The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted Tuesday to put the Southbridge district into receivership, making it the third school system in the state to be taken over because of poor performance.
The move, which came in a 9-0 vote with one abstention, authorizes Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester to appoint a receiver to run the schools in the Central Massachusetts town.
"Receivership is a measure of last resort, but short of taking this step, I have no confidence that Southbridge schools are poised for a better future," Chester said in a statement.
The receiver will assume the powers of the superintendent and school committee and report directly to the commissioner.
A recent state review of Southbridge schools found that they had one of the state's lowest percentages of students scoring proficient or advanced on last year's MCAS exam. In addition, more than one-third of secondary school students in Southbridge failed at least one course last year.
The review also found that the district had seen seven superintendents and seven high school principals come and go since 2011.
The interim superintendent in Southbridge, Timothy Connors, said Tuesday that he supported the decision as a way to turn around the schools.
"I think the commissioner made the right recommendation, and what they heard from the community is that we're in a good place moving forward," he said.
"We're trying to get our schools heading in the right direction," he said.
Lawrence and Holyoke have previously been subjected to a state takeover under the 2010 education law that allows the state to seize control of entire school districts.
Globe correspondent Mina Corpuz contributed to this report.