Study Recommends State Receivership for Boston Public Schools

The Pioneer Institute is urging Massachusetts education officials to appoint a receiver to take over the Boston Public School District

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It’s a time of transition for Boston Public Schools, which is in need of a new superintendent, and now some are questioning whether the district would benefit from receivership.

The Pioneer Institute, an education think tank, is urging Massachusetts education officials to appoint a receiver to address what it calls the district’s “chronically low performing schools.”

In a study of the school system, Pioneer cited a 2020 Department of Elementary and Secondary Education report that found that about a third of BPS students attended schools that rank in the bottom 10% statewide.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius held a press conference Tuesday, a day after announcing Cassellius’ resignation.

When a school district is both “chronically low performing” and “not showing signs of substantial improvement over time," the state education commissioner can appoint someone to be a “receiver.”

That receiver would essentially be given the same powers as both the superintendent and the school committee and would be tasked with improving the district over a number of years in terms of metrics like test scores, enrollment, and graduation rates.

The author of the study argued that, amidst declining enrollment, there’s no clear, consistent district-wide strategy to fix underperforming schools. With Superintendent Brenda Cassellius stepping down, the district will be looking for its fifth superintendent in seven years.

As this suggestion has surfaced in recent months, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has made it clear that “receivership is not an option” for Boston Public Schools, and that she would fight any attempts from the state to intervene.

“Long-lasting reform in our district is happening. We are urgently investing in the strategies that will enhance our academic offerings and provide students with the support they need to be successful. Our students can’t wait, so we are delivering for them now," Cassellius said in a statement. "This work will fundamentally change for the better how students are served in Boston Public Schools for years to come. To make this a reality, we look forward to continued partnership with leaders at DESE, but receivership is not the remedy for the issues we face.”

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