Money, Mediocrity, and Making Change
A Tale of Two Cities: Comparing Progress in Boston and Lawrence
As Massachusetts begins an important conversation on education policy, political will and attention have been focused on the issue of money, with the Commonwealth’s capital clamoring for more funding. Meanwhile, in Lawrence—once the worst school district in the state—a series of bold reforms under state-appointed Receiver Jeff Riley have yielded dramatic improvements. By many measures, Lawrence now outperforms Boston, especially for Latinx and high-needs students. As of 2017, Lawrence’s four-year graduation rate was higher than Boston’s for Latinx and high-needs students; it outranks Boston in state rankings; and its economically disadvantaged students perform better on the state’s standardized tests than their peers in Boston. With Riley now leading the Commonwealth’s schools as Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Massachusetts has much to learn from this success. As the state considers a once-in-a-generation overhaul of public education, it should look to Lawrence and review lessons learned during its nationally-recognized turnaround.