Blog: Autonomy Leads to Academic Success for Bentley Academy

During the 13-14 school year, Empower worked with Salem Public Schools to design a new pathway to autonomy for its lowest performing school- Bentley Elementary.

Bentley, originally using a transformation model turnaround, slid to the 4th percentile after the 1st year of turnaround which caused concern in the school district.

Empower helped the school district design a path to implement the restart model during year 3 of turnaround. Restart meant finding a new principal, a CMO that would lead operations, and renegotiating the contract with the Salem Teacher’s Union.

After the first year of the restart (SY 14-15) the MCAS results show strong gains moving Bentley (now Bentley Academy Charter School) from the 7th percent statewide to the 13th – that 6 point increase represents the biggest jump of all elementary schools in Salem.

Bentley applied for, and was granted a 5 year Horace Mann Charter in February of 2015 allowing it to maintain the autonomies granted to it by the restart plan. Justin Vernon, Head of the Bentley School expresses how autonomy has been one of the components of the school’s improvements saying “we have used our autonomy to develop deep and meaningful partnerships with families and community organizations, to lengthen our school day and school year, and to create a strong and positive school culture for our students.”

Bentley Elementary is a great example of how autonomy can be used to propel a school forward with the right leadership and mindset. Vernon says he is most proud of the school’s “ability to use data to create lessons for our scholars that are thought-provoking and highly engaging.” In addition to the school’s historic percentile increase, students who are identified as High Need and English Language Learners (ELL) achieved their target goals for growth in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics a first in the school’s history.

If the school continues on this trajectory, it will not be long before the school exits Level 4 status- something only 4 of 18 eligible schools were able to do this year. “We are highly encouraged by the progress, but we know that much more needs to be done.”

Click this link to read more in Bentley Academy’s press release.