Student’s Privacy Rights Under FERPA Case Study

 

There are many ethical dilemmas that happen every day in education. Although the Texas Code of Ethics does well at creating a black and white standard of what is acceptable, sometimes situations happen that teachers need to be aware of when it comes to student’s rights. Here is an example of a situation that could happen:

“The math teacher assigned homework the night before, and the next day, he decides to allow the students to “trade and grade” the assignment.  This process allows for the students to trade papers with one another while the teacher calls out the answers.  Some teachers believe this saves time as well as helps reinforce skills learned. However, a struggling student feels embarrassed because they continue to perform poorly on assignments and other students are making fun of the student because of it. That afternoon, a parent calls to complain.  The parent claims that a classmate grading his/her child’s work is a violation of their right to privacy of personal records.”

The law that the parent is addressing is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It says that educational records of students need to be kept private except with the written consent of the parent. The dilemma is if peer grading constitutes a violation of the FERPA student privacy laws. This relates to the Texas Codes of Ethics standard §247.2 3.31 that says that “the educator shall not reveal confidential information concerning students unless disclosure serves lawful professional purposes or is required by law”.

So did this teacher violate laws? Short answer is no.

In 2001, the Supreme Court Case is Owasso Independent School District vs. Falvo was a similar situation between a school and a student. The court upheld that although FERPA does say that educational records are to be protected unless a parent discloses the information, peer grading does not constitute educational records until they are in the gradebook. This would suggest that peer grading is a legal way to grade papers as well as help the students learn. Even though peer grading is an acceptable form of grading, there are alternatives to learning that the teacher could implement in the future.

A teacher could stop peer grading and after personally grading the papers, review the graded work with the students. This option is probably the most efficient in terms of solving the parent’s problem, but it has a few setbacks. This option could create twice as much work for the teacher because the teacher would have to independently complete grading and then take time out of class to review the graded work for the students.

A teacher could also assign number ids or utilize an iclicker program. This would be effective in creating an anonymous environment in the classroom and all the students would still be doing peer grading. The downside is that it will take longer to grade and input graded work into the gradebook because of the ids. Another further advancement is clicker technology to in the classroom (See https://www1.iclicker.com/ ). Students are given a number that corresponds to a name in the teacher gradebook. It is a quick way to check success in the classroom and which students need more assistance. (see link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvmqI4lu55c ) With the iclicker program, teachers can spend less time grading quizzes. As far as economic costs, the main cost would be for the iclicker program to be implemented in the classroom. In my research, it looks like the software is free. The only costs are that of the remotes, which are 50$ apiece. That would be a one-time cost of $1000 in a classroom of 20 students, where quizzes can be done quickly, effectively, and teachers could monitor progress easily in both individual and grouped data.

As a teacher, I would combine the possible alternatives. I would effectively end peer grading for assignments done by students and would grade them myself. Because this option has the possibility of providing much more work to me as a teacher, I would petition the school for an iclicker program in the classroom. This would allow me to be an effective teacher, while respecting the parent’s wishes for anonymity of their child’s grades on homework. I would also be able to use the program to allow for real time polling in the classroom during lectures and to engage students in learning through technology. By making this decision, this would conform to both §247.2 3.31 because it would create the most anonymous environment for grading student’s assignments. As an individual who teaches children in a middle school classroom, I commit myself to the privacy and safety protected under student’s rights. I have implemented a plan of privacy for children in the classroom and assume responsibility for the consequences that my decisions may incur in the future. With this implementation, I believe students will learn more successfully without the need to feel embarrassed by their work.

 

Code of Ethics. (1975). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Owasso Independent School District No. I-011 v. Falvo. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2001/00-1073

Texas Administrative Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4

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