University Takes Over Failing Public School District


None of these improvements or statistics had existed in such favorable form prior to the university takeover. BU’s school of education made professional development “rigorous and relevant,” a 2008 Boston Globe article states. Another obvious improvement was that the district’s special education department was finally in compliance with state and federal guidelines.

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The takeover was not a panacea. Expectedly, Chelsea schools still had problems when the school district regained control in 2008. Only a third of third graders earned proficient scores in 2007 state reading exams, despite BU’s emphasis on early childhood education. Of eighth-graders, 58 percent failed state math tests.

Less than thirty percent of Chelsea high school grads said they planned on attending a four-year university. Nonetheless, then president of BU John Silber believed that the takeover was a success, though they did not accomplish everything they had set out to. After all, the school district finally had its head above water when it was drowning in debt and student failure.

The Next Steps: Statewide University Management Expertise for Struggling Public Schools?

Boston University’s school of education had the resources, knowledge and networks necessary to save a failing school district. As a school of medicine would provide aid to impoverished communities, so can schools of education, John Silber notes in the ‘08 Boston Globe article. This historic private university, state sanctioned takeover solution is a pertinent example for universities across the country, especially where the university is public­–not private, as is Ball State University. Unlike private universities, public ones have duties to the surrounding community and state that funds them.

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Felix Rippy
Felix Rippy is a graduate certificate recipient at Indiana University’s Graduate School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Rippy is a writer and speaker on matters of public policy including public funding, campus speech and public safety. Rippy is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University (BA, History), he holds a JD and MBA from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the University of Texas School of Law School.