EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 14, 2012

Parents support school improvement plan, poll shows

By State House News Service

LAWRENCE - More than two-thirds of Lawrence public school parents support the school reform plan recently announced by a state-appointed receiver, and 80 percent support the "significant involvement" of charter public schools in helping to turnaround underperforming district schools, according to a new poll sponsored by the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) and conducted by The MassINC Polling Group.

Last month, the receiver, Jeffrey Riley, announced a plan to overhaul the city's struggling schools that included lengthening the school day, improving instruction for English Language Learners, making it easier to dismiss ineffective principals and teachers, and inviting highly successful charter school operators to take over the management of the city's worst schools and launch an alternative high school.

The poll, the first of its kind to gauge opinions on the plan, showed widespread support among public school parents for the receiver's reforms.

Support was strong among Latinos, who make up a large percentage of the parents/guardians of Lawrence schoolchildren.

"The poll shows strong support not only for charters to have significant involvement in the turnaround effort, but also for the kind of reforms charter public schools have been putting into practice successfully since 1995," said Marc Kenen, Executive Director of the MCPSA.

"Longer school days, more flexibility in hiring and firing teachers, creating an intensive culture of learning are among the charter-like reforms Receiver Riley is pursuing to accelerate student achievement in Lawrence."

Eighty percent of the parents polled support the "significant involvement" of charter public schools in reforming and turning around failing district schools.

Only 10 percent said they do not support charter involvement and the remainder had no opinion.

The poll was conducted in English and Spanish among 404 respondents June 4-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

The sample reflected the demographic mix of the community of Lawrence public school parents: 75 percent were women, 80 percent were Hispanic, 35 percent did not finish high school, 32 percent had a high school diploma; 22 percent had some college, and 10 percent had a college degree.