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Published in Print: October 14, 1998, as Business Group Urges Employers To Request High School Records

Business Group Urges Employers To Request High School Records

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A national business organization is stepping up a campaign to encourage employers to ask for high school records when hiring entry-level workers.

The National Alliance of Business hopes to have 10,000 employers adopt the idea by next July, the Washington-based nonprofit group announced at its annual conference here last week.

"It's not enough [for businesses] to stand up and say, 'Student achievement matters,'" said Amy Rogstad Guidera, the education project director for the NAB. By asking for school records, employers send a message to young people that "what you do in school counts for the rest of your life," she said.

Currently, only 2,400 employers ask job applicants to provide their school records, according to the NAB, which keeps a running tally based on information reported by business coalitions across the country.

For More Information:

Read "Hiring Smart: An Employer's Guide to Using School Records," from the National Alliance of Business. Or, to order copies call NAB at (800) 787-7788.

As part of its "Making Academics Count" campaign--begun quietly in July 1997--the group plans within the next two months to place advertisements promoting the policy in trade and business journals and business sections of newspapers.

The campaign is not prescriptive about what constitutes a "school record," leaving it up to communities to decide if it should include grades, a portfolio, a certificate, or another kind of report of student performance.

Legal Concerns

One of the NAB's goals is to dispel employers' concerns that they will incite lawsuits by using records in the hiring process.

If an employer required a certain grade point average or attendance rate, for example, minority applicants or those with disabilities who did not meet the cutoff might allege discrimination, some legal experts say.

The NAB commissioned lawyers from the Equal Employment Advisory Council in Washington to spell out the potential legal repercussions and summarized them in a slim publication, "Hiring Smart: An Employer's Guide to Using School Records."

The lawyers' conclusion is that employers are safe if they use records as one factor among many in the hiring process, typically as part of an interview; using the records as a screening tool requires a more thoughtful plan to avoid discrimination.

The NAB is also trying to help employers and schools agree on what a record should show.

Employers want school records to include attendance and tardiness records, while schools typically don't provide such information, said Joanna D. Wragg, the co-chairwoman of the workforce-development committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

On a job, "First you've got to show up--and show up on time," she explained.

Cooperation Required

Some large employers don't want to ask for student records if they come in the form of portfolios because by law they must store materials submitted by prospective employees for a prescribed amount of time, and they simply don't have storage space for portfolios, said June Streckfus, the executive director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education.

The roundtable, which is leading one of the most ambitious school-records campaigns in the country, has formed a task force to help the 24 school districts in the state come up with a common high school transcript that employers will find useful.

The organization found in a survey last year that only 15 percent of Maryland employers ask for school transcripts. Large businesses in the state that have adopted such a policy include the State Farm Insurance Cos. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Whatever the scope of a school-records campaign, it's important that a critical mass of employers be recruited to support the effort, organizers said.

"You've got to recruit everyone in town," said Al Pscholka, the executive director of Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning, which is leading a records campaign in Berrien County, Mich. The partnership is a nonprofit organization affiliated with a local economic-development group.

Berrien County businesses have made 375 requests for school attendance records and grades since the campaign began in February, and the number of businesses endorsing the campaign has nearly doubled, from 70 to 130.

To keep the process simple, the organizers developed a form that businesses can fax to schools; the schools agreed to fax the form back within 24 hours.

Some school people have bristled at the idea of companies' requesting student records, Mr. Pscholka said. "We did get some teachers who said, 'We think you're trying to punish our kids,'" he said.

He said he explained to them that such requests are meant to convince students that doing well in school counts.

In Maryland, Ms. Streckfus said, the business roundtable is trying to head off such perceptions by meeting with groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union that represent people in discrimination cases.

Rather than using records to screen out young people who don't do well in school, she said, "we're looking for ways to find more children that we can hire."

Vol. 18, Issue 7, Page 6

Web Resources
  • Visit the Business Coalition for Education Reform to read more about the "Making Academics Count" campaign.
  • Read "Reaching the Next Step," from the Human Resources Development Institute of the AFL-CIO, National Alliance of Business. This paper explains how "school to career" can help students reach high academic standards and prepare for good jobs.
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