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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Education Board Votes to Revoke Robert M. Hughes Charter

School Has Right to Appeal Decision; Closing Would Occur at End of Current Year

MALDEN - The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to revoke the charter of the Robert M. Hughes Academy (RMH) Charter School in Springfield, citing the school's failure to meet conditions imposed by the Board in January 2009 and solid evidence of pervasive, widespread cheating by adults in the school on the 2009 MCAS tests.

The Board will officially notify the charter school in writing of its intent to revoke. Once officially notified, the school's board of trustees has the right to request an administrative hearing on the revocation within 15 days. The charter will be revoked as of June 30, 2010, allowing parents time to find placements for their children within the Springfield Public Schools, a different charter school, or elsewhere.

"The school's lingering governance problems, overall low performance, and the recent discovery of widespread cheating at the school forced the Board's hand in this matter," said Board Chair Maura Banta. "It is never easy to close a school, but this decision was in the best interest of the students involved."

"I take no joy in bringing this recommendation to the Board," said Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester. "But between the history of governance and academic performance concerns, and now, widespread cheating, I believe that the Board of Trustees and the school management have systematically failed the students of this school."

If the school's board of trustees requests a hearing, one will be held before an impartial hearing officer who will provide a recommendation for a final vote to the Board. If a hearing is not requested within 15 days, the Board's revocation vote will become final.

The Springfield-based charter school opened in 1999 and now serves approximately 185 students in grades K-8. The school's charter was renewed in February 2004 with five conditions, including one for academic concerns and four regarding continuing issues related to the governance and financial management of the school. The school received a second renewal in January 2009 with conditions, including demonstrating academic success by achieving growth in student achievement based on standards set by the Department or by making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2009 and 2010; and that the school comply with term limits and the minimum number of board members as stated in the school's bylaws, with appropriate expertise in education and finance.

The Department began investigating allegations of cheating at RMH last fall. Investigators have since learned that RMH employees, including administrators and staff, had engaged in widespread activities that ranged from violations of the MCAS test security requirements to intentional and orchestrated cheating. The Department subsequently invalidated the school's 2009 MCAS scores, which means that the school cannot meet the academic performance renewal condition imposed by the Board in January 2009, which required that the school make Adequate Yearly Progress in 2009 and 2010.

This is the fourth time the Board has voted to revoke an operating charter school's charter. The other schools are Uphams Corner Charter School (2009), Roxbury Charter High School (2005), and Youth Build Boston Charter School (1997). The Board has also voted to not renew the charters of the Frederick Douglas Charter School and the Lynn Community Charter School.

Last Updated: January 27, 2010
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