CST Publication – Special Education in the Turnaround Context: UP Education Network Schools in Massachusetts

Special Education in the Turnaround Context: UP Education Network Schools in Massachusetts

By Colleen Eskow, Consultant, National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools &
Lauren Morando Rhim, National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

UP Education Network (UP) is a school management organization that has been leading school turnaround efforts in Massachusetts since 2010. Its approach to improving services for students with disabilities in two local districts — Lawrence Public Schools (LPS) and Boston Public Schools (BPS) — demonstrates how intentional efforts to improve special education can contribute to broader school turnaround initiatives. This brief introduces the state of Massachusetts’s overall framework for school turnaround and details UP’s special education strategy as it has been applied in two schools that were restarted under the framework.

These exploratory UP mini-cases illustrate strategies that one charter school management organization has implemented, in the course of its broader school turnaround efforts at individual schools, to improve special education and related services for students with disabilities. UP and its school-specific efforts highlighted in this brief were chosen as the subject of these mini-cases on the basis of the following criteria:

  • The organization had embarked on an explicit turnaround effort and was able to show evidence of positive growth for all students;
  • The school enrolled a significant population (i.e., 15 percent or more) of students with disabilities; and
  • The organization’s staff had implemented an intentional plan to examine and improve special education and related services for students with disabilities.

The authors sought nominations from key state-level stakeholders engaged in school turnaround efforts across the country. After identifying a sample of schools that met their criteria, the authors collected additional data from public sources (e.g., state and district websites, newspapers), sought assistance from a school liaison to conduct the exploratory mini-cases, and conducted telephone interviews with key stakeholders leading and implementing the turnaround efforts.