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2020 District Review

October 20, 2020

Brockton Public Schools, DESE partner on districtwide improvement strategy

DESE to provide targeted assistance as district leaders work to implement needed improvements

The Brockton Public Schools and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) today announced that they are partnering to craft a districtwide improvement strategy following DESE’s release of its district review report.

Through the partnership, DESE will provide district leaders with targeted assistance as they work to strengthen planning, curricula, data use and student support with the centralized goal of improving student outcomes.

“We’re happy to work as partners with Brockton as the district develops an improvement plan,” said DESE Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston. “We appreciate the district’s commitment to its students, and we’ll work together to build on the strengths that are already present in many areas.”

The areas most frequently referenced in the district review related to the use of disaggregated student data. DESE recommends that BPS sets clear goals based on an analysis of historical, longitudinal, and current student data. They add that decision-making should be closely tied to data and that while data from multiple sources is available to school staff, the district must improve its reporting systems to provide more timely and actionable information to teachers.

DESE also calls on BPS to provide clear, personalized and timely information about academic progress to students’ families and to provide information about its current improvement strategies with the community in a more comprehensive manner.

“At the heart of this review is a sincere effort to help us improve our educational system to the betterment of student achievement. I truly appreciate DESE’s input and look forward to this new partnership, which will give us an outside perspective to the work we know must be done to enact transformational change in our schools,” said Michael Thomas, who was named Superintendent of the Brockton Public Schools in December 2019. “I want our BPS families to know that their school district is committed to this work and that we will continue to seek their engagement and input as we move forward.”

The review acknowledged the impact of relentless budget cuts, noting that the district was forced to eliminate 212 positions from 2014 to 2019. The cuts were the result of what the district has long described as an antiquated Chapter 70 funding formula, which was recently addressed via the passage of the Student Opportunity Act. The district expected to receive an additional $21 million in state aid via the Student Opportunity Act, however, those new funds were put on hold in the wake of the pandemic.

“After extensive discussion with Superintendent Thomas and his leadership team, the Brockton School Committee agreed that tapping into DESE’s expertise and knowledge of statewide best practices would aid our goal of improving student outcomes. Although years of chronic underfunding have no doubt greatly and significantly impacted our district’s operations, we cannot lament past losses and must instead move forward with a clear vision and direction for the future of our district,” said Mayor Robert F. Sullivan, who chairs the School Committee.

“While addressing the recommended areas for improvement in the middle of a pandemic presents a whole new set of challenges, we know that this work cannot wait. The School Committee and the school district are ready and eager to get this partnership started,” said School Committee Vice Chair Mark D’Agostino.

The district review highlighted several district strengths, including efforts to increase the staff’s understanding of issues related to equity and diversity and a commitment to recruiting, supporting and retaining a diverse cadre of highly qualified teachers and administrators. The review also praised the district's demonstrated appreciation of the different languages spoken in the community and its efforts to engage both families and community partners in a collaborative manner to support student needs.

Taking ambitious steps to ensure English learners and students with disabilities have access to the supports they need to improve academic outcomes will be a central focus of the new partnership.

“As home to one of the most diverse student populations in the Commonwealth, we look forward to building on our equity and diversity efforts by providing students with greater agency and opportunities to meaningfully engage with course content,” said Superintendent Thomas.

The report acknowledged a commitment to serving Brockton students is ingrained in the district’s culture, however it notes that Brockton’s "talented, dedicated, and passionate educators and stakeholders" need more robust resources to effectively tackle the growing and changing needs of their students.

The Office of District Reviews and Monitoring (ODRM) at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regularly reviews each school district to provide an analysis of district systems, policies and practices as they relate to student outcomes and improving equity among underserved groups of students.

As part of their in-depth review, ODRM conducted a site visit from March 2 to March 5, 2020 during which they conducted nearly 37 hours of interviews with 170 BPS stakeholders, including School Committee members, district administrators, staff, students and families. The Brockton Public Schools was last reviewed by DESE in 2014.

The full district review report is publicly available here.