Saturday, October 4, 2014

MCAS Mystery Deepens

Ken O’Brien

An article in today’s Worcester Telegram by Brian Lee only adds to the confusion surrounding recent MCAS results at Southbridge Middle/High School.

Those who have followed this saga will recall that initially there were reports to this site that some 38 current seniors had failed to be given the opportunity to retake the MCAS during all of 2013-14  school year following their failure as sophomores in Spring 2013.

That suspicion was apparently confirmed at last Tuesday’s School Committee meeting in a presentation by Superintendent Patricia Gardner.

In the article, titled “Southbridge MCAS fallout still being remedied”, it is made clear that we were not alone in drawing that conclusion.

At least two other members of the committee drew the same inference from Ms. Gardner’s comments. 

Earlier this week, School Committee member Brent Abrahamson said in an interview his initial impression from that meeting was that the retests weren't given to juniors at all last year.
"We need to understand precisely what happened in terms of MCAS testing so that if the system broke down somewhere, we have to make sure it doesn't happen again. And we need to understand what happened to make it break down," he said.
Fellow committee member Ray Page said he had the same impression about the missed retest opportunities, and he suggested that the administration present numbers in writing, to avoid miscommunication.

However, shortly after her presentation comments appeared on this site challenging Mrs. Gardner’s assertions. One of the more precise formulations of these observations was put forth in our article “More Confusion”.

During her presentation Ms. Gardner asserted that  "a principal working in our schools" had signed off that everything had been done properly. It was widely understood that she was referring to Amy Allen-Magnan who was Principal of SMHS at the time.

Mrs. Allen-Magnan responded to these claims in a two page letter appended to Mr. Lee’s article. In that letter she accounts for the students in question as follows:
All of that being said, here are the facts of the MCAS mystery about the current seniors who supposedly “were not afforded their right to twice retake the MCAS last year” under my leadership. On the 2013 MCAS test, when that cohort of students first took MCAS in tenth grade, 32 failed the math MCAS, and eight failed ELA. They received these results in the mail in September, 2013. In November, 2013, SMHS conducted the MCAS re-tests (yes, we did order the tests and conduct the testing, and yes, I did sign off on the order forms and the test return forms). We retested 28 students on the MCAS math, and nine students on the MCAS ELA retests. (All of this information has been confirmed by the DESE). The reason for the discrepancy between the number of students who failed as sophomores and the number retaking is due to students who left the district (for several different reasons), and the additional retake in ELA was for a student who had recently enrolled into the district. Therefore, all eligible students, who were enrolled at SMHS, were given the November MCAS retakes.
For the March retake, which also did occur, 21 students took the math MCAS, and four students took the ELA MCAS. This discrepancy between the November numbers and the March numbers is due to the fact that seven students passed the November math retake, and five students passed the November ELA retake. Hence all students eligible to retake the MCAS in March were afforded the opportunity to do so.

This portion of Mrs. Allen-Magnan’s exposition adds up and accounts for those students in question.

However, she then adds, “The results of the March retakes indicate that, yes, 38 seniors need to take one or more of the MCAS tests this year,….” This last sentence does not square with the rest of her presentation. If 21 retook math and four retook ELA in March, how did we go from those 25 students to the current 38? Even assuming that all 25 who retook the test failed, we would still need an influx of 13 students to reach the total of 38. I consider this highly doubtful.

Ms. Gardner provides no such clear-cut analysis of the data. Contrary to her initial presentation that said 38 students had not been retested, she now says "One 11th-grade (current senior) student last year missed retest opportunities in ELA, five missed math retests, and six missed biology".

 Rather, she talks about the number of students needing Educational Proficiency Plans (EPP’s). “Ms. Gardner said 19 EPPs had not been completed for last year's juniors in English, and 28 had not been created in math. The superintendent said this year's new administrative team had to sort through last year's scores to figure that out.”

She is adamant, however, about one thing; "We stand by what we said about the MCAS not being done right." 

In the meantime, current School Committee Chairman Lauren McLoughlin appears content to invoke a newly-adopted “hands-off” policy. "District administration identified a problem" [with MCAS], "sought to investigate the problem, addressed the problem, and the main focus and priority is the students who are currently in front of us and deserve our attention and deserve to have their needs met."


  1. Mr. O'Brien, would you please so good as to forward this article to Joe Shortsleeve please.

  2. I have watched and read this disaster unfold for the past three weeks. Yet no one is being held accountable for the damage the school district has done to members of the class of 2015, and their families.

    Southbridge is the laughing stalk of the educational community.

    How can our high school go from a Level 1 school during the 2011-12 school year, to a level 3 in two short years?

    Does anyone else think that the stupid, political, move to go from two principals to one principal might be the issue? There have been at least 6 principals since August of 2012; some of whom lacked proper Sate licensure, all lacked critical high school principal experience.

    How has that worked out for our children?

    Why can't the "leaders" admit their stupid decision and return to the needed high school principal/middle school principal design? Why can't our district "leaders" do the right thing for our children?

    Now, with the ship on fire, and taking on water faster than the Titanic, the "leaders" call for a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night at 6;00 PM. Where? The "leaders" decide to hold a secret squirrel meeting in the old high school; far away from the cameras that McLoughlin couldn't get enough of when this blog moderator made a couple of fat jokes. When did Lauren get to camera shy?

    This "transparent" school committee is incompetent and arrogant. They lack character and ability. They have lost the trust of the voters and taxpayers. They will be held accountable at the polls next June, but they damage they will continue to cause our students is severe.

    Time to clean house.

    1. Time for the state to take overOctober 4, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      The problem is that I can't imagine anyone worthy bothering to run to in the middle of this mess. It's time for the state to put this district into receivership and take over and straighten it out.

  3. Mrs. Magnan-Allen is a resident of Southbridge. She should go to the school committee meeting on Monday night (if she can find their secret hiding spot) and put these frauds in their place - face to face. (I love a good cat fight)

    1. Contrary to past practices they haven't even got the agendas for these meetings on their web page yet.

    2. How's that "transparency" thing work in?

  4. I'm sorry, but I just saw this. Has anybody started a pool yet on who gets thrown under the bus next and by who and when?

  5. A hands off approach won't work Lauren. You cleaned out those who opposed you and brought in the crew that you wanted.

    1. 1450 Voter Can't Be Wrong - Can They?October 4, 2014 at 5:57 PM

      Come on, 1450 voter can't be wrong - can they?
      Jack Jovan must be so disappointed. After the great strides made during his leadership, the voters thanked him by voting him out of office and put McLoughlin and Donovan there. 1450 Dolts.
      Millions - not thousands - MILLIONS wasted. Any they don't even know who, if, where, why, how, or anything else about the 14 days of 2013-14 MCAS retests.
      1450 voters wanted them well there they are.
      Glad my kids are out of school.

  6. Wasting Time and Money has become Southbridge's Normal Modi Operandi.

  7. Why is meeting at Cole AveOctober 5, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    This issue is one of serious concern to the parents of all children at the middle and high school. In response the school committee is holding a meeting at Cole Ave. Why? As somebody else pointed out, there is a wealth of A/V equipment at the new school. It is capable of broadcating the meeting so that those of us who can't just drop everything to go to another meeting can see the proceedings on TV. It can be broadcast on cable TV channel 11, just like so many other high school productions in the event that it overlaps the town council meeting.
    The facts are clear. Despite all their lip service, this school committee and administration are committed to making information as difficult to obtain as possible.

  8. Mrs. Gardner says during her presentation that she has been here fourteen months. She has only been Superintendent for four of those months. Before that she was Director of Teaching and Learning for the district, a position that had previously been called curriculum director. Interestingly, she was put in that position at the expense of Amy Allen who she is now criticizing. Buzz persuaded Mrs. Allen to take over as Principal at the middle/high school to make room for Mrs. Gardner. Are we supposed to believe that the Director of Teaching and Learning (formerly the curriculum director) had no knowledge of what was going on with MCAS, supposedly Buzz’s number 1 priority? If that is true what was she doing in that job, especially after Mrs. Allen’s departure?
    Mrs. Allen’s numbers add up. Mrs. Gardner sounds like she is engaging in double talk to cover up for herself and her friends from Springfield. But in the end it boils down to the responsibility of the four members of the school committee (McLoughlin, Donovan, Quinney and Congdon) who were willing dupes of Buzz and the rest of this crew. They got rid of Woodruff and once Dr. Dominko was gone they ran the show. The incompetence goes so deep there is no question that the state has to step in and clean out this infection and put the district back on the right track.

    1. McLoughlin, Donovan, Congdon, and Quinney - "The buck stops there."
      You four own it. Unfortunately, the students paid.

  9. Well word on the street has it tomorrow night's meeting is to deal with Amy Allen-Magnon. Does she still work there?
    Rats on a sinking ship - that's what this school committee is. Very BIG rats!

  10. Save our Schools --SOSOctober 6, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    It is a simple case of Rats eating their own. Amy Allen Magnon was quite comfortable doing Buzz's bidding. She, along with Gardner turned that thoughtfully constructed temple of knowledge into a temple of doom for students and staff.

    Magnon thought that she was the heir apparent and set to be the next Queen of the Southbridge Schools, but in order to do so, she needed to have a successful principal-ship. This was especially the after her disastrous year at Wells Middle School. Buzz must have really greased her skids with plenty of promises for her to move aside for Gardner.

    As has been said before, Magnon's scorched earth policy was the cause of many great young teachers leaving the district. While not saying that she was not "sick" when she took her leave, but doesn't it seem a little conspicuous in that it happened right around MCAS time?

    Gardner, Magnon, Buzz, Gabroy, Cullen, and the Bobbleheads were banded together in an unholy kabal hoping against all hope that the MCAS scores would justify their actions. Well, we now know the results of that strategy.

    Now it is a fight for their reputations. As of now, Magnon is the only one with a halfway salvageable career because she moved on last year. As, for the rest, they are in a win or die mode. And, even if they win, the baggage they will carry will make it tough to get a job in public education again.


    2. It's a Case of ...October 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

      Garbage in ~ Garbage out.

  11. So much for the ABC's that we were promised two years ago when Donovan and McLoughlin ran for school committee. Who could forget the debates when Donovan preached that they would bring A=Accountability, B=Best Practices and C=Communication, well we are still waiting!!!!

    Superintendent-No search for a new one, but we criticized the prior leadership for the search that was conducted as their friend and I don't mean Bill Bishop, I mean the one that they wanted and was being pushed by the Commissioner of Education Chester....where is that gentleman now, is he a Superintendent anywhere....and then what we had a Level 1 High School under Bill Bishop and now what, we have students in danger as the tests were not given out properly!!! Let's wait to see what happens with the accreditation process...they cant get MCAS right and i am sure that will be a fiasco....what a mess. But you know what? The people wanted change and they got their change and now they are fleeing from the district!!!


    2. How's that "A,B,C's" thing working out?October 6, 2014 at 7:53 PM

      Donovan's and McLoughlin's "A, B, and C's" -
      "A" = Accountability: 2013 & 2014 MCAS Worse scores ever, including 59% of Grade 8 student failing math (do they teach math in grade 8?). Who has been held "Accountable?"
      Student Handbook Presentation (Day before 2014-15 school year began - deplorable content and presentation). Who has been held "Accountable?" "Did we, or didn't we give the 2013-14 MCAS retakes? Who has been held "Accountable?"
      Massive unemployment expenses, lost arbitration costs, legal fees to lose these cases, massive student/staff departures, etc. Who has been held "Accountable?"
      Donovan stated, "Do your job, and do it well." Why" No one is EVER held accountable by this leadership team!

      Best Practices? Stop It! Did Donovan and McLoughlin read that little cutesy tag someplace? Here are their idea of "Best Practices:
      Search Committees - Nice in the Policy Handbook, but we're too smart for such things;
      Approve Student Handbooks - We'll vote the night before school starts. Hell, we don't even have to read those stupid things to vote "Yee
      Ha" on them.
      Administer MCAS retests - Yea, maybe we did, maybe we didn't. But we definately didn't waste none of dat dare time on writing dem EPPs things. Who needs dem tings, we R all knowing;
      Give $27,000 to a Buzz to answer his phone every now and then to answer questions that a REAL superintendent would know the answers to. (That' a real BEST PRACTICE!).

      Community Invlivement '
      Hold "Emergency" school committee meetings at the old high school, without TV coverage;
      Don't bother to post the school committee meetings on the school web site;
      Vote on Student Handbooks the night before school starts (Not important that parents know what time school starts at the various buildings.

      I could go on and on, but why?

      These two incompetents rolled into office with lies and BS. Their incompetence hurt students, staff, taxpayers, and the community as a whole.
      Hey, they got my vote in June. I won't to vote with the ignorant majority - after all it's a contest as to who can lie the best.

  12. Where is the agenda for tonite's meeting of the committee of the whole or tomorrow night's SC meeting. They aren't on the SC web pages.

    1. Story Straightening TimeOctober 6, 2014 at 4:12 PM

      Tonight's agenda has a single purpose: get their stories straight about how best to assail Amy Allen and make her the scape goat.
      Amy had two bosses during her brief tenure at SHS - Gardner and Buzz.

  13. This foolishness has gone on too long. Students, parents and families are left hanging in the balance. Too many unanswered, serious questions. We are looking to . . .
    A school committee that lacks any community confidence or credibility;
    A town council that appears to not know there is a school system in massive chaos and breakdown;
    A Dept. of Education that is still trying to get over their unwavering support of Eric Ely to serve as Superintendent; then doubling down with the same support for Nembirkow;
    Any massive bills for this continued failure.

  14. "Believe it or Not" - 7:00 PM TonightOctober 7, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Well the girls pulled another one of their "transparency" moves. Last night's school committee meeting wasn't reported on in today's Telegram. No TV coverage by local cable.
    No published agenda.

    What do you suppose they talked about? My bet is they will have a BS story for us at tonight's regular school committee meeting. Further money on them putting the entire blame for the MCAS retest debacle squarely on Amy Allen-Magnon.

    McLoughlin will present the statement, Donovan will offer up some crocodile tears, and the other five stooges will walk in lock-step with the party line. So get your popcorn popped and jump into your pajamas for the 7:00 PM McLoughlin and Company's "Believe it or Not."

    But everyone is "working really, really hard!"

    1. Regular SC meeting is not 'til next week.

    2. Bobbing and WeavingOctober 7, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Oh, by next week what a tale will have been woven by the Bobbleheads. They will be a bobbing those heads like the guys in the movie, A Night at the Roxy.

  15. Conflict of InterestOctober 7, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Maybe someone needs to contact the State Board of Ethics. Seems like the cable access director might have a conflict of interest because he also works for the schools.

  16. Some times I wonder what wonderful things this community could have done for it's Police Station/Fire Station & Down Town Appearance if it wasn't for that wasted $$$$.

    Makes a soul cry.

  17. The average person maynot understand just how easy this is for the school district to give you an answer to...and they are NOT!!! As a previous school employee and someone who had access to this data, let me explain. Every current adminstrator in the Southbridge Public schools can access the MCAS data warehouse and run a simple query on the Grade 10, 2013 results and see who failed which tests. They can also see what retake results came from November 2013 and March 2014 retakes. Why won't they publish these results? You don't have to list names.... just list them as Student 1, Student 2, ect. but clear up the issue!!! It would take you a simple 5 minutes at the computer. Furthermore, all student MCAS information used to be uploaded into iPASS as soon as it was available in the Southbridge public schools. All highschool teachers should look up right now and see if their students have a passing 2013 Math and English MCAS score, if there was a failure and no subsequent score, then there was either no test or not follow up and/or posting of it. Any of these scenarios are not in acceptable. This is easy and quick to clear up but it is not being done. If there was only a way that the people of Southbridge could demand Pat Gardner to log onto the Data Warehouse at a public meeting and query these results in front of a camera, you would have your answers. It IS that simple.

  18. Teaching Pioneer PrideOctober 11, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    MCAS is the responsibility of each building principal. Look at any of the MCAS Manuals and that is clearly stated. It seems to me the only ones interested in this MCAS Story, which has been explained ad nauseam is the five people who respond to this blog whose sheer purpose it seems is to protect Ms. Allen on this issue and to create hateful speech. Having taught here for years, I can tell you that this is the best start of any year that I remember. Try supporting this administration. This administration is supporting teachers and students. We like our central office now. We don't want another upheaval.

    It seems like when no one responds to a story you start a new one to try and create a new drama. I notice the three pathetic responses to Becky's story.

    What happened at the high school is that a new principal and guidance staff found abnormalities and probably spoke too soon. The numbers of students not tested and the numbers of students without EPPs were reverse. End of story. Ms. Gardner unlike other administrators is not name calling or throwing blame around. She is trying very hard to move forward, which is what this district needs. If Mr. Page and Ms. Allen care about this district, they will let the progress continue.

    Under Ms. Allen’s leadership, some good things happened but much did not. The EPPs quite frankly weren't done and she was absent more than present, Period. You cannot go back.

    If you want someone's head on plate for last year, it's Ms. Allen. If you want who presented the wrong numbers this year for lasts years error, it's Ms. Earls and guidance.

    Quite frankly most teachers don't read this blog and I generally don't either, but someone told me that there was continual things about Ms. Gardner and central office on here.

    Ken, why don't you visit the high school? Why don't you ask some teachers about this year? Parents? Principals? Oh That’s because you would have the truth and your make believe spinning would be over.

    I won't put my name because I have children and you would be retaliatory. Shame on you, Ken. You've never represented Southbridge well and for those of you who have lived here long enough, you know what I mean.

    1. It's been one fiasco after another for the past two years. How many superintendents ( permanent or acting)? How many principals (permanent or acting) ? How many guidance counselors? How many teachers/staff ? How many new central office positions? How many paid leaves? How much unemployment dollars? How any lost arbitrations? How many law suits ? How much money on legal fees?

      "Teaching Pioneer Pride,". You, for whatever reason, are looking at this district through rose colored glasses.

      The students, parents, staff and community deserve better.


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