Targeted Intervention in Underperforming Schools

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

Targeted Intervention in Underperforming Schools funds state efforts to help stabilize and improve academic performance in schools and districts identified by the state for improvement. Additional support from the state can be instrumental in helping improve the Commonwealth’s most challenged schools.

The state defines underperforming schools (Level 4) as being in the bottom 20 percent of all schools statewide. Chronically underperforming schools (Level 5) are underperforming schools that fail to improve with a turnaround plans over several years.

Targeted interventions in many of the state’s largest districts are overseen by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Office of District and School Turnaround (ODST). This office focuses on boosting district capacity to support and guide school-level improvement efforts. This approach is driven by the idea that if the district creates a cycle of improvement to turn around their lowest performing schools, the district will strengthen its own capacity to continue further improvements over the long term.

Targeted Intervention funds a host of strategies, including:

• Professional development for teachers to improve academic instruction in areas of need.

• Partnerships with established education non-profits with experience in school turnaround.

• Implementation of additional systems to gather and analyze student data.

• Training and support for school leaders including superintendents, central office staff, and principals.

Each district receiving targeted intervention must have a comprehensive plan for improving their schools and create a community stakeholder group made up of officials within the school system, local government, teachers, and parents. Districts improvement efforts are evaluated based on several types of data including standardized test results, attendance, discipline, graduation rates, and performance of specific student subgroups such as English learners and special education students. Despite the involvement of community stakeholders, the Commissioner of Education has broad powers to intervene in chronically underperforming schools and districts, including state takeover (receivership) of schools and districts.

In 2015, DESE reported that 51 percent of schools identified as underperforming in 2010 (18 schools out of 36) were able to improve and exit that status after four years of intensive state support. However, 12 schools remained underperforming, 2 schools closed, and 4 regressed to being classified as chronically underperforming.

Updated September 2016

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