from today's Boston Globe on MCAS
- Subject: from today's Boston Globe on MCAS
- From: kber <kber@EARTHLINK.NET>
- Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002 07:06:47 -0400
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
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the url of which is
text pasted in below
ACLU files MCAS complaint
Student privacy at issue in outreach
By Megan Tench, Globe Staff, 11/7/2002
Lawyers for the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union are
charging Boston public school officials with violating
student privacy laws for using volunteers to reach out to parents of
students in the class of 2003 who have failed the MCAS
and may not graduate.
ACLU lawyer Sarah Wunsch filed a complaint with the US Department of
Education Monday stating the district's new MCAS
outreach efforts - calling parents of failing students, starting today,
and later visiting their homes - violate federal laws
prohibiting the dissemination of student education records without the
consent of the parent or student.
''It was my view that bringing in a bunch of volunteers and telling
them which kids had failed MCAS and then unleashing
them to call up those kids or visit their homes raised a lot of
questions about whether the law had been violated,'' said
Federal officials said yesterday they are investigating the complaint.
''We did get the inquiry, and we're going to take a look at it,'' said
Jim Bradshaw, spokesman for the US Department of
Education. He noted, however, that for the department to take action
federal law requires that such a complaint come from a
parent or student.
Regardless, Boston public school officials yesterday defended their
campaign, saying it is not unusual for schools to use
volunteers to call parents. School officials said they plan to proceed
with launching the phone- bank part of the campaign
''We have the moral and educational duty to do all that is within our
power to reach out to failing students and their families to
ensure that the students in the class of 2003 receive their diplomas,''
said Tim Knowles, deputy superintendent for teaching
and learning. ''That includes engaging the community deeply, and that's
what this is about.''
School officials acknowledged that they did not do background checks on
the volunteers making the phone calls.
Forty percent of Boston students in the class of 2003 have yet to pass
the English or math portions of the Massachusetts
Comprehensive Assessment System exam. Students have two more chances to
pass a retest before June, but Boston school
officials are targeting the December retest, hoping to help some
students who are close to earning the 220 score required in
each subject to pass.
To help failing students, many who have logged a high number of school
absences or have not shown up to after-school
MCAS courses, school officials turned to 14 different community,
religious, and business organizations, including the Black
Ministerial Alliance, Alianza Hispana, and the Somali Development
Starting today, volunteers from those groups will participate in a
two-day phone-athon, calling the families of failing Boston
high school seniors and determining whether parents understand students
won't be able to graduate unless they pass the
MCAS. They will also ask parents for permission to visit their homes
and will let them know support is available to help
students pass, according to school officials.
''In the history of Massachusetts the stakes have never been so high
for our students,'' said Knowles. ''So we should be able
to clear the decks, and think creatively.''
But Wunsch, who called the campaign ''good-intentioned,'' said school
officials should not be releasing the names, phone
numbers, and addresses of students to community volunteers who do not
work with them in a professional capacity.
''It looks like the school officials want to do something good,''
Wunsch said, ''but they come up with a lot of gimmicks,
some of which violate the law, all in the name of helping kids pass the
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 11/7/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
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