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Embattled Mystic Valley Regional Charter School reported wrong data to state

Mystic Valley Regional Charter School recently faced criticism for banning certain hairstyles.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/File 2017

A Malden charter school that recently faced criticism for banning certain hairstyles reported erroneous information to regulators about the number of students who left during the academic year, according to state education officials.

The data from Mystic Valley Regional Charter School cast a negative light on the school and made it appear — errantly — that many students had given up and left.

Schools report a mountain of student data to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education each year, information that is not audited by regulators, according to department spokeswoman Jacqueline Reis. Much of the information is then posted to the agency’s website.


But before it is publicly released, the data are sent back to each school to make sure they are accurate, Reis said.

Yet neither regulators nor administrators from Mystic Valley caught the mistaken information regarding the 2014 school year in the Malden district, which has been posted on the state’s website for two years.

The Globe used this information in a June 18 story about Mystic Valley’s track record of serving students who are disabled, have extra needs, or are low income. The story included an analysis of the percentage of these students who have stayed at Mystic Valley during the past five years.

One of those years — 2014 — included the problematic data, known as stability rates. The school reported to state regulators that approximately 25 percent of students left during 2014. The rate of departure reported by Mystic Valley during other years ranged from approximately 2 to about 5 percent.

It was after the Globe’s story appeared that Mystic Valley administrators acknowledged to the state that the 2014 figure was wrong.

The error happened the same year Mystic Valley adopted a new computer system, but it remains unclear whether that contributed to the mistake.


Mystic Valley’s error made it appear the school had among the worst stability rates of the six nearby communities.

The charter school made national news in May when some parents accused administrators of discriminatory policies toward black and biracial students. The school’s dress code prohibits extensions — additional hair that is woven in — citing them as an example of a style that is “distracting” to other students. It also bans hair that is “more than 2 inches in thickness or height,” an apparent reference to Afros most likely to be worn by black students, according to state Attorney General Maura Healey.

Healey directed Mystic Valley in May to immediately stop punishing black and biracial students for wearing hairstyles the school said violate its dress code. She said the school’s hair and makeup policy violates state and federal law “by subjecting students of color, especially black students, to differential treatment and thus denying them the same advantages and privileges of public education afforded to other students.”

School administrators said they would work with Healey’s office during the summer to review the dress code.

Administrators also said they are working to correct the erroneous data regarding student stability rates reported to state regulators.

Alexander Dan, Mystic’s interim school director, said in a written statement on June 21 the school would correct the numbers.

“Ironically, Mystic Valley probably had its strongest year in school history for stability” in 2014, Dan wrote. “Based on our own initial research, our stability rate was 98.94 percent.”


As of Friday, the school had not released the corrected data, and on Saturday the erroneous data were still posted on the state’s website.

Kay Lazar can be reached at kay.lazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@GlobeKayLazar.