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Education Reporter

What's in your child's data file?
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The amount of information that public and charter schools are federally encouraged to collect on each child in attendance is growing at an alarming rate. In the Student Data Handbook produced by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the recommended data for schools to gather on children has expanded from 131 elements to 712 elements from the years 1997 to 2005.

NCES student data elements are listed under nine categories: 1) personal information (including information sought on siblings, parents/guardians, sponsor, and other adults residing in the student's household; family data, including income range), 2) enrollment, 3) school participation and activities, 4) nonschool and postschool experience, 5) assessment, 6) transportation, 7) health conditions (including pre-natal condition, conditions at birth, medical evaluations, medical lab test, nutrition, oral health, etc.), 8) special program participation and student support services, and 9) discipline.

Where do the data go? 
Information collected at a school site is entered and then transmitted to a school district's information system that connects to the state system.

State departments of education, also referred to as "state education agencies" (SEAs), have been setting up Student Information Systems to gather, store, and share information on public school students statewide in order to fulfill state and federal funding and reporting mandates. Explained by one state agency, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE):

"The Arizona State Legislature created the Student Accountability Information System (SAIS) to provide for the electronic submission of data from school districts and charter schools to the ADE. ARS  15-1041 states, 'The student accountability information system is established to enable school districts and charter schools to transmit student level data and school finance data electronically through the internet to the department of education for the purposes of complying with the statutory obligations of the department of education and the state board of education.'" ("Federal No Child Left Behind Act Information for Arizona Charter Schools," page 21)

In addition to "Student detail data - individual student records," SAIS also handles the following: Budgets and Financial Reporting, Student Counts - aggregate student data, State Aid/Payments, and Local Educational Agencies' Data (school districts, schools).

ADE further explains that "SAIS is a core system to which the following ADE functions have been or will be linked: Student Services, School-to-Work, Exceptional Education Vouchers, Student Achievement, GED, Grants, and Teacher Certification." Linking K-12 with Higher Ed

In the "Second Phase" of the National Governors Association's High School Redesign Efforts to Focus on Targeted Reforms, the states of Kentucky and Nevada were awarded $150,000 grants. The funds will be used to "build an individual student-unit, longitudinal data system that connects K-12 and postsecondary data systems." Kentucky's plan includes assigning each student with a permanent "unique student identifier."

The projects support creation of a more expansive, centralized educational "system" that connects student records from kindergarten through higher education.

Linking data state-to-state 
The Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002 (P.L. 107-279) was signed by President Bush on Nov. 5, 2002.

Included in the law is a grant program under "Title II — Educational Technical Assistance" to enable state educational agencies "to design, develop, and implement statewide, longitudinal data systems to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, disaggregate, and use individual student data, consistent with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA] of 1965." (The current ESEA reauthorization is the No Child Left Behind Act.)

With a requirement involving the promotion of "management of individual student data" and "linkages across States," the ESRA grant program allows for tagging every child in a public and charter school with what amounts to a unique national identification number, useful for data collections and monitoring.

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