Those heavily redacted school documents (updated)

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

On Thursday evening the state’s Department of Education responded to a Worcester Mag records request looking for any documentation used in investigating MCAS violations at the Goddard School of Science and Technology and Belmont Street Community School.

So far, the DOE’s answer has been very, very underwhelming.

The documents provided only pertained to Belmont Street Community school (after inquiring about the Goddard results, a spokesman said they’ll come later this week) and were heavily redacted, with the DOE arguing:

Significant portions of these records are made exempt both by the Investigatory Exemption to the public records law (G.L. c. 4, §7(26)(f)) as well as the Privacy Exemption (G.L. c. 4, §7(26)(c)) which covers disciplinary records upon which employment decisions could be made. In order to preserve the security of MCAS testing, the integrity of MCAS results, and the confidentiality of techniques and the identities of people implicated in the investigation, the Department must keep private those portions of the responsive documents that the Public Records Law exempts.

The two documents provided were a letter sent from WPS chief academic officer Jeffrey Mulqueen to a redacted person (really? I can’t even get the name of who the letter was addressed to?) on August 17, 2010 and an email from the following day between Mulqueen and the state’s National Assessment of Educational Progress Coordinator Rebecca Bennett (he refers to her as “Roberta” in the letter to the redacted address).

While half the text is blacked out in both letters, there are some revelations.

In the first letter, Mulqueen writes about the tip that sparked debate over MCAS proctoring at Belmont St., writing


He goes on to say that two issues were reported and followed up on during WPS’ investigation, but what those two issues were are blacked out.

Towards the end of the letter though, we might have gotten a hint regarding what triggered the anonymous email:

For those who may not know, the “script” is a passage detailing rules, information and instructions that the MCAS proctor reads to students right before they begin the exam.

In the post-investigation  email between Mulqueen and Bennett, the only un-redacted passage worth scrutiny was a quick “Worcester can benefit from systematic supports to ensure regulations are carried out for the administration of MCAS.” (It sounds like the “investigation” was really just a “phone call.”) This may have been foreshadowing for WPS plans to retrain teachers and principals in MCAS administration and to have district employees proctor the exam at Goddard next year.

School committee members Tracy Novick and Dianna Biancheria have received their own records request response from Boone.

We’re going to keep pressing for more information and we’re still waiting on whatever documents the district sent the state in regards to Goddard.

Update:

Below are screen shots showing the redactions. You can read the full letter here.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Those heavily redacted school documents (updated)

  1. -Q

    This is a complete and unmitigated disgrace. That 4 elected school committee members have decided that the parents of school children, residents and taxpayers have absolutely no right to access pertinent information that our tax dollars have paid for is inexcusable.
    The 4 committee members led by Lying Joe O’Brien include monfredo, foley and mullaney…..one is an out and out liar and I would expect no less from that person, 2 of them I have always voted for and will seriously reconsider those votes in the upcomming election and the other one is about as phony as they come – he would have you believe “it’s all about the children”…..when his actions are anything but….
    As taxpayers and residents of this city that pays the bills to operate the school and municipal side of our government, we have every right and expectation that our elected and appointed officials are accountable to us
    and will not hide behind a wall of silence………

  2. W. W. Will

    A right you say? Gee, what planet do you live on Stevie?

    The SC has no legal obligation to release any information to the public. And why should they start now? Because a single fool like you wants it? Start a petition to change the rules dude. That oughta keep ya busy for a lifetime.

    For you to trump up this nonsense is an “unmitigated disgrace”, is well, an unmitigated heap of gobbledygook.

    It would be greatly appreciated if you would hide behind a wall of silence Stevie. You’re just making an unmitigated ass of yourself.

  3. Brad Wyatt

    Elections and politicians may come and go, but I applaud the school committee members who requested transparency to help fix the process, and shame on the administration for hindering, not helping, to improve the education process.

  4. -Q

    Jeremy its obvious you did not apply for a freedom of information request. You must have filed for a freedom of non-information request. And yet this is the typical disdain elected and appointed officials in our city have for the taxpaying public…………….

  5. Jose

    Mr Quist, maybe you should read a little closer.
    WoMag filed a FOIA request with the STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. The documents that were provide here are documents from the STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. Any vitriol you have regarding the documentation provided should be directed at the STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.

    The only people who have this information are the School administration (the superintendent and co) and the DOE. The School Committee doesn’t have it, or Novick and Biancheria wouldn’t have had to file their own FOIA request (I believe they filed theirs to the school administration, not the DOE).

    You can take the majority of the committee to task for not requesting the information, (or pushing for a more though investigation) but you can’t take them to task for not releasing it.

  6. -Q

    Absolutely no vitriol (lmao) involved just looking for ALL of the facts.
    your quote:
    “the only people who have this information are the School Administration (the superintendent and co)”
    And if you followed the topic closely Jose, you would have realized 4 members of the school committee led by “lyin mayor obrien” chose not to compel the Superintendent to release this information that the public, taxpayers, families and residents have every right to see.
    There was a school committee vote to release the requested information and the vote was 4-3 against the public having a right to know what happened at this particular school.

  7. Jose

    Mr Quist-
    I used the word vitriol, I think correctly. You can ask for information without calling names. Whatever you feel about certain school committee or City Council members, your commentary does not actually contribute to resolving the actual issues. You seem to be very fond of looking for “facts”, but enjoy expressing opinions. How informed those opinions are, I’ll leave for those who hear them to decide.

    And for the record- I do agree that all this information should come out, and that Novick, Binacheria, and O’Connell are doing the right thing.

    I assure you that I have followed this very closely.

    There were a few votes at the School committee meeting. (From the agenda here: http://worcesterschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=208578)
    1)” Request that a comprehensive investigation be conducted as to the circumstances leading to invalidation of the 2010 MCAS results at the Goddard School of Science and Technology.”
    2) The motion to suspend the rules so the vote could not come up again.
    3) The vote to reconsider the previous vote, to “finalize” it.
    4) I don’t have the exact wording, but there was a vote that the School Committee request the data related to the DOE investigation of the Goddard from the Education Commissioner.
    5) The motion to suspend the rules so the vote could not come up again.
    6) The vote to reconsider the previous vote, to “finalize” it.
    7) “Request that the Administration provide a full accounting of the internal investigation into the 2010 MCAS testing at Belmont Street Community School.”
    8) The motion to suspend the rules so the vote could not come up again.
    9) The vote to reconsider the previous vote, to “finalize” it.

    All votes (except the “reconsider” votes) were the same 4-3 votes.

    One of those votes was to conduct additional investigation into Goddard. (It didn’t say who would be doing the investigation, or whether the investigation would be public)
    One of those votes was request the DOE supply the School committed with the info around the investigation. (Again, it’s unclear that even if they did get the information, how much of it would be allowed to be made public)
    Only one of those votes requested information from the Superintendent (related to Belmont).

    There was not a single vote to release information to the public. That may have been the end result of some of these votes, but it is not guaranteed, even if these votes had passed.

  8. Jose

    Don’t know how that smiley got there. Sorry.

  9. Tracy Novick

    Jose,
    Miss Biancheria and I filed with both the state and the district. We’ve been told the district needs more time; we have not yet heard back from the state.
    Under the open meeting law, unless it meets some pretty strict standards, information given to the school committee has to be done in public session. What couldn’t be public would be personnel records and discipline (‘though to a large extent that can’t be taken up in exec, either) or security issues. I’m trying to come up with any other ways in which it would have to be dealt with outside of public session, and I can’t think of any. I’d say it’s been the intention to have it be public.
    (Nice job on following those votes, by the way.)

  10. Jose

    Thanks for the clarification.
    I assumed (because of the amount of redactions in what the DOE provided) that if you received un-redacted documentation, it would have to be discussed in Executive session by the committee.

  11. Tracy Novick

    I will be impressed if mine are less redacted than WoMag’s, unfortunately.
    We also said in the request that we would be sharing them publicly, so WPS and DESE both know what we’re planning.

  12. -Q

    Vitriol – again you assumed incorrectly………….no vitriol whatsoever.
    Jose you do know what people say about people that assume?
    Calling people names? No jose calling a spade a spade.
    “Lyin Joe O’Brien” has rightfully earned that name himself when campaigning across the city for mayor/city council, in the various media outlets and speaking before neighborhood associations that he promised he would support the lowest residential tax rate if he was elected and when the time came to honor his committment he made to the voters – he voted against the homeowners and voted on the side of business owners……….:)

  13. Q–

    Lying Joe O’Brien is too good a term. I just call him “Useless” That’s it. There’s nothing else to be said.

    He applauds failure. It IS a disgrace. Period.

    It was pretty clear though when Joe was on jordan Levy about 3-4 weeks ago he was do everything he could to evade Jordan’s questions.

    All we ask of our elected excutives is to be honest with us on important matters. Instead we are getting a major smokescreen.

    Kudos to WoMag for following up on this story.

  14. -Q

    Taxpayers and residents in Worcester have every right to expect an open and transparent form of Government and that includes releasing state reports pertaining to our taxpayer financed school system no matter how much mayor lyin o’brien and his 3 cohorts want to restrict freedom of information that rightfully belongs in the open public domain.
    Lyin o’briens actions and those of his cohorts are as anti-American as one can be……….
    ElmPark:
    I have listened to lyin mayor obrien on various talk shows – he never answers a question posed to him and he will fillibuster until his time slot is over…….what you heard 3-4 weeks ago on Levy’s show is the regular script from our lyin mayor o’brien…………..lyin o’brien is a man willing to say anything and do anything to get elected to office regardless of how many promises he breaks and no matter how many people he hurts………..this man is a stain on our community and when including the previous mayor, Worcester has now lost 4 years of leadership that should be eminating from the Mayors chair. As D5 councilor so aptly described the current city council just last year “this a La La Land city council”. Well said Councilor Eddy (btw – please incl.yourself in that description councilor for your complete lack of representation of D5) and the way things are going on at the School committee we can use the same reference to describe the going-ons at their so called meetings………

  15. Will W. W.

    My God, its really true. Q really is the dumbest SOB in this here town.

    Q why don’t cha just quit pussyfootin around and challenge “Lyin Joe” to a showdown in front of City Hall. Or maybe arm-wrestling. Or a beer swilling contest.

    Better still, why dontcha run for mayor? And show us what ya got. Opps, its all here. Not much, but its there.

    You’re a product of the Wusta school system right? It shows.

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