EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

December 2, 2012

Column:

Lawrence educators desperately want improvements in our schools. We are invested in the school system and in the community. Many of us have given our entire professional lives to Lawrence. And we will be the first to acknowledge that our schools have serious challenges and need dramatic improvements. In fact, we’ve been asking for help for a very long time.

However, Lawrence educators — and many parents and community members, too — have serious concerns about the approach being taken by the state. We believe there is a better approach, one with a proven track record of success.

The best way to improve urban schools is a hotly debated topic and there are several points of view on the issue.

One school of thought is what I would call the “Abandon All Hope” option. People who embrace this view claim it is impossible for the Lawrence community to improve its schools from within. Therefore, the community should relinquish control of its schools to outside charter operators and the free market.

But we need to get real. While charter schools in Massachusetts have served a few students well, in general their educational model relies on a selective enrollment process, high rates of attrition, and an unwillingness to accept mid-year transfers or to fill empty seats.

Simply put, charters have not proven that they are a wide-scale solution to the challenges facing high-poverty, high-need, highly mobile urban communities.

Now, to its credit, the state is not pursuing full-scale privatization or charterization in Lawrence, at least not yet. Instead, it’s taking an approach that I would call “Dismantle and Disband.”

As laid out in the Commonwealth magazine article that you all received, the idea is to dismantle the school system and create instead a system of separate schools, some of which will be run by private management organizations that receive high-priced contracts from the state.

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