It’s really about time to stop beating around the proverbial bush.
We have now been promised a presentation about the most recent round of MCAS scores.
The basic question that needs to be answered is, after a period of seeming progress, how did the results plummet so dramatically?
It’s not merely that the failure rates for 10th graders doubled.
How could last year’s sixth graders, who failed the math portion at a 49% rate, plummet to a 60% failure rate in math as this year’s seventh graders?
Granted that the last year is one that was marked by turmoil and strife.
However, I for one have trouble accepting that this can be the sole source of such a decline. In fact, I seriously doubt that it can be targeted as the primary reason.
It’s not the fact of the dramatic turnover in teacher personnel. That only took place at the end of the last school year.
One widely rumored possibility is that there had been an organized pattern of cheating in prior years that elevated the scores above what they should have been.
As part of the discussion of the latest results it behooves the Superintendent to set the record straight. There are questions that need answers.
Is one or more of those now or previously on paid administrative leave so designated for suspicion of being involved in cheating on the MCAS in previous years?
Have prior students been questioned about whether they were “coached” or had their tests altered?
Have there been discussions with state officials about this matter?
Are there any personnel who have left the district or retired who are, or will be, receiving post-employment benefits who have been implicated in any such scheme?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “Yes”, what steps are being taken to address the matter? Will any funds paid to any personnel that may have been involved be recovered? Will there be the prospect of civil or criminal prosecutions?
The people of Southbridge, students, parents and taxpayers, deserve answers to these questions.
If the rumors are unfounded, say so.
If not, however, we deserve to know.
Let’s not hear once again, “It’s a personnel matter.”
We are sick of that being used as a blanket grant of immunity for those who have taken our money, in salaries, benefits and paid leave only to be dismissed without explanation. Beyond the money, there would have been a far greater crime, the theft of the integrity of our children’s education and their preparation to deal with a challenging real world.
Mr. Nembirkow, before you leave, put this issue to rest. Allow your successor to come in with a clean slate. Address this question and let us know that, if it has substance, those responsible will not get away with it.
If it is merely the rumbling of Southbridge’s well-renowned political rumor mill, then call it out for what it is.
Whatever the case, enhance your already impressive reputation by having the courage to squarely face the questions – and answer them without equivocation.