Commission Recommends Overhaul Of Migrant-Student Records System

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WASHINGTON--After two years of study, the National Commission on Migrant Education last week recommended a major overhaul of the national system that transfers the education and health records of the children of migrant and seasonal farm workers.

In its 25-page report, the commission called for several changes to the Migrant Student Record Transfer System that contains information on more than 600,000 students who may move as often as eight times a year to follow the nation's agricultural harvests.

Through public hearings and other research, the panel learned of a 20-year-old system that has low-quality or missing information, is largely noncomputerized, and is "more concerned with state data-management reporting than with the exchange of student information," the report said.

The commission also concluded that "a significant number of migrant children now receive little or no direct benefit from the system despite its sophistication and cost."

The annual budget for the network's office in Little Rock, Ark., is about $6 million; estimates of the annual cost of state participation run as high as $30 million.

Perhaps the most rigorous recommendation the commission made is for the U.S. Secretary of Education to certify that state agencies are complying with the requirements of the system before approving their applications for migrant programs.

Such control would ensure that only health and education data are being transferred and are done so in a "timely and efficient method," the panel wrote.

In addition, the panel advised:

  • Limiting the data on the migrant student's record to essential information on school enrollment and health status, including grade placement, secondary credit accrual, and immunization.
  • Increasing direct access of local educators to the data, including greater use of an existing toll-free telephone number for those without computer technology.
  • Providing a role for students and their families in the system, in part by educating parents about the content of a student's record and their right to see that information.
  • Establishing procedures to ensure the completeness, accuracy, and security of student information.

Because many of the recommendations can be handled either by migrant educators themselves or through Education Department regulations, Congressional hearings and action will likely come only when migrant programs come up for reauthorization in 1993, said a House Education and Labor Committee staff member.

But the report could affect the contract for maintaining the network, which goes out for bids next year, said Carol Pendas Whitten, staff director for the commission.

Vol. 11, Issue 01, Page 41

Published in Print: September 4, 1991, as Commission Recommends Overhaul Of Migrant-Student Records System
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