Harvard Initiative to Help Turn Around Springfield Public Schools

A Harvard University-based school improvement program will join the Springfield Public Schools in an effort to turn around five schools that continue to struggle with the state’s performance standards.

Schools superintendent Daniel Warwick announced the partnership with Dr. Roland Fryer of Harvard’s Education Innovation Labs, or EdLabs, today. Warwick says the decision follows the program’s demonstrated success with under-performing schools around the country.

“They had rapid improvements in academic achievement. And improvements in climate, culture, behavior, college-going rates.really dramatic change sin the schools. They have a program that works, part of it is high-dosage of math tutorials with the kids, personal relationships with the kids.. and they’ve done it with schools that have really challenging populations.”

While several of Springfield’s schools have shown strong improvement in recent years, Warwick says those that have not will be the focus of the partnership. They are the Chestnut, Kennedy and Kiley Middle Schools, the DeBerry Elementary School, and the High School of Commerce.

“I think the strength of this model is that it’s a partnership and not a charter school, where the charter school would come in and takes over. Dr. Fryer’s group works with the district in partnership and then phases themselves out once the schools really get going in the right direction after three years.”

One component of the program will be financial incentives to help recruit new teachers – and Warwick says the program will add close to 20 percent to per-pupil costs at the affected schools. He adds, however, that EdLabs will raise private funds to help defray those costs.  The program is expected to be up and running by next fall, and to show results by next Spring, Warwick says. A representative of the Springfield teachers union says while the union accepts the need for quick action on the challenged schools, it does have some concerns about the methods and cost of the EdLabs model.