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Turnaround plan outlined for three underperforming Lynn schools: Pickering, Fecteau-Leary, Classical

LYNN — School administrative officials are in the midst of developing a turnaround plan for the three lowest-performing schools in the district.

Pickering Middle School, Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School and Lynn Classical High School have been identified by the state as being in trouble, or “requiring assistance,” based on their performance.

As far as the three schools requiring assistance, Lynn Classical High School is in the most need of a turnaround, as it was among the lowest 10 percent of performing schools in the state.

The schools were identified as in need of intervention as part of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) new accountability system, which rolled out this school year.

Because the schools were identified by the state, the respective school leadership is required to put together a turnaround, or school improvement plan.

Lynn Classical, Fecteau-Leary and Pickering were also required to enter into the Lynn Public Schools framework of support, which is in its second year and is an extra layer of support for schools in need.

Part of the district’s framework of support process includes determining each school’s needs, addressing the school’s climate and culture and improving data and instruction to better meet the needs of students, according to a presentation from Deputy Superintendent Debra Ruggiero at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting.

“All of this work this year is the planning phase,” said Ruggiero. “We all want to see improvement, but it takes time to get strategies implemented schoolwide to get it to where it is making an impact.”

For Classical, the plan for this school year includes professional development for teachers in mathematics and English Language Learners (ELL).

For next school year, the plan is to continue mathematics coaching, research the addition of a math bridge course for students who underperformed in algebra in ninth grade and will be taking geometry in 10th grade, according to Ruggiero.

The bridge course would be a second math class that focuses on algebra concepts while the student is concurrently taking geometry. Next school year’s plan also includes professional development for a trauma support classroom, according to Ruggiero.

Pickering’s plan this school year includes an additional math support class for sixth grade students and professional development for teachers in the subject. For Fecteau-Leary, the plan includes literacy coaching for teachers and professional development on the effects of poverty in the classroom, according to Ruggiero.

Supporting the turnaround process is two grants the district has been awarded. For Fecteau-Leary, Lynn Public Schools applied for and was awarded a $40,000 MassGrad Promising Practices Grant, a federally-funded grant which is meant to provide supplementary support to school districts with a high concentration of students at-risk of not graduating high school.

Most notably, the funds will be used to develop and implement an after-school career exploration program for middle school students at Fecteau-Leary, which is meant to help them explore the different vocational opportunities available at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and in turn help them develop career pathways, according to Ruggiero.

Funds will also be used to train a teacher to develop a computer science pathway at the school for next school year. Students would be able to develop computer science skills and get a certification in the computer field, according to Ruggiero.

The district received a Turnaround Assistance Grant — Planning Grant, which was split between Pickering and Lynn Classical at $6,000 and $29,000 respectively. Funds are being used to analyze data to determine what factors are affecting student performance and develop strategies that would improve instruction and provide social and emotional supports for students, according to Ruggiero.

Part of that turnaround work for Classical included a trip the school’s administrators and teachers took last week to New York to attend an AFT conference, Sustaining Transformative Systems of Change Through Collaboration.

In addition to being in the lowest 10 percent in the state, Classical was identified as requiring assistance by the state for having a low subgroup performance for high needs students and a low participation rate among English Language Learners (ELL) and former ELL students. A 95 percent participation rate is required for eligible students taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

Fecteau-Leary, the district’s alternative school, was identified for having a low participation rate for all students and among its economically disadvantaged and high-needs subgroups. Pickering saw its classification triggered by low subgroup performance, or not meeting the needs of its Asian students.

School Committee member John Ford said providing additional support is important, as oftentimes a low-performing student is struggling with a lot of responsibility school officials don’t see. His daughter works at Fecteau-Leary and often tells him stories about how people think the students there are not good kids, but they’re often supporting themselves as teenagers.

“Some of the stories are brutal,” Ford said. “Everybody in the administration is doing a good job of keeping these kids in school.”

In addition to those three state-identified underperforming schools, the district has also required six more schools to enter its framework of support. Data shows they are on the brink of falling into the “requiring assistance” category, but with a boost, could perform on a higher level, according to Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.

Those district-identified underperforming schools are Connery Elementary School, Tracy Elementary School, Breed Middle School, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Harrington Elementary School and Lynn English High School.

 

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