State to take over 4 struggling schools, including 2 in Boston

The state will take over four underperforming schools, including the Dever and Holland elementary schools in Boston, in an effort to bolster student achievement, Massachusetts education officials announced this afternoon.

Mitchell Chester, the state’s education commissioner, made the decision after holding a series of roundtable discussions at each school since he first floated the idea of a receivership last month. The two other schools are Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke and John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford.

The move comes more than three years after the state designated the schools as “underperforming’’ — an action that enabled the school leaders to gain sweeping powers, such as the ability to hire or terminate teachers, extend the school day, and to adopt their own academic programs.


But in the end, the four schools failed to create coherent turnaround plans, and their persistently low scores on the MCAS exams remained stagnant.

“In my judgement, we are looking at schools that are not in a better place and are not better off,’’ Chester said during a telephone conference call. “It’s not fair to these young people.’’

At the Boston schools, the Dever saw its reading scores tumble over the past three years, from 26 percent of students scoring proficient or higher in 2010 to 14 percent this past spring. Math scores only nudged up slightly, from 24 percent of students scoring proficient or higher in 2010 to 31 percent this spring.

The Holland only saw a slight gain in scores over the three years. In reading, the percent of students scoring proficient or higher increased from 14 percent in 2010 to 15 percent this past spring. In math, students scoring in those categories increased from 23 percent in 2010 to 25 percent this past spring.

In a letter to Boston parents, Interim Superintendent John McDonough said the School Department would work with the commissioner on the takeovers. He said there were “no excuses’’ for the sluggish performance at the two schools and said “there is much hard work left to be done.’’


“We share the same goal – to ensure that rapid academic progress is a permanent fixture in all schools because every child has the potential to excel,’’ McDonough wrote.

The takeovers are the first under a 2010 law change that gave state education officials the power to seize control of individual schools without putting an entire district into receivership. Under the arrangement, the state could appoint a receiver or an outside organization to oversee the school, or the state could hand back oversight to the superintendent after it creates a turnaround plan for the school.

Over the next few months, state education officials will meet with stakeholders at each school to develop the turnaround plan, which would be implemented at the start of the next school year. Chester said the plans could call for replacing the teachers and administrators and scrapping programs that are not yielding results.


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