Blog: A Model in Action

Empower Schools views the Open Systems approach as a way to establish the conditions necessary for success at the individual school level. By controlling staffing, scheduling, curriculum, and budget, school leaders can make the decisions that have the greatest impact on their students.

This is precisely what has been happening in Lawrence, where the state appointed Jeff Riley in 2012 as receiver for the struggling district. In this audioclip, Mr. Riley speaks about his experience as superintendent for the Lawrence Public Schools and how in that role, he and his team helped each school implement customized turnaround plans that included individualized approaches to staffing and scheduling, and a focus on human capital from the bottom up.

This differentiation allows for a variety of types of schools, including traditional district schools as well as operator-led. Some schools in Lawrence, as well as the Bentley School in Salem, are instances in which proven operators work in partnership with the district to turnaround a specific school. A study recently released from MIT indicates promising achievement gains for this approach in Massachusetts and Louisiana. Other high-performing schools in Lawrence, like the Wetherbee and Guilmette, are led by talented district leaders who have taken advantage of new autonomies.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all model, the Open Systems approach allows for the flexibility to meet communities where they are.  This pragmatism makes it possible for changes to scale, improving outcomes for many students.