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Springfield schools partner with EdLabs to avoid takeover


Jan. 17, 2013
By Katelyn Gendron

katelyn@thereminder.com

SPRINGFIELD — The School Department's fiscal year 2014 budget will include a new line item in an effort to dramatically close the achievement gap at five of its Level 4 institutions.

School Superintendent Daniel Warwick announced on Jan. 7 that Springfield Public Schools (SPS) has partnered with the Education Innovation Laboratory (EdLabs) at Harvard University to boost student performance in mathematics and reading at DeBerry Elementary School, the High School of Commerce, and Chestnut, Kennedy and Kiley middle schools. The partnership was necessary to avoid a state takeover due to the middle and high schools' inability to exit Level 4 status.

"As a district we are just beginning the budgeting process for fiscal year 2014 and we will determine funding structures for the partnership during this process. We expect there will be some cost to the district but the amount is not yet known," Warwick said.

When asked how the program would be implemented during the 2013-2014 school year, he replied, "It is still too early to determine what the exact changes at each school will look like, but staff, parents and students will be completely informed of any change in day-to-day operations or any other changes."

Debra Wexler, spokesperson for EdLabs, echoed those sentiments.

"EdLabs has conducted research that identified five practices of highly effective NYC [New York City] charter schools, and a model incorporating these practices has been implemented with great success by the Houston Independent School District in 20 of the District's 'Apollo' schools. Springfield intends to implement these practices in five of its Level 4 schools. Over the last 10 days, EdLabs participated with SPS in meetings with these schools to explain the Apollo school reform model. EdLabs and Springfield have also been discussing the possibility of EdLabs working with SPS to assure that SPS implements the model with fidelity to the research," Wexler explained to Reminder Publications.

"Because there is no signed agreement between Springfield and EdLabs, it would be premature to discuss specifics at this time. However, EdLabs is very eager to work with SPS to bring this model to Springfield to benefit the students in these Level 4 schools," she continued.

While Warwick could not give specific details about the day-to-day operations, he did note that part of the program "will include small-group tutoring sessions for students and revised teaching and learning strategies."

The superintendent said his decision to partner with EdLabs was not one that was taken lightly or without extensive research into its practices with other school districts in the country.

"EdLabs success in Houston and Denver played a primary role in my decision to choose them as our partner in improving student achievement here in Springfield Public Schools. Their record of proven results when working with school districts that so closely mirror ours was very important. I examined the data, considered all of our options, carefully analyzed their strategies and results and decided they were a strong partner for us. My research also included in a visit to schools they are currently partnering with, and personal conversations with students, teachers and principals at those schools," he explained.

Warwick noted EdLabs helped Houston and Denver schools make "double-digit gains" in academic achievement, a plan SPS has for its five institutions in question by the end of the 2014 school year.

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