Over 160 years after the Lawrence Public Schools (LPS) system was established, the district is in the midst of a historic transformation to better serve our students. In November 2011, LPS was designated as a “Level 5” or “chronically underperforming” district by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary & Secondary Education. In May 2012, after extensive discussions with stakeholders across the district and state, Commissioner Mitchell Chester and newly-appointed state Receiver and Superintendent Jeffrey C. Riley created a turnaround plan for district improvement.
The turnaround plan established a bold mission: to create a new district model—later named “open architecture”— that provided individual schools with the freedom to direct their own improvement, with customized district support based on school needs. Key features of the plan include shifting more resources and autonomy to the school level; creating a leaner, more responsive central office; ensuring all schools have great leaders and teachers; harnessing the talents of partner organizations; expanding the school day and adding learning time for students; and increasing student engagement through enrichment opportunities.
Since 2012, LPS has seen significant gains in student growth and proficiency in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), leading to the addition of new Level 1 schools each year of the turnaround effort. High school graduation rates are up, and dropout rates are down. We continue to work toward the goal of providing all students with a rich, high-quality education that closes the achievement gap between our students and their suburban peers.
Our commitment to providing every student with a great education is grounded in Lawrence’s rich history of marshalling the resources and supports necessary to serve our community’s children. LPS takes great pride in our school system’s history as we continue to lead the district forward.
A Brief History
In 1848—one year after the City of Lawrence was incorporated—the newly-named Lawrence School Committee adopted a system of free public education for the primary grades through high school, founding the Lawrence Public School System.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century, several school buildings were constructed with amenities to properly educate the city’s growing immigrant population. The first grammar school opened in 1848, in the original Henry K. Oliver School building. For a time, the building also served the seventeen students of Lawrence High School. Lawrence High received its own building in 1901 on the corner of Lawrence and Haverhill Street, where the high school would be located for the next 106 years.
In 1892, a surge in school construction began with the building of the John R. Rollins School on Prospect Hill, followed by the John K. Tarbox School and the Emily G. Wetherbee School. Over the next twenty years, Lawrence added the Alexander B. Bruce, Gilbert E. Hood, John J. Breen and Francis M. Leahy Schools, along with the addition of the James D. Horne Annex to Lawrence High School.
Since then, several additional elementary and middle schools buildings were constructed or updated with new educational and technological resources. In Fall 2007, a $110 million, 42-acre high school campus opened in South Lawrence. The Lawrence High School Campus is a premier prototype for the conversion of large urban high schools into smaller learning communities. The LHS Campus athletic facilities, which are among the largest and most modern in the state, have a 3,400-seat field house, which is adjacent to the Lawrence Veterans' Memorial Stadium. The Lawrence High School also has a Media Center and a Performing Art Center that seats more than 1,200 people and has been featured in national publications.
Our Way Forward
Today, the Lawrence Public Schools continues its mission to deliver a high-quality education for our community, leveraging the district’s vision of Four Pillars for student success.
Our highly-qualified educators draw from numerous resources to plan and implement lessons and use a range of formative and summative assessments to provide vital data to drive instruction in the classroom. We believe that with hard work and increased learning time, all students can perform at high levels. Our schools also provide students access to high-quality enrichment opportunities to ensure they receive a well-rounded education. Finally, our educators seek to develop critical thinking and fluid reasoning skills that are vital to our students’ success after graduation.
With these guiding principles in mind, Lawrence continues to chart “our way forward” to a bright future for LPS students.