For Immediate Release
Friday, September 19, 2008
Contact: Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Rising NCLB Targets Lead to More Schools Identified For Improvement

Commissioner Points to Department Reorganization as Critical Step Forward

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester today outlined plans to restructure the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide greater support to districts and schools identified for improvement based on the 2008 Adequate Yearly Progress reports.

Results released Friday show that 50 percent of all Massachusetts public schools have been identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring under the federal accountability system, based on student performance on the 2008 MCAS English and math exams. Chester said his Department reorganization plan was developed specifically to position the agency to provide greater assistance and support to these schools and districts.

“We do not take the accountability status of any school or district lightly, but we also do not consider the schools to be failures,” Chester said. “Across the Commonwealth are examples of districts and schools that have not met federal targets but have made great progress academically and, while they have more work to do, are clearly moving in the right direction.”

One example is the Clarence R. Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, which serves students in grades 6-8. Over the past several years this school has lengthened its school day through the Expanded Learning Time program, refocused its curriculum and instruction, hired a new principal and instituted a system of targeted intervention for its lowest performing students. MCAS results show strong progress, but the school overall remains in restructuring for both English and Math.

“This school has put the right pieces in place and is making admirable progress, but they are not there yet,” Chester said. Our new configuration will leave us better poised to provide this school and others the guidance and support they need to help all of their students achieve at high levels.”

The Department’s reorganization plan includes a reconfiguration of the Center for School & District Assistance, the development of a Center for Curriculum and Instruction and the establishment of a Center for Leadership and School Redesign. These units will be responsible for identifying best practices, sharing success stories, working directly with district-based staff to develop and implement immediate and long-term improvement plans, and securing public and private partners to support improvement efforts.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) regulations, all districts and schools are required to report their progress toward helping all students reach grade-level proficiency by 2014. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures progress toward meeting federally required annual performance targets in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Determinations are issued for overall and subgroup performance.

According to the preliminary 2008 results, 88 districts (23 percent) and 828 schools (50 percent) are on the state’s 2008 list of districts and schools in need of improvement because they did not make AYP for two or more consecutive years. The 828 schools are spread across 243 districts. In 2007, 82 districts (21 percent) and 672 schools (approximately 37 percent) received an accountability status by not meeting performance or improvement targets.

“Under a federal accountability system that raises the bar each year, it’s not surprising that more of our schools have been identified,” said Chester. “We have one of the nation’s most challenging assessments and have set high standards for every child, but with good reason. Every one of our students deserves a top-notch education and to be properly prepared for college, career and life in the 21st century. These AYP results serve to highlight where we still have more work to do.”

Districts and schools that fail to meet their AYP targets in ELA and mathematics in the aggregate or for any of their subgroups for two or more consecutive years receive an accountability status and are required to take steps to focus efforts on improving student performance. Districts and schools face consequences that grown in intensity each year they remain on the list.

The release of 2008 results shows that high schools were less likely to have an accountability status than middle schools. Seventy-five (75) percent of middle schools are identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, as compared to 25 percent of high schools and 45 percent of elementary schools. Of the identified schools, 51 percent (424 schools) are located in non-urban areas.

According to the district results:

  • Seven school districts exited their accountability status in 2008.
  • 5 districts exited from improvement status: Acton, Norfolk, Northern Berkshire Regional Vocational Technical, Quincy, South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical
  • 2 districts exited from corrective action status: Amherst, Ludlow
  • 16 districts were identified for the first time in 2008: Brewster, Lincoln, Dennis-Yarmouth, Dover, Halifax, Oak Bluffs, Rochester, Academy of Pacific Rim Charter School, Academy of Strategic Learning Charter School, Framingham Community Charter School, Boston Day and Evening Charter School, Prospect Hill Academy Charter School, Frontier, Hawlemont, Bristol-Plymouth Vocational Technical, and Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical.
  • Of the 88 districts with an accountability status in 2008: seven are identified for improvement in the aggregate, 28 are identified for improvement for subgroups; eight are in corrective action in the aggregate, 38 are in corrective action for subgroups; three are identified for restructuring in the aggregate, and four are identified for restructuring for subgroups.

School findings include:

  • 28 schools exited their accountability status in 2008 by making AYP in the indentified subject area(s) for two consecutive years.
  • 3 schools were removed from corrective action status: Memorial Middle School in Hull, Ipswich Middle School, and the Gerard A. Guilmette School in Lawrence
  • 25 schools were removed from improvement status:

Attleboro: A. Irvin Studley Elementary School
Attleboro: Wamsutta Middle School
Belmont: Winthrop L. Chenery Middle School
Boston: Charles H. Taylor School
Braintree: South Middle School
Chicopee: Streiber Memorial School
Easton: Easton Junior High School
Hanover: Sylvester School
Longmeadow: Glenrook Middle School
Lowell: Pyne Arts School
Ludlow: Ludlow Senior High School
Millis: Clyde F. Brown School
North Attleborough: Joseph W. Martin Jr. Elementary School
Shrewsbury: Sherwood Middle School
Springfield: Liberty School
Taunton: Joseph C. Chamberlain
Westport: Westport Middle School
Williamsburg: Anne T. Dunphy School
Athol-Royalston: Pleasant Street School
Dighton-Rehoboth: Dighton Middle School
Groton-Dunstable: Groton/Dunstable Regional Middle School
Mohawk Trail: Sanderson Academy
Triton: Triton Regional Middle School
So. Middlesex Voc. Tech Reg.: Joseph P. Keefe Technical High School
Northern Berkshire Voc: Charles McCann Voc Tech School

  • 46 schools (6%) with an accountability status made AYP for all groups in 2008, meaning they will be removed from their accountability status if all groups in the identified subject area(s) make AYP again in 2009.
  • Nearly half of all the schools identified (394; 48%) were identified for performance in ELA. 36 percent (296 schools) were identified in mathematics; 17 percent were identified in both subjects.
  • 214 schools are newly identified for improvement in 2008. Of these newly identified schools:
    • 135 of these schools (65%)are identified for subgroup performance; 79 schools are identified for students in the aggregate;
    • 168 schools (79%) are located in non-urban districts;
    • 136 (64%) are elementary schools, of which 103 were identified for ELA only.

To make AYP, schools must meet yearly goals established in participation, performance and/or improvement, and attendance/graduation. Schools and districts are identified for improvement when they do not make AYP for two or more consecutive years and face the following consequences:

  • After two consecutive years: Schools are identified for improvement and are required to offer parents the option of sending their child to another school within the district that has made AYP if space in one is available.
  • After three consecutive years: Schools must offer choice and supplemental services to the students most in need.
  • After four consecutive years: Schools move into “corrective action” and are required to make significant changes that could include staffing, curriculum, governance, or instruction.
  • After five or more consecutive years: Schools move into “restructuring,” and may be put under state oversight.

Individual AYP determinations for all schools and districts will be released separately later this month. For more information about AYP, look online at