Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeff Riley and Mayor Michelle Wu finalized an agreement late Monday that averted labeling Boston Public Schools as underperforming or assigning a monitor to oversee the district.
The agreement comes after a breakdown in negotiations between the two on an improvement plan.
The plan, signed by state, city, and school leaders, details district improvement efforts and follows a state review that found BPS was failing to make enough progress in addressing longstanding problems, including providing services to English learners and students in special education.
Here’s a breakdown of the agreement:
By Aug. 15, the district is to establish a team, mutually agreed upon by the city and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, with experience “working in urban school districts” to urgently address improving special education services. By the same date, the district will provide the state with a plan for how to accomplish the improvements until leadership positions are filled, develop a policy and procedure manual for special education, and train staff on those policies at the beginning of the school year.
From Aug. 15 to June 30, 2023, BPS will engage a McKinley Schools Working Group tasked with implementing recommendations from its intervention team and guide the needs assessment phase of the city’s building renovations proposal.
By Oct. 15, the superintendent will also have to post new positions for a leadership team with expertise in special education, and by Nov. 16, make a public report to the School Committee on recommendations created by the team advising the superintendent.
By Nov. 1, BPS must start a districtwide inclusion policy that ensures “students are educated in the least restrictive environment” and full services are available to them.
By Aug. 15, the district must develop a system ensuring all English learners, including those with disabilities, get appropriate services. The district also must create a plan to expand instruction in students’ native languages.
The BPS Strategic Plan for Multilingual Learners must include specific actions focused on bilingual, dual and heritage language, Sheltered English Immersion, and English as a Second Language programs. Additionally, the action plan will need to be presented to the School Committee “as soon as possible” during the 2022-23 school year, but no later than Oct. 12.
Under the agreement, the district must immediately implement the changes negotiated between BPS and bus drivers’ union in May. BPS has to report on-time arrival rates to DESE each month starting in August. The district needs to achieve on-time bus arrival rates of 95 percent or see improvements each month districtwide (no date was specified), and ensure 99 percent of BPS students arrive to school within 15 minutes of a school’s start time.
Additionally, by Aug. 15, BPS must launch an evaluation of its current transportation system to analyze efficiency, performance, equity, and cost. These evaluations should also provide recommendations for route and schedule planning.
By Aug. 15, BPS must begin using an improved system to manage, respond to, and resolve complaints from parents and guardians. The district will also need to respond to complaints, including allegations of bullying, it receives from DESE’s Problem Resolution System in a timely manner.
By Aug. 15, the district must also commission an independent students-and-staff-safety audit to assess safety protocols and make recommendations. The audit will be conducted by an individual or team agreed upon by the city, district, and DESE.
Additionally, by Sept. 8, BPS must hire a problem resolution coordinator who will be dedicated to addressing complaints received through the district and through the state’s resolution system.
By Aug. 15, BPS must use its new dashboard to review school bathrooms and implement districtwide plans for necessary renovations, and by Oct. 21, BPS must create and implement a preventative maintenance plan.
At least 15 schools must be renovated within fiscal year 2023, and the selection will be “driven by student need.”
By Dec. 13, 2023, the district must create and implement a long-term master facilities plan.
By Aug. 15, DESE will hire an independent auditor to analyze BPS data on a “regular basis.” The auditor also will receive “full access” to all district academic and operational data. By February 2023, the independent auditor will share analysis and recommendations with the city, BPS, and DESE to determine what long-term resources are needed to sustain improvement.
By Sept. 8, BPS will also publish revised student withdrawal procedures to ensure data the state reports on graduation and dropout requirements are “met in a timely and accurate way.” By Oct. 1, a working group approved by the superintendent and education commissioner will begin to monitor data quality, reporting on key metrics like withdrawal procedures, graduation rates, and on-time arrivals.
By Dec. 1, BPS will be required to produce an “equity analysis” on funding for the district’s so-called Transformation Schools, or lowest performing schools, and compare them to similar sized non-Transformation Schools, as well as all BPS schools. The district will also implement a plan to equitably fund the lowest performing schools by fiscal year 2024.
Additionally, by Oct. 1, BPS will have to consolidate the required plans for Transformation Schools into one improvement plan at each school. The district will also have to provide quarterly briefings on how it’s supporting these plans at each Transformation School to the School Committee and DESE.
City and BPS leaders will regularly make reports on the matters in the improvement plan to the School Committee and public, according to the agreement. The first report is due before Aug. 31. They will also collaborate to set any additional outcome metrics for the plan.
The mayor, School Committee chair, superintendent, and education commissioner will also meet monthly to discuss the priority initiatives, and BPS will continue to collaborate with DESE on developing a Performance Management System for all schools in the district.