For Immediate Release
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

6 New Underperforming Schools Placed on Accelerated Turnaround Path

Schools look to replicate strong initial gains made by existing "Level 4" schools

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) today designated six schools in Lawrence, New Bedford, Salem, and Worcester as underperforming and established a three-year timeline for those schools to implement turnaround plans that will lead to rapid acceleration of educational improvements. This tiered designation was created as part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Achievement Gap Act of 2010 as a way for the state to set underperforming schools on a pathway to success through an intense focus of resources and flexibilities. Designated underperforming or "Level 4" schools have three years to turn around performance and are eligible to compete for federal School Redesign Grant funds to dramatically transform teaching and learning for their students. "The first-year results for the Commonwealth's underperforming schools were largely positive, and we are providing these districts with the aggressive tools and assistance necessary to achieve rapid school turnaround." said Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester. "Strong leadership and a shared vision for the school is a key to the success of Level 4 schools. We also know that schools that maximize effective use of time and resources, have in place strong data systems and formative assessments, and are implementing systems of student and teacher support, as well as a positive school culture are experiencing greater results in student achievement." The six schools identified as Level 4 schools on Tuesday are:
  • 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)
A school is identified as underperforming or "Level 4" as a result of low performance on MCAS English language arts and mathematics tests over a four year period and failure to show signs of substantial growth over that time. In March 2010, the state first designated 35 schools from 9 school districts as underperforming or Level 4. Those schools were given new flexibilities and responsibilities to turn around their schools in three years, and the majority received significant federal School Improvement Grant funding to support substantial change and improvement. One Level 4 school in Boston subsequently closed. Level 4 schools are required to develop and implement redesign plans in collaboration with the superintendent, school committee, teachers' union, administrators, teachers, parents, and community representatives. A school's redesign plan also serves as its application for federal redesign funding. The three-year redesign plans will: (1) provide a pathway for significant improvement at each identified school; (2) address district-level capacity to support low performing schools; and (3) set measurable, annual goals that will serve as the standard for exiting Level 4 status. To exit Level 4 status, an identified school must show a three-year increase in student achievement and be able to demonstrate that essential conditions are in place to sustain that improvement at both the school and district level. "We are committed to ensuring that every child is prepared for success, and will continue working aggressively with each of our underperforming schools to provide them with the supports they need to reach each and every one of their students," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. ESE provides various methods of support to Level 4 schools, including the appointment of a district liaison to assist with district systems support, making available School Redesign Grant funding and assistance and providing districts with additional tools and funding through several key Race to the Top initiatives. Approximately $8 million in federal School Redesign Grant funds will be available to the next cohort of Level 4 schools, including the newly named schools and the 4 schools identified in March 2010 that did not receive funding. Massachusetts could also receive an additional $8 million in federal school improvement funds to award to Level 4 schools later this year. The 28 schools that were previously awarded federal School Improvement Grant funding will receive, on average, approximately $500,000 per year for three years. More than 20,600 students attend the state's 40 designated Level 4 schools, which are located in ten school districts across the Commonwealth. Eighty-seven percent of those students are minority students, 21 percent are students with disabilities, 29 percent are English language learners, and 87 percent are low income. These students, typically found in the Commonwealth's Gateway Cities, are stuck in some of the most persistent achievement gaps. Last week, Governor Deval Patrick laid out a set of new strategies aimed at reaching these students focused on five goals: (1) getting every child to reading proficiency by the third grade; (2) providing every child with a healthy platform for education; (3) providing each student with the quality and quantity of education he or she needs to be successful; (4) preparing all students for college and career success; and (5) seeding and incentivizing innovation. These strategies, coupled with the supports provided in the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, are providing educators with the tools and flexibilities they need to prepare all students for success.

Last Updated: November 15, 2011

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