Saturday, September 28, 2013

Was There Cheating?

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.


  1. People get a’s only money! Where are the qualities of Justice and Virtue?

    1. We are talking about Southbridge. Listen closely - F L U S H!

  2. Breaking Bad will end with Walter White getting a job as an administrator in the Southbridge school system. There he knows he'll be safe from ever getting caught or punished.

  3. I have read these blog posts because people talked to me about them. I’m not a political person but I have livd here all my life. Please will somebody who I voted for get up and tell the truth. People like me want things to get better but we can.t when we don’t know who or what to believe. Ive heard these rumors for a long time. I have heard the same things about the landfill and too many other things. All I know is we are getting poorer and politicians and town employees seem to be doing just fine.

    1. to anon 7:38 you are absolutely correct that we have heard of grade tampering before. In the Dale Hanley's superintendent days people tried to speak up and internal investigations, like all of her internal investigations (grade tampering, food service shrinkage), turned up no evidence. The court of public opinion didn't think any of her investigations were legit and no one believed her. This always happens behind closed doors and our eyes are kept from the paperwork to prove or disprove any of this. How do you hold anyone accountable in a system designed for protection and privacy and only take my word for it accountability to the tax payer?
      My belief is that back then an asst. principal tried to do the right thing and, like in the Jacobson case, he paid the political price for it. Anyone remember John McGuirk? Thank you for your honesty John, you tried!
      There is one lone key figure left over from that time period and is most likely the central figure in the current discussion. Perhaps that person's guidance into past and present discussions will be forth coming in the near future.

  4. Regionally SAT testing typically takes place in school cafeterias with lots of supervision and oversight about the room. Typically MCAS testing takes place in small settings like a regular classroom with a teacher supervising that class. Long rumored in Southbridge is that MCAS testing was done like regional SAT testing minus the rigorous supervision. With supervision called away for periods of time that resulted in group answer sharing tactics seen in the National Lampoon's Animal House movie. While still only wildly believed rumor it remains the only logical explanation for a dramatic rise to level 1 scores and maintained only in that one year. In a School committee meeting BUZZ called that year "an unexplainable and illogical blip of yearly MCAS scores." That is as close to an admittance of wrong doing as I think you are going to ever see about this!
    To those who have hung their hat or have been patting themselves on the back for an unexplainable and illogical blip of yearly MCAS scores please just stop. Don't you know we have transparency in how our school district is run now?
    Wait, what?

  5. Most Southbridge students can barely read, calculate simple math, tell time or concentrate during a forty five minute class. How can you imagine they can achieve passing or proficient test results? The scoring standards on MCAS tests are very low.
    However, Southbridge, as is case in most poor urban districts, must cheat.

  6. That sounds like a complete "urban" Legend.
    Most student cheaters cheat on Mcas because of pressure to get better scores for college entrance and scholarship money. Those would be your higher test scorers in suburbs (like Southbridge) and not the mouth breathers you went out of your way to describe.

    Most principals who cheat do so because of DESE pressure brought upon Superintendents and the politics of such rolling down hill to them. If this is the case in Southbridge it is a big deal and it should be public info.

    1. The true pressure will always rest with the tax payer. They are all running out of money at an alarming rate!


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