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Back from the Brink: A Case Study of Lawrence Public Schools

How a Bold Vision and a Focus on Resources Can Drive System Improvement

In November 2011, Lawrence Public Schools became the first school district in Massachusetts to enter into state receivership. It was a chronically low-performing district with a graduation rate at 52 percent, and it had not had a permanent superintendent in two years. By June 2014, however, things had dramatically changed for the better. This case study explores how a bold vision and a focus on the effective use of resources can lead to big improvements.

Through more than a decade of partnering with urban school districts nationwide, we've seen an array of challenges but also beacons of hope. Drawing from this experience, we've identified conditions and practices that enable districts to achieve significant improvements in student and school performance. We distilled these insights into School System 20/20. This case study is part of a series where we track the transformation journeys of leading districts in the context of School System 20/20. We examine how and what they have changed to better align resources with their priorities, as well as the impressive results.

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