When looking at educational and economic trends, Lawrence has a poverty rate that is twice the state average. Lawrence has significantly lower percentages of owner-occupied housing when compared to surrounding communities in the Merrimack region. When comparing education status, Lawrence has significantly lower percentages of high school students who have graduated and have gone on to post-secondary education.
When taking a closer look at the graduation and dropout rates among subgroups (ELs, students with disabilities, low-income, and Latinos), subgroups are performing significantly lower than the general population in the Lawrence community.
Lawrence has few public educational options at the middle and high school levels. Community Day Charter Public School offers grades Pre-K to 6, and Lawrence Family Development Charter School serves students in grades Pre-K to 8. Phoenix Charter Academy Lawrence serves "resilient, disconnected" students in grades 9 to 12 from Lawrence, Haverhill, and Methuen.
In Lawrence, 2,429 students are on charter school waiting lists (ESE, 2017). Based upon conversations with families and community leaders, families with English Learners and students with disabilities are looking for more education options.
In 2018, we began to host Family Information sessions in Lawrence. We chose popular local hangouts such as El Taller in Lawrence to host these sessions. The following chart shows how the design elements address educational priorities of Lawrence families:
|Educational Priorities of Lawrence Families|| How Our School Design Addresses Priorities
|Support students with disabilities||Inclusive and Social Emotional learning ensures that students with disabilities have full participation and access to the education program.|
|Support English Learners||Inclusive and Social Emotional learning ensures that English Learners have full participation and access to the education program.|
|Build student agency through social change projects that improve their communities||Project-based learning (with a focus on social entrepreneurship) provides a clear structure for how to help student problem-solve challenges in their community.|
|Provide a warm, safe, and welcoming school environment||Community-based learning provides students with opportunities to do deep dives into local cultures and to take advantage of community-based opportunities to learn languages.|
|Connect students with mentors and tutors||Community-based learning connects students with mentors, tutors, and internships linked to college and career settings.|
|Use art and music to support youth development||Creative Learning supports intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development through daily access to art and music.|
|Provide an extended day program||The school program is 8.5 hours per day—8:30 am to 5:00 pm.|
|Use positive rather than punitive approaches for student discipline||Organizing students into small learning communities (project advisories) and the use of restorative justice as a proactive discipline system ensures a positive school environment.|
|Give students opportunities to move every day||Creative Learning supports intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development through daily movement.|