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Mass. Identifies 35 Underperforming Schools

Thirty-five Massachusetts schools have been tapped to undergo major restructuring because they are deemed underperforming.

Twelve of the schools are located in Boston and another 10 are in Springfield, with the remaining schools located in Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford and Worcester.

The distinction follows the state's education reform package passed in January, which gives district heads the authority to expand the school year, alter contracts with teachers and principals, and require staff to reapply for their jobs, among other measures.

Massachusetts Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr says it will be a landmark program.

"With clear authorities, stronger accountability and real funding to support the work, we think this presents a historic opportunity for the youngsters of the commonwealth," Baehr said.

Gov. Deval Patrick used the same term, "opportunity," in addressing the list of schools.

"This is a real opportunity for those schools," Patrick said. "It's an opportunity for some additional federal aid, for some state support, to try some new things, to bring some innovation to bear to try to reach kids who have been left behind."

The schools were evaluated on a set of criteria including low math and English scores and the number of students failing to graduate. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester also said the state looked at the history of each school's educational performance — in order to look forward.

"We are not simply labeling the schools and leaving them on their own," Chester said. "We are pledging to assist them to provide help to provide sources of funding."

The announcement marks the latest step in the push to compete for federal "Race to the Top" stimulus dollars. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education revealed that Massachusetts has been named a finalist for a portion of "Race's" $4.35 billion in school reform grants.

If the state's underperforming schools are unable to improve their performance in three years, they could be placed under receivership.

Chester said more underperforming schools would be identified on an annual basis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This program aired on March 4, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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