Report Examines Irregularities on MCAS Tests at Several Mass. Schools, Including Eliot in Boston’s North End

Eliot K-8 Innovation School on Charter Street in Boston’s North End (NEWF image)

MCAS test irregularities were reported this week at several Massachusetts schools, including the Eliot K-8 Innovation School in Boston’s North End. At the Eliot, an unusually high number of answers were erased and changed from incorrect to correct on the important standardized test, according to a report by WCVB TV5 Investigates.

The State concluded it “was unable to determine the causeof the unusually high rate of erasure marks on some answers, said Rich Weir, Communications Director for Boston Public Schools in response to an inquiry from The multi-year review was completed in November 2015 and questioned 2014 MCAS results “for a small group of students at the Eliot,” according to Weir.

The MCAS test scores in question were subsequently invalidated after being reviewed by the State. The Eliot School is often hailed for its high MCAS test scores, used as a key measure to gauge school quality.

The pressure on schools to increase MCAS scores is highlighted in the WCVB report. In one case, a 14 year old student from Hanson Middle School committed suicide after his answers were questioned and called an “embarrassment” by school officials. “Teachers or proctors have changed answers in answer books or have directed students to change answers,” said Jeff Wulfson, deputy commissioner at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in response to the report. A planned move to electronic testing will make it more difficult for schools to inappropriately influence MCAS test answers.

11/4/2016 update: This post was modified to reflect Boston Public Schools response with details of the review dates and that the State was unable to determine the cause of the unusually high rate of erasure marks. For that reason, the word “cheating” was also changed to “irregularities.”

22 Replies to “Report Examines Irregularities on MCAS Tests at Several Mass. Schools, Including Eliot in Boston’s North End

  1. Teaching is no longer about learning. It has become nothing more than getting students to score high on tests, and its ruining our schools. So sorry to see this.

  2. This school is accused of cheating on the mcas every couple years… maybe it’s time for some new faculty

  3. Now I guess we know why the Elliot school “is often hailed for it’s high MCAS test scores” When I went to the Elliot teachers would punish students for cheating.

  4. The incident was in 2013. It was looked into and found to be without merit. I don’t understand why it’s coming up again now.

    The Eliot School is an amazing community and my family is lucky to be a part of it. The school is full of dedicated faculty and staff. Besides strong academics, moral principles highlighted in our guiding principles permeate every day.

    Cheating did not happen.

    1. Jenn you live in the Eliot School family council bubble. It’s ok. Your passion is appreciated. But your borderline obnoxious regarding all things Eliot School related! The Eliot school has become the most political entity in this neighborhood. It’s sad. The power vacuum that most parents have created and the process of trying to gain favor with the principal to get your child enrolled. It’s not a coincidence that those who can afford to write the big checks also had no problem getting their child into the school. I know exactly how the waiting list there is manipulated for the connected and most important to people like you the affluent residents of this neighborhood. The “irregularities” dont make me think any different of the teachers there or even the principal. The pressure created from these tests cause school administrators and teacher to work under extreme pressure. What offends me is the lack of access for all! After the lottery system it’s all about getting the right kids enrolled to keep test scores up and the school bank account nice and fat. The school has turned into an elite club that doesn’t always make everyone feel a part of. But hey! I’d do ANYTHING for my child too!
      Thanks for keeping us informed Matt!

      Warm Regards
      An Eliot School Parent who can’t afford the $250 fundraisers you guys have!

      1. North End parent, I appreciate your honesty. I know several families in the same position as your family. It is unfortunate that it does seem the this school has become a political entity and a bit elitist. I hope the future brings less high-stakes testing which might reduce the pressure on the the staff, but more importantly reduce the pressure on these kids. I agree access for all should be a given. How many families can afford a $250 plate fundraiser?

        1. I am completely lost by this string and the anonymous post by “North End parent,” calling Jennifer “obnoxious.” Why do that? Is that the purpose of this site? [I think the answers are “because the post is anonymous, so you could” and “no, that’s not the purpose of this site.”]

          Yes, Jennifer helps with fundraising at the Eliot. To be clear, these funds go to the entire school, not some elitist committee meant to increase the school’s power or to manipulate the waiting list or wherever else your vitriol is directed. This fundraising takes a lot of time and is important for the school because it, as all public schools, is short on funds. But many families find many ways to contribute to the Eliot with more than $ and unrelated to dinner fundraisers. I think it’s great if you do that. But, again, I don’t have the slightest idea why you think it’s ok to denigrate someone who contributes differently/on top of that…

          Perhaps to the substance? Testing at schools these days is very tricky, including at the Eliot. Jennifer and I regularly discuss whether there is too much testing, too much focus on a particular test, etc. But this is a conversation happening around the country. Frankly, it sounds like the “North End Grandparent” responder is thinking about testing the same way. e.g., Is it too much? What happened to lead to this horrible situation at Hanson Middle School? I have no idea how you conflate this important ongoing discussion with elitism.

          Jennifer’s post was meant to point out that the recently reported allegations had been debunked. That’s not a bubble — it’s just a fact. And the fact that it was debunked does not mean that testing is not a concern. Like the North End Grandparent responder, this is something on which we should all focus on, discuss, etc. It’s hard. And a stress on all parents. Being rude to each other doesn’t make it any easier…

          Art McGivern (Jennifer’s husband

  5. I’m shocked and saddened to hear that a 14 year old middle schooler committed suicide over the MCAS, prayers goes out to his family. I’m a Senior at Snowden International High School on Newbury Street (Clarendon Street for more room at the Y building aka Hotel 140). I’ve always struggled with the MCAS and I hate it a lot !!!. I also attended the Eliot as a little kid and I’m not surprised to hear of cheating with the scores. Even if this was actually from 2013.

  6. Great school, great principal, great teachers. Doubt it held up as Jennifer said. Should do away with the MCAS. Hate this kind of testing… unfair to kids who do not test well… Teaching has become all about the TEST and from what I hear, teachers hate it! 40years in the classroom and dreaded testing week every year!!!
    Eliot is one of Boston’s top schools…do not start trashing it!!!!

  7. People can say whatever they please. This school has been caught cheating the mcas scores on more than one occasion. It’s a shame that the students have to suffer because of faculty members who have no morals. Change needs to come. There are only 2 schools in this neighborhood. Families who can’t afford catholic schools shouldn’t have to send their children somewhere where they have to worry about them being taught to be dishonest. SHAME on whoever is responsible!!

    1. Peter: Have you ever walked through the Eliot School? Did you see how hard the teachers work, and how difficult it is to be hired there. Did you read the posts from the TEACHERS who say cheating didn’t happen. The Eliot School is outstanding, and knowing the principal, she would NEVER lay the groundwork for this cheating. Try to know better what you are judging. You really think the Eliot teaches students to be dishonest? Good heavens, you are way off target.

      1. So it must be just a coincidence that they have been accused of cheating multiple times? Someone must just have something against the Eliot and they keep making rumors of them cheating!! Wake up!!

      2. Let’s say they are “irregular” and not above suspicion. It sounds like they have been investigated to see whether they are cheating or not and the result is inconclusive.

        I have always felt that it is up to the parent to determine whether their child is being properly educated. Most of their future derives from lessons learned in the home. The reason that there is an MCAS system in the first place is because there were too many students entering high school unable to read at the first grade level. Before there was MCAS, some high school teachers were giving quizzes to their freshman to assess their level and yes the quizzes began at the 1st grade level. Many failed. High school diplomas were becoming meaningless because the students were passed through since they were hopeless in the first place. MCAS is meant to assess and entire school system. On the individual level, there is too much pressure on the teacher to deal with problems that stem from home life. And from what I hear there is too little support for teachers coming from administration. My feeling is that a systemic problem isn’t a teacher problem as much as a municipal problem. It’s just easier for politicians to blame an entire population of teachers than to take any blame on themselves.

    2. Peter – what is your evidence for your statement “this school has been accused of cheating MULTIPLE times”? There is one known irregularity over several years. The purpose of the investigation was to identify the problem and to fix it. We should not and DO NOT tolerate inappropriate behavior of any sort, and strive to teach our children to be responsible, caring and fair. Inflammatory and baseless accusations have no place in concerted discourse and appropriate actions towards bettering our schools and community.

  8. Hi folks,
    Just to clarify, this post was updated to reflect Boston Public Schools response with details that this was a multi-year review completed in November 2015. The Eliot results in question were from the 2014 MCAS tests. The State review found an unusually high rate of erasure marks with answers changed from incorrect to correct, but could not determine the cause. For that reason, the word “cheating” was changed to “irregularities” in the post, along with details provided by BPS.
    Thanks, Matt

  9. This is all such a shame. I don’t really blame the Eliot but rather the intense pressure we as a society have put on our children.

  10. So because the State was unable to determine the cause of the unusually high number of erasure marks on answers CHANGED FROM INCORRECT TO CORRECT the word “cheating” was changed to “irregularities” That’s like saying the person who broke into your home or apt. wasn’t a burglar but was an “uninvited guest”

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