioning a formal evaluation of the Level 4 schools to learn more about the strategies that have been most effective in improving outcomes for students.

2011 Level 4 Schools

On November 15, 2011, the Department of Elementary and Secondary identified the following additional Level 4 schools:

  • Lawrence: Business Management and Finance High School (9-12)
  • Lawrence: International High School (9-12)
  • Lawrence: James F. Leonard School (6-8)
  • New Bedford: Hayden-McFadden Elementary School (PK-5)
  • Salem: Bentley Elementary School (K-5)
  • Worcester: Burncoat Street Elementary School (K-6)

These new Level 4 schools were identified on the basis of four-year trends in student performance and growth measures as well as graduation and dropout rates for high schools (See Attachment 3 for the Level 4 Schools Methodology).

The 2011 Level 4 schools will be given priority for DESE targeted assistance, and will be able to benefit from the lessons learned from the 2010 Level 4 Schools. These schools will also be eligible to apply for the next round of competitive federal School Redesign Grant funding. The 2011 Level 4 schools will receive priority access to key Race to the Top initiatives including Priority Partners for Turnaround and Turnaround Teacher and Leader Teams.


Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 1: Summary of Level 4 Schools Network Activities
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 2: Preliminary Analysis of Level 4 Turnaround Schools

Last Updated: November 25, 2011
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