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Boston Selects 14 Schools to Turn Around

The Boston school district has targeted 14 schools for serious restructuring that could lead to closure if they don't improve.

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson announced plans for the schools last night during a meeting where she presented the district's new "Acceleration Agenda 2009-2014," a plan Johnson hopes will help the nation's oldest public school district close achievement gaps and graduate most students ready for college and career.

The schools were chosen based on persistently low state test scores. The options include longer school days, replacing some or all of the school's staff, closing the school and opening another in its place, or closing the school and sending the students to another school.

"For our very survival, we must launch a new era for Boston public schools,'' Johnson told a packed auditorium. "We are prepared to innovate.''

The schools must post a 10-point gain in either math or reading scores by June 2012, according to the district's literature.

Johnson is probably one of the nation's most experienced superintendents when it comes to school turnarounds. She employed similar strategies while leading districts in Minneapolis, Minn. and Memphis, Tenn.

The Boston approach to "fresh starting" a school has a twist, however, on the strategy she's employed for a decade—one likely to help Massachusetts with its Race to the Top application. Such schools, at which the entire staff would have to re-apply for jobs and the principal would be replaced, would no longer be directly run by the district, but by a charter school operator, charter management organization or other education management organization.

This is a shift for Boston, where Mayor Tom Menino, who controls the schools, had long opposed the growth of charter schools, a position he softened in his successful campaign for re-election this fall.

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