EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 18, 2013

Lawrence schools to start this week

Classes begin this Wednesday under second year of state receivership


Riley ‘excited’ about new year

Despite a spring and summer of contentious negotiations with Lawrence Teachers Union — which has three unfair labor practices pending with the state Labor Relations Board, Riley is encouraged by the progress of the school district over the past 12 months and optimistic about the future.

“I think it’s fair to say we are most excited about some of our early wins. The graduation rate has increased. The dropout rate has declined. Student attendance is up at over 90 percent of our schools and we are anxiously awaiting the MCAS results after our first full year of the Receivership,” he said.

The MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System), which are due to released by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in mid-September, will be one of the first indicators on how well the state takeover and “Turnaround Plan” is working.

Soon after the release of the MCAS scores, the district will also learn whether there are any new additions to the list of the city’s failing schools which will have to adopt an individual “Turnaround Plan.” The state has already designated six city schools as “Level 4” or “underperforming.” That designation is based on low performances on MCAS English language arts and mathematics tests over a four-year period and failure to show substantial improvement over that time.

Riley has continued to use his unprecedented powers to initiate changes in the way the school district is run.

“We have spent the first 18 months of the Receivership restructuring the district,” Riley said. “We made changes to 5-10 percent of our faculty and over 40 percent of our school leaders. We have reduced the size of the central office by almost one-third as we moved away from an autocratic, monolithic central office structure.”

“In turn, we have directed more resources and autonomies down to the school level, believing that schools function best when teachers, parents and school leaders work together to better their particular school. As such, our reduced central office must now pivot and serve primarily as a support system for our schools. Essentially, we now work for them, not the other way around,” he said.

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