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Troubled HUB schools ‘turnaround’ in latest statewide test scores

Martin Desmarais | 9/25/2013, 11:31 a.m.

The 12 low-performing Boston schools put into “turnaround status” were given state funding to make improvements. In the case of the Trotter School, this funding was a $519,000 grant each of the last three years.

According to Nolan, this money was mostly used to increase the school day by a half-hour. Before, school was in session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but now the day ends at 3:30 p.m. This allows extra time to work with the students on academics. The money was also used to pay education consultants to work with teachers and pay retired teachers to work with smaller groups of students who needed extra support.

Like the Trotter School, Blackstone Elementary School in the South End, John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain and Harbor Middle School in Dorchester all have moved from Level 4 to Level 1.

Orchard Gardens in Roxbury has also moved from Level 4 to Level 1. At that school, proficiency rates on the English MCAS rose from 13 percent to 34 percent for all students, tripled for Latino students and doubled for African American students. In 2009, just 25 students were proficient in mathematics according to the MCAS test — now 200 students are.

“When we launched this effort three years ago many people told us these schools might never succeed,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “Look at these classrooms today. We have great teachers pushing students to be their very best. We have longer school days and stronger partnerships with families. This type of transformation is what Boston is all about.”

Menino is credited for helping push through legislation that allowed BPS to get state funding to improve its lowest-performing schools.

However, not all the news is good. Two of the Boston schools singled out for their poor performances did not show enough improvements to exit “turnaround status,” despite having received state funding to do so. These schools are the Dever Elementary School in Dorchester and the Holland Elementary School. These schools are in danger of moving to an even lower Level 5 rating.

Other schools will continue to work on improving. These are the E. Greenwood Leadership Academy in Hyde Park, the Dearborn School in Roxbury; Burke High School in Dorchester; and English High School in Jamaica Plain. The Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan was designated a Level 4 school last this year.

“It is our responsibility and obligation to ensure success for all students in all schools,” said BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough. “Even as we celebrate forward progress for many schools, we must not let this success overshadow the fact that there is more work to do. We will use every strategy available and even initiate some new ones to ensure every child can find success in every school.”

According to BPS, school officials will take a close look at the schools that have improved, such as the Trotter School, and share what has worked at those schools with schools that continue to struggle.