Education Reform In a Nutshell

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The Silent Weapon

by Shirley Vergeer Basarab

APPENDIX E - (Page 85-86)

DATABASE TRACKING OF STUDENTS

Excerpts from Washington State internal reports best explain how the tracking of students was accomplished. The first (a 1992 pilot study) obtained Social Security numbers from "2,958 of the over 5,000 student."(1) It explained:

"The availability of the social security numbers in school district's student record systems makes this kind of research possible. The social security number is a unique identifier that has long been required for employment and for college and university enrollment. It is only recently that this number has been included in the student record file for high school students...

"A student roster was extracted from each district's computerized student record system. For the first time, a social security number was available in most local school districts, providing the basis for an electronic match with student record systems at colleges, universities and places of employment. By joining these two files ... we were able to produce one database with a wealth of information about where students went, and at least initially, how well they did once they got there."

The data for tracking the students was matched with "public colleges and universities, all community colleges in our state and from the Employment Security Department." It stated it was done by:

"...making the contacts with those people who manage data in college and employment settings. This lay the groundwork for conducting yearly [high school] graduate follow-up studies where information on each graduating class could be gathered. ... [A]dditional information about the quality of students' post high school experience could also be added... The quality of these data could be a powerful force..."

The following year (1993), another report was issued. It described the results of tracing the graduates of "ten volunteer school districts," or "9,955 students."(2) It justified this continued illegal intrusion with:

"Discussions with the State Attorney General identified the conditions under which we could request this number from students as long as parents and students were provided with information about potential uses of the data that was being gathered... Some districts had more than 90% of their students supply a social security number when requested..."

However, neither permission nor even knowledge of the database matching and collection was ever given to those students tracked. In fact, many will learn of it first through this publication. The report added:

"By matching files from the State Assessment Database and the Washington State Drivers License Database we have added procedures that are effective in increasing the percent of students who could be followed..."

That year, two-thirds of the students were able to be tracked. Of the nearly 10,000 students, only 15-percent (1,445) had no Social Security number available, and 19-percent (1,865) "were not found in the employment, military, technical school or college information." The report continued:

"We have developed the resources necessary to conduct these studies on each graduating class and would like to work with the public and private school institutions and the Employment Security Department to gather the ... data."

It concluded:

"Although it would be preferable to seek cooperation through a single organization as was accomplished with the other data sources participating in this study, it may be necessary to contact each [private school] institution separately. In either case, such participation would add significant information and credibility to the database."

It recommended, "Continued funding and expansion of the project to all school districts ... and [an] expanded study to include institutions out-of-state."

By 1995, three dozen school districts supplied their student Social Security numbers. To expand the data match, for those who provided no social security number, one was arbitrarily assigned. Repeated requests by concerned citizens resulted in stonewalling and denial this report even existed."

By 1997, the Washington State Superintendent's office required all school districts supply an accounting of all students "enrolled in Grades 9-12 at any time during the reporting period," including home schooled students who attend a single class.

Information required included: a unique student identification number, name, birth date, expected graduation year, enrollment date, exit data from the building or district, ethnicity/race, gender, socioeconomic status, disability status (e.g., health impairment, behavioral disability, communication disorders), enrollment status, grade level, grade point average, "vocational completer," and CIP code (meaning "Classification of Instructional Programs," commonly

known as occupational tracks, under six categories: agriculture, business, family and consumer sciences, health, marketing, trade and industry). The bulletin stated the information was to comply with RCW 28A.175.010, requiring "the educational progress of all students in Grades 9-12."

It explained, "The 1996-97 collection completed the first four years of this requirement." To download an "electronic layout file," go to "Data Collection Tools" at http://inform.ospi.wednet.edu/info_services/>). It explained, "The 1996-97 collection completed the first four years of this requirement."

SOURCES:

NOTE: The major source documents were two unpublished Washington State internal reports. The first described five school districts' 1992 high school graduates whom they tracked (Bellevue, Central Valley, Federal Way, Snohomish, and Tacoma). The second report discussed continuation of those five districts, plus unnamed districts the following year (1993). By 1996, the students from three dozen districts were being traced without their knowledge or consent. The third source was a bulletin to school districts requesting information on all students.

(1) Litzenberger, Jerry. (Untitled internal Washington State report.) The report describes five State school districts' graduates tracked in 1992. (1992)

The report also stated, "Without exception, all of the above named data sources were able to supply their data as either a fixed or delimited ASCII file in PC compatible format. There was not a single instance requiring a second request for a file... Layout forms ... resulted in the information being readily interpreted and easily added to the cumulative database. Recent versions of databases and statistical packages have become very powerful in their search, classification, analysis and graphical procedures."

The internal report revealed that the ASCII "Layout forms ... resulted in the information being readily interpreted and easily added to the cumulative database. Recent versions of databases and statistical packages have become very powerful in their search, classification, analysis and graphical procedures."

(2) Litzenberger, Jerry and Renny Greenmum. (Untitled internal Washington State report.) The report describes State school districts' graduates tracked in 1993. (Oct. 18, 1994)

(3) Bulletin No. 64-98 (Superintendent of Public Instruction, Old Capitol Building, Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504)

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