EQA praises Lynn school district for improvements

LYNN – Lynn Public Schools have improved curriculum and become more proficient since 2004 despite a rising poverty level in the city according to a 2007 audit by the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.In an official audit report detailed to the School Committee Thursday night, former Somerville Superintendent and EQA representative Dr. Albert Argenziano detailed a vast improvement in classroom instruction and academic accountability since 2004, and complimented Superintendent Nicholas Kostan and his staff for the positive strides made in the district.”There is a basic difference between 2004 and 2007 in Lynn, and that is the poverty level has increased from 79 percent to 80 percent, but the proficiency level has also improved from 30 percent to 40 percent,” Argenziano said. “In three years, with the poverty level rising, that is pretty good. I compliment the superintendent for hiring quality assistants and coming up with a good curriculum.”The EQA, instituted in 2001 by Gov. Jane Swift as the state’s education audit arm, is made up of former teachers, principals and superintendents from across the state. The office performs routine audits of every school district in the state on a rotating schedule to make sure that the state’s billions of dollars spent on education is properly used.A group of 12 spent a week last October touring schools and administrative offices inspecting everything from building condition to curriculum and instruction before making their report.Argenziano said the EQA was particularly impressed with Lynn’s new elementary math curriculum along with planning teams that are now in place at each school. He also highlighted data analysis and individual student tutoring as positive changes since 2004.”The team was very pleased with the changes that took place since their last visit in 2004,” Argenziano said. “You just don’t make fast changes in an inner city school district. You should feel very comfortable here in Lynn, you have a strong leadership team who are making changes for the better.”While the overall classroom instruction received good grades from the EQA, the audit did highlight two areas in need of improvement, including an issue on everyone’s mind heading in to the new year – the repair and replacement of aging school facilities.The district has been fighting to secure funding to repair several schools, most notably the Marshall Middle School, but recently lost out on funding when the Massachusetts School Building Authority put the district’s improvement plans on hold.Argenziano said the audit team was outraged to find out the city was overlooked for funding, and offered the EQA’s assistance if the district needed it in the future.”I was upset to hear Lynn was given no credence from the MSBA. If any school should be on that list, it is the Marshall,” he said. “I thought that was something you really needed assistance on quickly. The district needs to secure inroads to get help with their buildings, and the EQA is willing to provide any assistance we can. There are other buildings that need repair also and the taxpayers of Lynn cannot handle that themselves.”The second area of need, according to the audit team, is stronger leadership at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, which Argenziano failed to elaborate on.While the EQA audit does not directly promote any funding increase for the district, Lynn Public Schools can use the positive report as a selling point when searching for private grants or state and federally mandated funding.”I am very pleased that the EQA had positive findings when they came to Lynn Public Schools,” said Kostan. “We had 12 people in our schools and offices for a week in October, and we appreciate the vote of confidence. Hopefully, we can keep the good news coming.”

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