The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Level 5 Schools

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
February 13, 2015

This memo provides the January and February monthly updates to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about our work with the four Level 5 schools — Dever Elementary School and UP Academy Holland in Boston; Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke; and John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford. Additionally, this memo updates the Board on plans to reorganize high schools in Lawrence, a Level 5 district. In this memo, I am reporting on:

SY 2015-2016 Level 5 Schools Budget Planning

In preparation for the FY 2015-2016 budget meetings with the districts related to the Level 5 schools, staff from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) have met with the receivers for Dever Elementary School (Blueprint) and UP Academy Holland (UP Education Network) to review budget priorities for the next fiscal year. Because Boston Public Schools' annual budget process starts much earlier than the other districts, DESE staff have already reviewed student enrollment projections and preliminary budget allocations from the district, including the Weighted Student Funding and Title I grant funds, with the leaders from Blueprint and UP Education Network. DESE and the receivers have also held preliminary meetings with Superintendent McDonough and his staff to discuss the budget for each school. Meetings will be scheduled in Holyoke and New Bedford later this winter.

Compensation Plan Update

Over the past two months, the receivers of Dever Elementary (Blueprint) and UP Academy Holland (UP Education Network) have worked closely with DESE staff to review and adjust the career ladder compensation plan. This review was anticipated in the turnaround plan in order to address issues related to the transition from the Boston teacher salary schedule to the new career ladder schedule in July 2015. The receivers finalized the placement of teachers on the career ladder scale and notified each teacher at the end of January. A notification was also sent to Superintendent McDonough and Richard Stutman, Boston Teacher's Union President. These changes will be incorporated into the turnaround plans for these schools.

Restructuring of Lawrence High Schools

For the past several months, Receiver Jeffrey Riley, his central office staff, and the Lawrence high school campus leadership have been developing plans for re-imagining the high school programs to ensure that all students are prepared for post-graduation success. While there have been improvements made at the high schools, particularly in raising the graduation rate and lowering the dropout rate, much more needs to be done to accelerate the academic achievement of Lawrence high school students.

After engagement with students, families, faculty, administration and community members, Receiver Riley released a blueprint for this transformation. Key features of the newly designed high school are to transition from six individual schools to academies under one unified campus, beginning with a 9th grade academy in 2015-2016, transition of the International High School to a Newcomers Program, and providing more structure and time for teachers to collaborate across grade levels and content areas.

February School Schedule at Parker

During the development of the School Year 2014-15 school calendar last summer and in an effort to meet conditions of their turnaround plan, Superintendent Durkin and the Parker school team decided to forgo the typical four-day break in February 2015 in order to maximize instructional time before state assessments are administered in March. Instead, between February 17-20, Parker will continue its regular class schedule. To prepare parents and students for this change, the Parker administration and teachers began notifying parents at the beginning of the year and developed a flyer to communicate expectations for attendance during the week. The school plans to focus on literacy and has invited community members to read to Parker students during the week. The school also intends to have a "community share" event during the week, where Parker students can present their learning to families and community members.

Looking Ahead

On February 25, representatives from the Office of District and School Turnaround will present an update on the four Level 5 schools to members of DESE staff as part of the Department's Winter Roundtable Series. The Roundtable Series allows DESE staff to take a deeper look at key DESE initiatives. Because the development and implementation of Level 5 schools have involved staff from across a variety of DESE offices, this session will provide useful information to those who are interested in connecting across their offices to learn more about the progress of the Level 5 schools to date. The session will focus on topics such restructuring curriculum and instruction for rapid acceleration, resetting school climate, exercising Level 5 autonomies, student interventions and supports, and parent and community engagement.

In March 2015, in the Level 5 schools third quarterly report to the Board, I will provide updates on how the Level 5 schools are implementing the priority areas for improvement in each turnaround plan.