Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester Dead at 65

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced on Tuesday that Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester passed away on Monday night after a fight with cancer. He was 65.

Chester began his career as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut and later served as a middle school assistant principal and district curriculum coordinator. From there he moved to the Connecticut State Department of Education, where he oversaw curriculum and instructional programs. In 1997, he was named the executive director for accountability and assessment for Philadelphia. In 2001, he moved to Ohio, where he served as the senior associate superintendent for policy and accountability for the Ohio Department of Education. He was named Massachusetts’ education commissioner in 2008.

Chester was a proponent of the Common Core State Standards. He also chaired the PARCC Board of Governors until the state pulled back to create a PARCC-MCAS hybrid assessment.

“On behalf of the entire administration, Lieutenant Governor Polito and I extend our deepest condolences to Commissioner Chester’s family, friends and colleagues at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education during this difficult time,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said. “Commissioner Chester was a dedicated educator and accomplished public servant. His leadership improved the lives of thousands of the Commonwealth’s students and helped make our public school system a national leader. He will be terribly missed by all.”

“Mitchell Chester was proud of the Commonwealth’s strong education system and dedicated to spreading that strength to all students, whether they lived in Lawrence or the Berkshires,” Education Secretary James Peyser stated. “He will be sorely missed.”

“Mitchell brought his tremendous intellect, a listening ear, and his concern for students to the work of the Board and the Department,” Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Paul Sagan stated. “The strength and dedication of his team reflects his strength and passion as a leader, and his passing is a loss for Massachusetts.”

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education named Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson acting commissioner.