Former Charter School Principal Pleads Guilty in Connection to MCAS Cheating
BOSTON—A former Springfield charter school principal pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to a federal felony in connection with assisting students to cheat on the MCAS.
Janet Henry, 42, pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with committing mail fraud. U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for Jan. 8, 2015.
According to the Information, in 2009 Henry became Principal of the Robert M. Hughes Academy Charter School in Springfield. In March and April 2009, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests were administered to the student body during which time Henry instructed teachers to give clues and other tips to students. For example, if teachers saw students entering nonsense answers, then they were to tell students to review their answers again. During preparation meetings, Henry stated to teachers that “this is where we earn our money,” and warned that the school could close or everyone would lose their jobs, if the test scores were not satisfactory. According to the statement of fact filed in the case, Henry was acting under the pressure form a member of the charter school’s board of directors.
On April 16, 2009, upon the completion of the MCAS examinations, Henry falsely certified that the tests had been administered honestly.
The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Brian M. Hickey, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region, and Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin O’Regan of Ortiz’s Springfield Office.