Education Commissioner: MCAS Cheating Rare, Taken Seriously

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MCAS testing gets underway across the state this week. The high-stakes exam is an important measure for schools and students and a few are tempted to cheat.

Last year, an elementary school in Somerset reported scores far above those from the year before. While the state Department of Education wouldn't confirm whether there's an investigation underway, the results were suspicious, particularly the report of a 100 percent proficiency rate in third-grade math.

Despite there being only about 10 incidents of cheating reported each year, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester told Morning Edition Tuesday that each report is taken seriously.

“One of my greatest concerns on cheating is the message that students, it’s the example that is being set for students,” Chester said. “It not only sets a bad example, a terrible example for students, but it also sends a message to students about their own capability.”

Some may see the urge to cheat as a result of too much emphasis being put on MCAS results. Chester feels otherwise.

“If we’re doing our job well enough in schools, as the adults in the system, the teachers and the administrators, then students will be able to demonstrate what they learned through an assessment,” Chester said. “The MCAS is an excellent end-of-year assessment, one of, if not the best, state assessments nationally. The fact that cheating occurs in less than 1 percent of cases is a shame but it’s a reality that we’re dealing with.”

This program aired on March 22, 2011.

Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.



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