DESE, Boston reach last-minute deal to avoid school district being designated as ‘underperforming’

·3 min read

State education officials and the City of Boston have reached a deal on improving the Boston Public School System that does not involve receivership, which would have meant a state takeover of the city’s school system, or declaring the city’s school system “underperforming.”

The “Systemic Improvement Plan” was announced Monday night, hours before Mayor Michelle Wu is scheduled to speak before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday.

The Boston Teachers Union rallied Tuesday morning in front of DESE headquarters ahead of its planned meeting.

“Under this plan, BPS and the City of Boston will take immediate action to address longstanding deficiencies in special education, English learner instruction, student safety and transportation, along with other problems detailed in DESE’s recent district review,” said Colleen Quinn, spokesperson Executive Office of Education. “DESE will hire an independent auditor to ensure accuracy of data, and provide $10 million in financial support and technical assistance.,”

Just last week, Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said he planned to recommend that Boston Public Schools be declared as an “underperforming district.” This deal averts that move.

Education commissioner to recommend Boston Public Schools be declared ‘underperforming district’

In May, the state had threatened to take over control of the schools through “receivership.”

DESE holding off on state takeover of Boston schools

“The department is very pleased that BPS and the City will now move forward to improve the educational experiences for all children in the City of Boston,” said Quinn.

According to state education officials, Mayor Wu, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, and Boston School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson agree to pursue “urgent corrective action” to immediately address the concerns identified in the 2022 BPS follow-up district review report.

DESE will also provide “targeted financial support” to BPS. That support amounts to $10 million over three years, for the work outlined in the Systemic Improvement Plan, along with technical assistance, according to state officials.

The City of Boston and the schools also agreed to be held accountable for reaching specific, identified goals on a clear timeline, and engage with students, families, educators, and community members to shape policies and report progress, according to state officials.

The “Systemic Improvement Plan” will continue through June 30, 2025.

State officials say DESE will also hire an independent auditor that has access to BPS data to ensure accurate data compliance.

Mayor Wu released a statement Monday night about the deal.

“We’re ready for the work ahead with our school communities, our new superintendent, and all across Boston eager to invest in our young people,” said Wu. “This agreement documents specific steps, timeframes, and clear scope for a partnership with the state that sets our district up for success, and I’m glad that our discussions ultimately reinforced that Boston’s local communities know best how to deliver for our schools.”

“We are pleased to share that the City of Boston, the Boston Public Schools, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have reached an agreement on a Systemic Improvement Plan to partner on specific actions in addressing long-standing challenges facing BPS” said a spokesperson for the Boston Schools.

“The Plan includes clear timelines and joint commitments to eliminate systemic barriers to educational opportunity, build the operational capacity to implement systemic change, and support Boston’s students in achieving their full potential. BPS is eager to move forward in continuing this important work, and grateful to our school communities for their partnership throughout our ongoing leadership transition,” said the BPS spokesperson.

You can read the entire agreement here:

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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