NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Should Have Access to Student Records?

January 26, 2012

Since "No Child Left Behind" was passed 10 years ago, states have been required to ramp up the amount of data they collect about individual students, teachers and schools.  Personal information, including test scores, economic status, grades and disciplinary problems are tracked and stored in a kind of virtual "permanent record" for each student, says U.S. News & World Report.

Education officials, such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, tout the importance of recordkeeping on a number of levels.  Duncan argues that student records displaying academic performance can be used to evaluate teachers over time and estimate their contribution to education outcomes.  Additionally, former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee put forth that the same information can be used to create a competitive atmosphere between students that will improve educational outcomes.

However, what varies significantly from state to state and has become the more controversial component of this recordkeeping is the breadth of access to this information.

  • All 50 states and Washington, D.C., collect long term, individualized data on students' performance.
  • Forty allow principals to access the data, while 28 provide student-level info to teachers.
  • Despite this, only eight states allow parents access to their child's permanent record.

Privacy advocates have decried the comprehensiveness of the record, which they argue delves into areas of a student's life far exceeding the limits of educational success.

  • According to a 2009 report by the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, some states store student's Social Security numbers, family financial information and student pregnancy data.
  • Additionally, nearly half of states track students' mental health issues, illnesses and jail sentences.
  • Advocates emphasize that this information can be released to other schools in which a student is enrolling, but because parents often have no means of seeing its contents, they do not know what information is being shared.

Source: Jason Koebler, "Who Should Have Access to Student Records?" U.S. News & World Report, January 19, 2012.

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