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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Lawrence Public Schools: Progress Report on First Full Year of Receivership

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
November 8, 2013


The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted on November 29, 2011, to designate the Lawrence Public Schools as a Level 5 district, pursuant to the Board's authority under the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, M.G.L. Chapter 69, s. 1K and 603 CMR 2.00. Jeff Riley was appointed Receiver in January 2012, assuming all powers of both the Superintendent and the School Committee. Receiver/Superintendent Jeff Riley, building on the contributions of many stakeholders, developed a district turnaround plan that I approved on May 30, 2012.

Six themes guide the vision for the plan:

  • Build on excellence in Lawrence and add capacity through talented people and partners from across Massachusetts
  • Focus on schools as the unit of change and aim to build a district of highly autonomous, high performing neighborhood schools
  • Empower the individuals closest to the students, who know how to best meet their unique needs
  • Examine investments to ensure they support initiatives that will produce the best results for LPS students
  • Move with speed, and maintain momentum to drive continued progress over time
  • Focus on results rather than processes and adjust the plan based on results

Lawrence serves a student population of approximately 13,600 students and operates 33 schools, of which 6 schools have been identified as underperforming (Level 4). A number of proven partners have been engaged to assume the responsibility (subject to the Receiver's review) for operating the four K-8 Level 4 schools, including Unlocking Potential, The Community Group, The Lawrence Teachers Union, and a proven administrator. Phoenix Foundation has been engaged to create and operate a new alternative high school. Match Tutors has been engaged to support the two Level 4 high schools. The proven partners, some of which have experience operating charter schools, have agreed to operate these schools without a charter and without a lottery system for student enrollment, while employing teachers and other staff who become members of the local unions.

Student Academic Performance 2012-2013

Students in the Lawrence Public Schools made strong gains in MCAS performance this past year, particularly in mathematics. The percent of Lawrence students district-wide scoring Proficient or higher in mathematics increased between 2012 and 2013 by double-digits in grades 3 (+17, from 39 to 56 percent), 5 (+11, from 27 to 38 percent), 8 (+11, from 19 to 30 percent), and 10 (+10, from 34 to 44 percent).

The four-year high school graduation rate improved from 52.3 percent in 2011 to 60.6 percent in 2012, and the high school dropout rate decreased from 8.6 percent in 2011 to 5.9 percent in 2012.

Student performance at two schools was strong enough to raise the schools to Level 1 status, bringing the number of Level 1 schools in the district to four.

While there is still much work to do to ensure that all students are ready for success at the next level, these early results are strong evidence for the efficacy of the district's accelerated turnaround strategies. These positive, initial results are a credit to the hard work and commitment of the students and educators of Lawrence.

At the November 19 Board meeting, the Board will hear from Receiver Riley, Chief Redesign Officer Seth Racine, and others who are involved in the turnaround effort about some of the ways the state receivership is transforming education for the students of that city. Additional information about the Lawrence Public Schools will be distributed at the meeting.

Last Updated: November 14, 2013
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