Marshall School conversion proving a lure

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Mar. 28, 2013

Ninety-one percent of students at the Marshall Elementary School plan to stick around for the coming school year as it edges closer to its conversion into an in-district charter school, school officials said this week.

The 600-student school has had among the “highest mobility rates of any elementary school” in the system, according to Boston Public Schools, and in a normal year, 17 percent of the students often leave the school and head to another.

Unlocking Potential (UP), a nonprofit school management group that already operates the former Gavin Middle School in South Boston, plans to re-launch the Marshall as “UP Academy Dorchester” in the 2013-2014 academic year. About 85 percent of Gavin students remained at the school during the conversion, and the school has seen gains in math scores in the last year.

The conversion will allow for greater flexibility in setting the curriculum and a longer school day, proponents say.

The enrollment lottery for the new UP Academy in Dorchester was held earlier this month and the school received 1,314 applications, according to UP.

Tamekia Groce, 33-year-old single mother, is one of the parents hoping to stick around. Her nine year old is in the third grade and has struggled with math and reading at the Marshall, she said.

“I just feel like there was no structure there for my son,” she said.

Groce, a Mattapan native who lives five minutes away from the Marshall, contemplated moving her son into a charter school, but decided to stay after attending meetings around the planned conversion into UP Academy. “It seems like they have plans in place for certain areas; their main goal is to have children succeed and be successful,” she said.

According to the school department, which cited MCAS test scores, 10 percent of Marshall students are proficient in English and 12 percent are proficient in math.

The school, which is located in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, has at times felt overwhelmed by nearby violence, such as in November 2009, when a man was shot 100 yards away and gang-related shootings after school hours.