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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Level 5 Schools: An Update

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


At the September and October meetings of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, we discussed the accountability status of the state's first cohort of Level 4 (underperforming) schools that were designated in 2010, and next steps in the process. Of the schools in the first cohort, fourteen made sufficient progress to exit to Level 3, 2, or 1; fifteen are remaining in Level 4; and four were under consideration for Level 5 (chronically underperforming). Each school's designation was based on student performance trends and evidence of school and district systems to sustain progress.

On October 30, 2013, after significant deliberation and after hearing from the schools' educators, parents, community leaders, and others, I designated the Dever and Holland Elementary Schools in Boston, the Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke, and the John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford as chronically underperforming, placing them in Level 5 accountability status. This is the first time we have taken action under the 2010 Achievement Gap statute to place schools in Level 5 status; the Board previously had designated the Lawrence school district as Level 5/chronically underperforming. This is an opportunity for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to secure an improved educational program for the students in four of our most challenged schools in the Commonwealth.

Leading the Schools' Turnaround Efforts

As we discussed at our October Board meeting, the statute authorizes the Commissioner to launch a local stakeholder process, develop a school turnaround plan, and implement managerial and operational changes at each of these schools as needed to rapidly improve outcomes for all students. The statute provides three options to the Commissioner for managing the turnaround efforts at the school: (1) send a targeted assistance team to the school to assist the superintendent with the implementation of the turnaround plan; (2) require the superintendent to implement the turnaround plan; or (3) select an external receiver to operate the school and implement the turnaround plan. The receiver must be a non-profit entity or an individual with a demonstrated record of success in improving low performing schools or the academic performance of disadvantaged students.

Department staff and I have been interviewing potential receiver candidates at the same time that we continue to discuss with Boston, Holyoke, and New Bedford officials various options for structuring management of the turnaround. In the coming weeks, I will choose from the options above regarding who will work with the Department to lead the turnaround effort at each of these four schools. The October roundtable discussions that I held at each school provided valuable information about the types of turnaround efforts that may be most effective in each school.

I will continue to keep the Board informed as I decide which leadership strategy and operators will be most effective, given the circumstances of each school and district.

Next Steps: Local Stakeholder Groups (LSGs)

The statute requires that before creating a turnaround plan for a chronically underperforming school, the Commissioner will convene a local stakeholder group (LSG) to provide recommendations on the content of the turnaround plan. Consistent with the statutory requirement to convene the LSG no later than 30 days following a Level 5 designation, we will convene LSGs for each of the four schools by November 29, 2013. The Department is currently identifying members and preparing meeting agendas for each school's LSG.

The LSG membership is specified in statute. For each school, the group will include:

  1. Superintendent or designee
  2. Chair of the school committee or designee
  3. President of the local teacher's union or designee
  4. Administrator from the school (may be the principal), chosen by the superintendent
  5. Teacher from the school, chosen by the school's faculty
  6. Parent, chosen by the local parent organization
  7. Representatives of applicable state and local social service, health and child welfare agencies, chosen by the commissioner
  8. As appropriate, representatives of state and local workforce development agencies, chosen by the commissioner
  9. For elementary schools, a representative of an early education and care provider chosen by the commissioner of the department of early education and care; and, for middle or high schools, a representative of the higher education community selected by the secretary of education
  10. A member of the community appointed by the chief executive of the city or town.

All of the LSG meetings will be open to the public, to ensure transparency and to encourage each school community's engagement in the process. Members of the school community are also encouraged to submit their suggestions for strategies they believe would contribute to effective turnaround plans (submissions are being sent to

I look forward to our discussion on November 19. Senior Associate Commissioner Lynda Foisy and other members of our staff will be at the meeting to respond to your questions.

Last Updated: November 14, 2013
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