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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Level 4 Schools Exit Process

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
November 16, 2012


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 34 Level 4 schools representing nine districts and serving 18,924 students. Each Level 4 school was required to develop a three-year turnaround plan beginning school year 2010-11. State law requires that, at the expiration of each school's turnaround plan, the commissioner "conduct a review of the school to determine whether the school has improved sufficiently, requires further improvement or has failed to improve" (M.G.L. Ch. 69, Section 1J (l)). The 2012-13 school year is the third year of turnaround plans for the 34 schools designated in 2010 (see Attachment 1 for a summary of 2010 Level 4 schools performance).

At the special meeting of the Board on Monday evening, November 26, 2012, we will present the framework being developed to inform Year 3 "exit" decisions for Level 4 schools. We have invited district leaders engaged in the Level 4 school turnaround process to participate in a panel discussion reflecting on lessons learned and challenges ahead in turning around the Commonwealth's lowest performing schools. The following memorandum provides background for the upcoming presentation.

Criteria for Level 4 School Exit Determinations

A key principle in the Department's Level 4 schools intervention process was a recognition that turning around low-performing schools requires district and school systems of support to sustain the improvements in student performance. Accordingly, from the beginning of the process we have emphasized that Level 4 schools can be moved out of status only by fulfilling three criteria:

  1. Meeting Measurable Annual Goals for student achievement for three years for students overall and for subgroups of students, as shown by:
    • MCAS proficiency and student growth
    • Reduction in proficiency gap
    • (for high schools) a higher graduation rate and a greater percentage of graduates enrolled in higher education within one year of graduation;
  2. Evidence that the conditions are in place at the school level to sustain that improvement; and
  3. Evidence that the conditions are in place at the district level to sustain that improvement.

The Department will collect evidence in each of these categories through a combination of data analysis and school and district reviews to be able to determine each Level 4 school's progress. Once this evidence is collected and analyzed for each Level 4 school, I will determine that:

  • the school has improved sufficiently for the school designation as Level 4 to be removed; or
  • the school has improved, but remains underperforming and should stay in Level 4; or
  • the school has not improved and should be designated as a Level 5 ("chronically underperforming") school and placed under receivership.

See Appendix 2 for relevant excerpts from statute and regulations.

Communication with Key Stakeholders about the Exit Process

In order to create a shared understanding with key stakeholders about the Department's Level 4 school exit planning, we have discussed the process and criteria with the following groups:

  • The Board's Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council (meeting on October 10, 2012);
  • Level 4 superintendents and district leaders (meeting on October 15, 2012); and
  • The Level 4 Schools Network, including superintendents, district and school leaders, school committee chairs, and union presidents from each district with a Level 4 school (meeting on October 17, 2012).

On December 6 and 7, 2012, Department staff are hosting regional workshops for district and school leaders to enhance capacity to make effective use of this third year of turnaround work while planning for the sustainability of turnaround efforts.

The presentation at the November 26 special meeting of the Board will provide additional details about the expectations and requirements of the Level 4 school exit process.

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 1: Cohort 1 of Level 4 Schools - Progress from 2009 Baseline
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 2: Excerpts from Laws and Regulations - Level 4 (Underperforming) Schools

Last Updated: October 3, 2012
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