Education Commissioner wants Boston Public Schools declared ‘underperforming,’ stops short of receivership


BOSTON – The state education commissioner is recommending that Boston Public Schools officially be declared as “underperforming.”

Commissioner Jeff Riley said Friday that he will make the recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education before a vote next Tuesday. The city and state have been in discussions for more than a month to come up with an improvement plan for the district.

Riley stopped short of calling for the more drastic move of putting Boston Public Schools into receivership. That happens when the commissioner declares a district “chronically underperforming.”

“Things in Boston are moving quickly, they’re moving urgently,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said. “The state’s efforts, DESE’s tone and timing on this thing have been counterproductive to our efforts.”

By instead declaring Boston “underperforming,” the city will still run the school district and it will remain under the control of the superintendent and school committee. Boston is currently interviewing two finalists for the superintendent position.

“Taking this step now does not foreclose other interventions, such as receivership, in the future, if BPS does not correct the serious deficiencies identified in the Follow-Up District Review Report,” Riley said in a letter to the board Friday.

Boston must now put together a plan and timeline to improve the district that will either be approved or rejected by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

“Underperforming status also allows the commissioner to appoint an assistance lead, an accountability monitor and an individual or a team to conduct monitoring site visits,” a DESE spokesperson told WBZ-TV.

Wu has opposed receivership. If the district was placed under state receivership, Riley would appoint a receiver who would then have the powers of both the school committee and superintendent, taking power away from the district.

“We wanted the mayor and the new superintendent to have a clear path forward,” Riley said. 

There are currently three school districts in receivership in Massachusetts – Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge. Holyoke and Southbridge were also declared underperforming in the past, along with Randolph, Gill-Montague and Winchendon, according to DESE.



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