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Education Letter to the Editor

Privacy Concerns and AYP ‘Growth Models’

February 14, 2006 1 min read

To the Editor:

As a new resident of Oregon, I read with interest of that state’s efforts to become one of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ “flexibilities.” You report on her pilot program allowing up to 10 states to use “growth models” that track individual students’ progress over time in measuring adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act (“Yearly Progress,” In Perspective, Jan. 18, 2006.)

Imagine allowing districts to compare Jenny’s and John’s own reading scores between grades 4 and 6, their own math scores from grades 6 to 8, and measure their individual improvement. Currently, districts must compare students’ 6th grade scores to entirely different students’ 6th grade scores a year later. Oregon hopes to be one of 10 states using the more common-sense approach.

But wait. A troubling headline appears on the same issue’s front page: “Scholars Cite Privacy Law as Obstacle.” A key component of the No Child Left Behind law is managing huge databases filled with students’ personal information. Suddenly, the No Child Left Behind Act is bumping into the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as some officials stop data-mining by invoking FERPA.

Further, you report that a staff lawyer for the National School Boards Association said that student privacy could become an even greater issue if states adopt “growth models” to measure students’ progress.

That’s the model Oregon hopes to use. But could tracking the work of the same students over time violate their privacy under FERPA by making them “personally identifiable” without parental consent? How are districts to comply with both laws?

As a veteran algebra teacher with a law degree, I am leery of the ever-growing monster of linked databases that seem so easily compromised. With the Bush administration secretly spying on telephone lines and Internet providers, and fiercely supporting the No Child Left Behind law, who will balance proper school research against our schoolchildren’s privacy?

Betty Raskoff Kazmin

Medford, Ore.

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