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Charter School Appeals Decision

By Jim Cline

MALDEN, Mass. (WGGB) — In January, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education revoked the charter of the Robert M. Hughes Academy Public Charter School in Springfield. 

The 11-member vote was unanimous, and on the recommendation of Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who noted there had been mismanagement at the school for a decade and there was a Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test cheating scandal in the spring.  

The school has appealed that decision and hearings, which are scheduled to run two weeks, began on Monday. Katherine Viator, the director of Student Assessment for the DESE, testified that when she looked at the results of the Hughes MCAS, something was not quite right. 

They weren’t believable. She recommended to the commissioner those results be suppressed until there was an investigation.  

The gains from 2008 to 2009 were astronomical. There were one in 10 million odds that it would happen. Two teachers provided information in the investigation that there had allegedly been cheating. Teachers had copies of the tests, which is not allowed.

They had allegedly used them to help the students, which is also not allowed. They even allegedly had answers written on the blackboard.  

The results of the tests were permanently invalidated, and the new principal was notified that the state would administer the tests in the spring. 

Hughes Academy officials are hopeful they can have the revocation reversed.  There have been some changes. The old principal, Janet Henry, has been fired.  Another school administrator, Fred Swan, who was a convicted felon when he was hired, has also left. 

Testimony had been scheduled to conclude April 9.