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Rebuffed, O.C.R. Officials Still Seek Ohio Test Scores

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In the face of state resistance, federal civil-rights officials are pressing efforts to obtain 1.6 million student-test scores as part of a review of Ohio's high school graduation examination.

A spokesman of the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights said last week that the Ohio review was continuing and that no timetable had been set for the investigation, which began in March.

Federal officials had initially indicated that they hoped to conclude their review before graduation, which has already taken place in most Ohio districts. (See Education Week, April 6, 1994.)

Federal investigators plan to focus on whether schools across the state provide educational opportunities that would allow all students to pass the required 9th-grade-proficiency test in reading, writing, mathematics, and citizenship before they finish high school.

Ohio officials announced this month that 97 percent of 113,000 seniors this year had passed the test in time for commencement. The remaining 3,200 students--all but 400 of whom need only to pass the math part of the test--can continue to take the test until they pass.

Privacy Concerns Cited

Yet, as state officials attempted to highlight the results, they also began taking a harder line toward the federal probe.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Ted Sanders told Gov. George Voinovich and legislative leaders that he would not provide the student records being sought by the civil-rights investigators because of concerns over student privacy.

In their initial request, lawyers for the O.C.R. asked for students' names, races, language status, national origins, test scores, and the names of the schools and districts where they attended classes.

Federal officials have indicated that they are reconsidering the original request and are optimistic that they can obtain the individual information.

"There are ways that it can be provided without personal identifiers,'' a spokesman said.

State officials, meanwhile, said they believe federal officials should be able to pass judgment on the test based on the data that have already been provided, including aggregate test results for every Ohio district.

Ohio officials were able to produce dropout statistics from the past decade based on a wide range of student characteristics.

The state has asked for clarification, however, of an O.C.R. request for information on school services in 13 urban districts, saying the request was too broad.

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