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Massachusetts Takes Over District with Majority Hispanic Enrollment

For the first time ever in Massachusetts, the state department of education is taking over an entire school system—the public schools in Lawrence—citing an appallingly high dropout rate and chronic underperformance.

The system of 13,000 students is 90 percent Latino. Nearly one quarter of Lawrence's students are classified as English-language learners and more than three-quarters report a language other than English as their primary language.

Less than 50 percent of the city's students graduate high school in four years—a devastating figure for that community.

Mitchell Chester, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education in Massachusetts, will appoint a "receiver" to run the district, which saw 75 percent of its schools decline in achievement during the 2010-2011 school year.

According to the state ed department's press release, the appointed receiver can be an individual or a nonprofit group with a "proven record of success in improving low-performing schools or districts or the academic performance of disadvantaged students."

Given the population of the Lawrence schools, let's hope that person or nonprofit will include folks with a lot of experience working successfully with the needs of Latino students and English-language learners.

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