Six area schools will be getting help in their efforts to boost student achievement through federal funds awarded by the state.
Four schools in Lawrence and one each in Lynn and Salem were among nine statewide that will share in $13.7 million over a three-year period to carry out improvements.
The awards represented the third round of federal grants provided by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to support turnaround efforts in struggling schools. In the previous two rounds, the state awarded about $57 million to 30 schools.
In Lawrence, South Lawrence East Middle School will receive $1.8 million, while the James F. Leonard School will receive $1.56 million, the Lawrence International High School $1.47 million, and Business, Management & Finance High School $1.44 million.
“In a time of declining district resources it is crucial that we, as a district, seek out all competitive grant funding opportunities for our schools. Our team worked hard to put out strong applications, and we are pleased to see that their efforts were rewarded,” Jeffrey C. Riley, the Lawrence school district’s receiver, said in an announcement on the grants.
‘We were very glad to be selected. It was a competitive process and we are looking forward to the hard work that goes with implementing these plans.’
Added Riley, “I want to be clear, however, that this is only the first step of the process. We must execute these plans with fidelity and ensure results for our students going forward.”
Connery Elementary School in Lynn was awarded $1.14 million, and Bentley Elementary School in Salem received $1.49 million through the program.
Lawrence and Lynn will also receive $266,625 and $190,500, respectively, to provide district-level support for their school redesign efforts.
The grant program is open to Level 4 “underperforming” schools — the designation the state gives to schools with the lowest MCAS scores — as well as to the lowest-achieving Level 3 schools. All six of the schools selected in this region are at Level 4.
Grant recipients have to follow one of four federal models to improve student learning. Among the local schools, all but one chose the “transformation’’ model, which features expanded learning time and teacher training, improved evaluation of teachers and administrators, and more use of community partners.
The Leonard School in Lawrence chose the “restart” model, in which an educational management or charter organization assumes primary responsibility for turning around the school.
The grant awards in Lawrence follow the state’s appointment of Riley in January to serve as receiver of the city’s troubled schools. In addition to approving the plans of the four schools just awarded grants, the state recently approved a districtwide turnaround plan developed by Riley.
Last year, another Lawrence school, Arlington Elementary School, was awarded a turnaround grant.
Among the features of South Lawrence East Middle School’s turnaround plan are the hiring of a new principal, a new emphasis on physical activity for students, and added learning time. The Leonard School’s plan includes hiring a nonprofit school management organization, Unlocking Potential, to run the school, and extra learning time.
Under their plans, both the Lawrence International High School and Business Management & Finance High School will hire an outside group, the MATCH Foundation, to provide intensive academic support, and the business-focused school will also hire a new principal.
Last year, Lynn applied for turnaround grants for the Connery School and the E.J. Harrington School, which is also Level 4. Only the Harrington received funding, but the district opted to implement turnaround plans at both schools, using its own funds to pay for the costs at Connery, according to Superintendent Catherine Latham.
“We felt very strongly that we had to support that school whether we had a grant or not,” Latham said of the Connery.
As part of the changes, the principals at both schools were replaced and each school was assigned a social worker, a bilingual parent liaison, and an elementary math coach. Also at both schools, a new teacher evaluation system was put in place, and expanded learning time provided.
The new grant will now provide the district with funding for the ongoing turnaround effort at the Connery, which Latham said will free up money that the district can now use to effect similar improvements in other schools.
“I’m very pleased,” Latham said, attributing the grant award in part to the state’s recognition of the strides that the Connery and Harrington schools have been making. Last September, the two were on a state list of the 10 Level 4 schools that had seen the most progress on MCAS scores the previous school year.
The turnaround plan for Salem’s Bentley Elementary calls for hiring an assistant principal, a bilingual guidance counselor, an outreach officer who will work in particular with the Latino community, special education teachers, and teachers to work with students whose first language is not English, according to the district’s superintendent, Stephen Russell.
Other plan components include tutoring, added learning time, a new teacher assessment system, and added teacher training. In addition to the state grant, the plan will be supported with some of the $1.6 million the city has set aside for improvement efforts at all of its schools.
“This is a project we’ve been working hard on the last four months,” Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll said, “spending a tremendous amount of time understanding what the needs are of the Bentley School and how best to turn things around.” She said the grant award indicates the confidence that state officials have in the city’s plan.
“We were very glad to be selected,” Driscoll said. “It was a competitive process and we are looking forward to the hard work that goes with implementing these plans.”