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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

Education Commissioner Chester Appoints Jeffrey C. Riley as Receiver for the Lawrence Public Schools

Veteran educator has proven record of improving student outcomes for urban students

MALDEN - Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester today appointed Jeffrey C. Riley, Chief Innovation Officer for the Boston Public Schools, as receiver for the Lawrence Public School District.

Riley, who started his career in education as a Teach for America corps member, has extensive experience in improving achievement outcomes among urban students.

As principal of the Clarence R. Edwards Middle School in Boston from 2007 to 2009, Riley directed the turnaround efforts of a low-performing school on the brink of closure that is now one of the district's highest performing schools.

"Jeff Riley is a very capable educator who brings to the role of receiver a successful record of leading turnaround efforts at urban schools where performance has risen for all students, including English language learners," said Chester. "Under Jeff's leadership, Lawrence will implement the change needed to transform teaching and learning district-wide.

Receivership, however, will not be a solitary effort. As receiver, Jeff will work closely with educators, parents, business leaders and students, as well as key external partners, to build on the strengths of the Lawrence community and develop a bold turnaround plan to dramatically improve outcomes for all students."

"Our primary goal is ensuring that every student in Lawrence has access to a world-class education," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Jeff is an experienced educator who has a reputation as an innovative leader and a track record of thinking and working outside the box. I want to thank Jeff for taking on this tremendous responsibility, and look forward to working with him and his team to bring about dramatic improvement in achievement outcomes for the students of Lawrence."

Over his nearly 20-year career in education, Riley has worked in urban and suburban educational systems as a teacher, administrator, principal, and deputy superintendent. He formerly served as principal of Tyngsborough Middle School and director of the High Tech Academy within the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School complex in Boston. In 2007, Riley became the principal of the Edwards Middle School.

Edwards Middle was one of Boston's lowest performing schools and on the brink of closure when Riley took over. Riley successfully led the school's turnaround effort, added 300 hours to the calendar as an Expanded Learning Time (ELT) school and adopted a differentiated, data-driven approach to instruction.

During his tenure, remarkable gains in achievement were made across student groups, including English language learners (ELLs). From 2006 to 2009, the percent of Edwards Middle's 8th grade ELL students who scored Proficient or higher on the MCAS English language arts test increased from 0 percent to 50 percent. In mathematics, 71 percent of Edwards' ELL students at grade 8 scored Proficient or higher in 2009, up from 15 percent in 2006. Today, Edwards is one of the district's highest performing schools.

"I am grateful for the confidence that Commissioner Chester has placed in me, and humbled by the enormous challenge that lies ahead in Lawrence," said Riley. "Successful turnaround efforts are not easy to achieve. In Lawrence, our work will require the collective buy-in and contributions of educators, parents, students, and the community in support of an agenda of high expectations and standards for all children."

Between 2009 and 2011, Riley served as Boston's Academic Superintendent for the Middle and K-8 Network, overseeing 28 schools and over 14,000 students. In this role, Riley developed "Acceleration Academies" to provide students most in need of additional support in the district's turnaround schools a week of intensive instruction. To recruit teachers to lead Acceleration Academies, held during school breaks, Riley created the Sontag Prize in Urban Education, a competitive award that recognizes outstanding teaching in Boston and other urban districts across the country. The program also enables these highly successful educators the chance to share best practices with their peers.

This past spring, Boston Superintendent of Schools Carol Johnson appointed Riley the district's Chief Innovation Officer. Riley co-wrote the Boston Public School's winning $3 million federal i3 (investing in Innovation) grant that will enable two or more schools to dramatically increase learning time for their students.

Riley holds a bachelor of arts degree in Philosophy from Pomona College, a master of science degree in Counseling and School Guidance from Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Riley's appointment will take effect on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, at which time he will assume the responsibilities of the district superintendent and school committee. As receiver, Riley will be a state employee based in Lawrence, reporting directly to Commissioner Chester. Riley's annual salary of $198,900 will be reimbursed from the district's existing school budget.

The Patrick-Murray Administration's Achievement Gap Act of 2010 provided the legal framework for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's November 29, 2011 vote to designate Lawrence Public Schools a Level 5 ("chronically underperforming") district and place the district into receivership.

"The Board's overwhelming vote to place the Lawrence Public School District into receivership reflected our deep concern for improving academic achievement for all students," said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Maura O. Banta. "I am confident that Commissioner Chester has made an excellent choice, and look forward to Jeff Riley leading this turnaround effort."

Under the statute, the commissioner and receiver will now develop a Level 5 District Plan that will include district priorities and strategies to accelerate achievement with measurable benchmarks of progress that connect directly to accelerated improvement of outcomes for all students in all schools. As one of the first steps in creating that plan, Chester and Riley will soon convene a local stakeholder group of approximately 13 individuals to solicit recommendations on the plan's content.

The city of Lawrence is also operating under the state's fiscal oversight, pursuant to special legislation enacted in 2010. Riley will work closely with Deputy Commissioner of Revenue Robert Nunes, the state's fiscal overseer, to coordinate their efforts.

Commissioner Chester will prepare an annual report to the Board on the overall progress in the Lawrence Public Schools, the effectiveness of the receiver, and the implementation of the Level 5 Plan.

Last Updated: January 11, 2012

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