Massachusetts Develops Turnaround Plan for Lawrence District
The 12,000-student Lawrence, Mass. school district could long lay claim to the moniker "troubled" (See Education Week stories in 1991, 1997, and 1997 again for a few examples of how the district earned that reputation.) Currently, only about half of the district's students graduate in four years.
But last week, the state unveiled a new plan to help the district's students, which involves creating partnerships with charter management organizations and providing more autonomy to the district's schools that are performing well. (The Boston Globe and the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover both covered the changes)
The district, which was placed into state receivership in January, marks the first time Massachusetts has taken over a district's finances and academic program.
The schools that will be partnering with CMOs will not be converted to charters. Instead, the CMOs will provide guidance to underperforming schools and will provide tutors. One management organization will create a school for high school dropouts. Such partnerships between districts and charter organizations are a growing trend nationwide.
The plan also calls for more instructional time to be added at district schools.
According to the Globe, the plan so far seems to be receiving a passing grade from those in Lawrence:
Frank McLaughlin, the teachers' union president, said Tuesday he could not comment on the specifics of the plan because he had not yet been presented a copy of it, but said he was eager to work with [District Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley] to turn around the school system.
"We have a good working relationship and a shared vision for the city of Lawrence,'' McLaughlin said. "Now we have to work on getting there... . We both have tremendous empathy for [the] children of Lawrence and the problems they face. We want to stand ready to help them.''
Mayor William Lantigua, who had made a public appeal for state intervention, expressed optimism about the plan in a statement.
"I'm very confident in our new leadership at the Lawrence public schools with Receiver Jeff Riley, and I feel that this turnaround plan is exactly what the children of Lawrence need,'' Lantigua said in a statement.