Data-driven, achievement gap, and equity, are but a few of the catch phrases that litter the landscape of public education today. Yet, there is little consensus or complete understanding of any or all of these terms. When it comes to the data, a public school system acquires on your child, the picture becomes murkier.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Schools must provide parents an annual notification their rights under FERPA. Have you received such a notification?
According to the USDE, “FERPA also gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records, as long as they are under 18 and don’t attend a school beyond the high school level. They have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.”
When David A. Thomas and Stacey M. Childress of Harvard Business School, wrote a book about the public school system in Montgomery County, Md., the Harvard Gazette reported that Thomas recalled “[Superintendent Jerry D.] Weast made us an offer that was hard to refuse”: providing the authors“full access to the schools’ data and materials.”
Which makes one wonder, what safety mechanisms were in place to ensure the “full access to the schools’ data and materials,” didn’t violate the rights of our children? How does a parent go about verifying the accuracy of the data Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) may be acquiring?
The scope of the data is indeed breathtaking. According to the MCPS Bulletin of September 8, 2003, “at the high school level, measures include SSA Academic Attainment, Scholastic Aptitude Test, countywide final exams (algebra 1; geometry; biology; English 9; and national, state and local government), and ninth grade leading indicators. Middle school measures include the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS), California Achievement Test and the Maryland Functional Tests in reading, math and writing. The CTBS is the measure reported at the elementary school level.”
The picture that accompanies this article is from the fifth-slide of a presentation apparently made by Mr. Martin Creel, to the Board of Education, Policy Committee, on July 21, 2009. The areas redacted by this column were visible in the original presentation. It is unknown if the student names, visible in the original, were real.
In the next segment, we will delve further into this issue.