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Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues
BOX 10–3 Minimum Educational Indicators
Academic achievement (T scores from standardized tests)
Absences and dates of absences (full day and part day)
Suspensions and dates of suspensions (with reasons)
many states (e.g., California, New York, North Carolina) is now discouraging social promotion. In the future, grade retention may indicate a child’s true performance, not just a school’s educational strategy regarding social promotion.
School services data also are obtainable, although the lack of standardization makes it difficult to assess change when students also change schools during the period under study. School attendance data also is likely to be automated, although comparisons across schools and, especially, unified school districts must be done with care because of different ways of administering the statewide definitions of attendance. Schools also have data about student’s disciplinary actions—nearly always including suspensions or expulsions, but also including a variety of other disciplinary actions that are less severe. But caution is also needed in making comparisons about disciplinary actions in school. This is particularly true of suspensions, as some schools use them routinely and some schools use them only after considerable effort to mediate the problematic situation. Further, different rules typically apply to children receiving special education services and the proportion of children receiving special education services is, in turn, quite variable across schools. To assess the effects of welfare reform on the educational outcomes of children, even a minimum data set that included measures of academic achievement, absences, and suspensions would be useful (see Box 10–3).
Access to School Records Data
A major impediment to using educational data to estimate the well-being of children is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). First enacted in 1974, FERPA gives parents the right to inspect and review their children’s education records, request amendment of the records, and have some control over the disclosure of information from the records. At age 18, this right is transferred to the student. The act also restricts the release of school records or information from those records that could identify the student. Before releasing such records or information to a party outside the school system, the school first must obtain the consent of the student’s parent. FERPA offers a key exception to the prior consent requirement. Specifically, educators may disclose information without