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General Laws

Section 1K. (a) A district shall be deemed eligible for designation as chronically underperforming upon a determination by the board of elementary and secondary education, pursuant to regulations adopted by the board, that a school district, other than a single school district, has scored in the lowest 10 per cent statewide when compared to other districts of the same grade levels based on a single measure developed by the department that takes into account student achievement data collected pursuant to 1I, and, beginning on July 1, 2011, improvement over time in student academic achievement. Following such determination, the commissioner shall appoint a district review team pursuant to section 55A of chapter 15 to assess and report on the reasons for the underperformance and the prospects for improvement, unless such an assessment has been completed by a district review team within the previous year that the commissioner considers adequate. The district review team shall include at least 1 person with expertise in the academic achievement of limited English-proficient students. Upon review of the findings of the district review team, the board may declare the district chronically underperforming.

Following such a declaration, the board shall designate a receiver for the district with all the powers of the superintendent and school committee. The receiver shall be a non-profit entity or an individual with a demonstrated record of success in improving low-performing schools or districts or the academic performance of disadvantaged students who shall report directly to the commissioner. An external receiver designated by the board to operate a district under this subsection shall have full managerial and operational control over such district; provided, however, that the school district shall remain the employer of record for all other purposes. A receiver shall be subject to section 11A1/2 of chapter 30A and chapter 66. A receiver who is an individual shall also be subject to chapter 268A.

Not more than 2.5 per cent of the total number of school districts may be designated as chronically underperforming at any given time.

In adopting regulations allowing the board to designate a district as chronically underperforming, the board must ensure that the regulations account for multiple indicators of district quality including student attendance, dismissal rates, exclusion rates, student promotion and graduation rates in the district, or the lack of demonstrated significant improvement for 2 or more consecutive years in core academic subjects, either in the aggregate or among subgroups of students, including designations based on special education classification, low-income, English language proficiency and racial classifications.

(b) The commissioner and the receiver shall jointly create an turnaround plan to promote the rapid improvement of the chronically underperforming district. The plan shall specifically focus on the school or schools in the district that have been designated as chronically underperforming under section 1J and the district policies or practices that have contributed to chronic underperformance.

Before creating the turnaround plan required in this subsection, the commissioner and receiver shall convene a local stakeholder group of not more than 13 individuals for the purpose of soliciting recommendations on the content of such plan in order to maximize the rapid improvement of the academic achievement of students. The commissioner shall provide due consideration to the recommendations of the local stakeholder group. The group shall include: (1) the superintendent, or a designee; (2) the chair of the school committee, or a designee; (3) the president of the local teacher’s union, or a designee; (4) a selection of administrators from the district, chosen by the commissioner from among volunteers from the district; (5) a selection of teachers from the district, chosen by the local teacher’s union; (6) a selection of parents from the district chosen by the local parent organization; (7) representatives of applicable state and local social service, health, and child welfare agencies chosen by the commissioner; (8) as appropriate, representatives of state and local workforce development agencies chosen by the commissioner; (9) a representative of an early education and care provider chosen by the commissioner of the department of early education and care, or for middle or high schools, a representative of the higher education community selected by the secretary of education; and (10) a member of the community appointed by the chief executive of the city or town. If the district does not have a parent organization or if the organization does not select a parent, the commissioner shall select a volunteer parent of a student from the district. The commissioner and receiver shall convene the group within 30 days of the board designating a district as chronically underperforming and the group shall make its recommendations to the commissioner and receiver within 45 days of its initial meetings. Meetings of the local stakeholder group shall be open to the public and the recommendations submitted to the commissioner and receiver shall be publicly available immediately upon their submission.

(c) In creating the turnaround plan, the commissioner and receiver shall include measures intended to maximize the rapid improvement of the academic achievement of students in the district and shall, to the extent practicable, base the plan on student outcome data, including, but not limited to: (1) data collected pursuant to section 1I, or information from a school or district review performed under section 55A of chapter 15; (2) student achievement on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System; (3) other measures of student achievement, approved by the commissioner,; (4) student promotion and graduation rates; (5) achievement data for different subgroups of students, including low-income students as defined in chapter 70, limited English-proficient students and students receiving special education; and (6) student attendance, dismissal rates and exclusion rates. In creating the turnaround plan required in subsection (b), the commissioner and receiver shall include, after considering the recommendations of the local stakeholder group, the following: (1) steps to address social service and health needs of students in the district and their families in order to help students arrive and remain at school ready to learn; provided, however, that this may include mental health and substance abuse screening; (2) steps to improve or expand child welfare services and, as appropriate, law enforcement services in the school district community, in order to promote a safe and secure learning environment; (3) as applicable, steps to improve workforce development services provided to students in the district and their families in order to provide students and families with meaningful employment skills and opportunities; (4) steps to address achievement gaps for limited English-proficient, special education and low-income students, as applicable; (5) alternative English language learning programs for limited-English proficient students, notwithstanding chapter 71A; and (6) a budget for the district including any additional funds to be provided by the commonwealth, federal government or other sources.

The secretaries of health and human services, public safety, labor and workforce development and other applicable state and local social service, health and child welfare officials shall coordinate with the secretary of education and the commissioner regarding the implementation of strategies pursuant to clauses (1) to (3), inclusive, of this subsection that are included in an turnaround plan and shall, subject to appropriation, reasonably support the implementation consistent with the requirements of state and federal law applicable to the relevant programs that each such official is responsible for administering.

In order to assess the district across multiple measures of district performance and student success, the turnaround plan shall include measurable annual goals including, but not limited to, the following: (1) student attendance, dismissal rates and exclusion rates; (2) student safety and discipline; (3) student promotion and graduation and dropout rates; (4) student achievement on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System; (5) progress in areas of academic underperformance; (6) progress among subgroups of students, including low-income students as defined by chapter 70, limited English-proficient students and students receiving special education; (7) reduction of achievement gaps among different groups of students; (8) student acquisition and mastery of 21st-century skills; (9) development of college readiness, including at the elementary and middle school levels; (10) parent and family engagement; (11) building a culture of academic success among students; (12) building a culture of student support and success among faculty and staff; and (13) developmentally appropriate child assessments from pre-kindergarten through third grade, if applicable.

(d) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, in creating the turnaround plan under subsection (b), the commissioner and the receiver may, after considering the recommendations of the group of stakeholders: (1) expand, alter or replace the curriculum and program offerings of the district or of a school in the district, including the implementation of research-based early literacy programs, early interventions for struggling readers and the teaching of advanced placement courses or other rigorous nationally or internationally recognized courses, if the district or schools in the district do not already have such programs or courses; (2) reallocate the uses of the existing budget of the district; (3) provide funds, subject to appropriation, to increase the salary of an administrator, or teacher in the district working in an underperforming or chronically underperforming school, in order to attract or retain highly-qualified administrators, or teachers or to reward administrators or teachers who work in chronically underperforming districts that achieve the annual goals set forth in the turnaround plan; (4) expand the school day or school year or both of schools in the district; (5) limit, suspend or change 1 or more provisions of any contract or collective bargaining agreement in the district, including the adoption of model provisions identified by the commissioner from among existing contracts or collective bargaining agreements in the commonwealth; provided, however, that the commissioner shall not reduce the compensation of an administrator, teacher or staff member unless the hours of the person are proportionately reduced; (6) add pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten classes, if the district does not already have the classes; (7) following consultation with applicable local unions, require the principal and all administrators, teachers and staff to reapply for their positions in the district, with full discretion vested in the receiver regarding any such reapplications. turnaround plan; (8) limit, suspend or change 1 or more school district policies or practices, as such policies or practices relate to the underperforming schools in the district; (9) include a provision of job-embedded professional development for teachers in the district, with an emphasis on strategies that involve teacher input and feedback; (10) provide for increased opportunities for teacher planning time and collaboration focused on improving student instruction; (11) establish a plan for professional development for administrators in the district, with an emphasis on strategies that develop leadership skills and use the principles of distributive leadership; (12) establish steps to assure a continuum of high expertise teachers by aligning the following processes with the common core of professional knowledge and skill: hiring, induction, teacher evaluation, professional development, teacher advancement, school culture and organizational structure; (13) develop a strategy to search for and study best practices in areas of demonstrated deficiency in the district; (14) establish strategies to address mobility and transiency among the student population of the district; and (15) include additional components, at the discretion of the commissioner and the receiver, based on the reasons the district was designated as chronically underperforming and based on the recommendations of the local stakeholder group in subsection (b).

If the commissioner does not approve a reapplication submitted by an employee pursuant to clause (7) for a position in a school or if an employee does not submit a reapplication for a position in a school, the employee shall retain such rights as may be provided under law or any applicable collective bargaining agreement in relation to the employee’s ability to fill another position in the district; provided, however, that the employee shall not have the right to displace any teacher with professional teacher status in any other school during a school year.

A teacher with professional teacher status in a school declared underperforming or chronically underperforming may be dismissed for good cause; provided, however, that the teacher receives 5 days written notice of the decision to terminate which shall include without limitation an explanation of the reason why the commissioner/superintendent is not retaining the teacher in the school; provided, further, that the teacher may seek review of a termination decision within 5 days after receiving notice of the teacher’s termination by filing a petition for expedited arbitration with the commissioner; provided, further, that except as otherwise provided herein section 42 of chapter 71 shall apply to a petition filed pursuant to this section; provided further, that the commissioner shall cause an arbitrator to be selected pursuant to the procedures in section 42 of chapter 71 within 3 days of receipt of petition and shall conduct and complete a hearing within 10 days of receipt of the petition; provided further, that in reviewing dismissal decisions, the arbitrator shall consider the components of the turnaround plan and shall also consider any personnel evaluations conducted that are consistent with the guidelines established pursuant to section 1B; and provided, further, that the arbitrator’s decision shall be issued within 10 days from the completion of the hearing.

For a district with limited English-proficient students, the professional development and planning time for teachers and administrators identified in clauses (9) to (11), inclusive, shall include specific strategies and content designed to maximize the rapid academic achievement of limited English-proficient students in the district.

(e) if, after considering the recommendations of the group of stakeholders, pursuant to subsection (d) the commissioner considers it necessary to maximize the rapid academic achievement of students at an underperforming or chronically underperforming school by altering the compensation, hours and working conditions of the administrators, teachers, principals and staff at the school or by altering other provisions of a contract or collective bargaining agreement applicable to the administrators, teachers, principals and staff, the commissioner may request that the school committee and any union bargain or reopen the bargaining of the relevant collective bargaining agreements to facilitate such achievement. The bargaining shall be conducted in good faith and completed not later than 30 days from the point at which the commissioner requested that the parties bargain. The agreement shall be subject to ratification within 10 business days by the bargaining unit members in the school. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement within 30 days or if the agreement is not ratified within 10 business days by the bargaining unit members of the school, the parties shall submit remaining unresolved issues to a joint resolution committee for dispute resolution process on the next business day following the end of the 30 day bargaining period or failure to ratify.

The joint resolution committee shall be comprised of 3 members, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the employee organization within 3 business days following the submission of unresolved issues to the joint resolution committee, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the school committee within 3 business days following the submission of unresolved issues to the joint resolution committee and 1 who shall be selected through the American Arbitration Association who shall forthwith forward to the parties a list of three conciliators, each of whom shall have professional experience in elementary and secondary education, from which the parties may agree upon a single conciliator; provided, however, that if the parties cannot select a conciliator from among the 3 within 3 business days, the American Arbitration Association shall select a conciliator from the remaining names. The joint resolution committee shall conduct a dispute resolution process to be concluded within 10 business days of selection. This process shall be conducted in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association and consistent with this section; provided however, that all members of the joint resolution committee must agree to any resolution. The fee for the process shall be shared equally between the 2 parties involved.

The joint resolution committee shall consider the positions of the parties, the designation of the school as underperforming or chronically underperforming, the designation of the district as chronically underperforming, and the needs of the students in the school. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the unanimous decision of the joint resolution committee shall be dispositive of all the issues in dispute and shall be submitted to the parties within 10 business days of the close of the hearing. Under no circumstance, shall a time extension be granted beyond 10 business days of the close of the hearing. In the event that a unanimous decision is not submitted to the parties within 10 business days, the commissioner will resolve all outstanding issues.

(f) The turnaround plan shall be authorized for a period of not more than 3 years, subject to subsection (g). The commissioner and receiver may jointly develop additional components of the plan and shall jointly develop annual goals for each component of the plan in a manner consistent with the provisions of subsection (d). The receiver shall be responsible for meeting the goals of the turnaround plan.

(g) The commissioner and receiver shall provide a written report to the school committee on a quarterly basis to provide specific information about the progress being made on the implementation of the district’s turnaround plan. One of the quarterly reports shall be the annual evaluation required in subsection (g).

(h) The commissioner shall evaluate the performance of the receiver on not less than an annual basis. The purpose of such evaluation shall be to assess the implementation of the turnaround plan and determine whether the district has met the annual goals contained in the turnaround plan. The evaluation shall be in writing and submitted to the board and the local school committee no later than July 1 for the preceding school year.

If the commissioner determines that the district has met the annual performance goals stated in the turnaround plan, the evaluation shall be considered sufficient and the implementation of the turnaround plan shall continue.

If the commissioner determines that the receiver has not met 1 or more goals in the plan and the failure to meet the goals may be corrected through reasonable modification of the plan, the commissioner may amend the turnaround plan, as necessary. After assessing the implementation of the turnaround plan in the district, the commissioner may amend the plan if the commissioner determines that the amendment is necessary in view of subsequent changes in the district that affect 1 or more components of the plan, including, but not limited to, changes to contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or school district policies, in manner consistent with the provisions of subsection (d). If the commissioner determines that the receiver has substantially failed to meet multiple goals in the turnaround plan, the commissioner may terminate such receiver; provided, however, that the termination shall not occur before the completion of the first full school year of the receivership of the district.

(i) After the period of receivership, there shall be a reevaluation of a district’s status under this section. The board of elementary and secondary education shall adopt regulations providing for: (1) the removal of a designation of a district as chronically underperforming; and (2) the transfer of the operation of a chronically underperforming district from an external receiver to the superintendent and school committee, based on the improvement of the district. The regulations shall include provisions to allow a district to retain measures adopted in a turnaround plan for a transitional period if, in the judgment of the commissioner, the measures would contribute to the continued improvement of the district. Such regulations shall also include provisions that clearly identify the conditions under which such a transitional period shall end and the powers granted to the commissioner and board under this section shall cease to apply to a district previously designated as chronically underperforming. At any time after a chronically underperforming district has been placed in receivership, the school committee of the district may petition the commissioner for a determination as to whether the turnaround plan adopted under subsection (b) should be modified or eliminated and whether the school district shall no longer be designated as chronically underperforming. The decision of the commissioner shall be based on regulations adopted by the board. A school committee may seek review by the board of elementary and secondary education of an adverse determination.

(j) If, on the basis of the regulations adopted by the board pursuant to subsection (h), a district has not improved sufficiently to remove the designation of the district as chronically underperforming, the commissioner may: (1) jointly determine subsequent annual goals for each component of the turnaround plan with the receiver and renew the turnaround plan for an additional period of not more than 3 years; or (2) create a new turnaround plan, consistent with the requirements of this section.

(k) If a municipality has failed to fulfill its fiscal responsibilities pursuant to chapter 70, the commissioner may declare the school district as chronically underperforming, subject to the approval of the board. The municipality’s mayor or chairman of the board of selectmen shall have the opportunity to present evidence to the board. A vote by the board that a school district is chronically underperforming for fiscal reasons shall authorize the commissioner to petition the commissioner of revenue to require an increase in funds for the school district, alleging that the amount necessary in the municipality for the support of public schools has not been included in the annual budget appropriations. The commissioner of revenue shall determine the amount of any deficiency pursuant to the sums required pursuant to chapter 70, if any, and issue an order compelling the municipality to provide a sum of money equal to such deficiency. If the municipality does not provide a sum of money equal to such deficiency, the commissioner of revenue, pursuant to section 23 of chapter 59, shall not approve the tax rate of the municipality for the fiscal year until the deficiency is alleviated. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as creating a cause of action for educational malpractice by students or their parents, guardians or persons acting as parents.

If the district is designated as chronically underperforming pursuant to this subsection, the provisions of this subsection shall supersede those in subsections (a) to (j), inclusive.

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