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VOL. 132 | NO. 184 | Friday, September 15, 2017

AG: SCS Must Release Student Info To ASD

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County and Metro Nashville Schools cannot withhold student data from the state-run Achievement School District, according to a legal opinion released Thursday, Sept. 14, by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

Herbert Slatery

Slatery says the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that both school systems have cited doesn’t allow then to deny the information to the ASD or to “a chartering authority or a public charter school.” And if the school system has its own policy pursuant to FERPA, the school can only deny access to the student information temporarily until the school system changes its own policy.

The federal policy allows parents to opt out of having their child’s information released and Slatery’s opinion notes the opt-out provision.

Slatery also opined that there is nothing to prevent the ASD or a charter organization from contacting parents directly to tell them more about school options for a child.

The legal opinion was requested by Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen after first Nashville and then SCS refused to release the data.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson recommended the Shelby County Schools board follow Nashville’s lead last month based on his ongoing concerns about how the student information is used. In the past, Hopson has cited calls from concerned parents confused about the school choices outlined by charter organizations or parents saying those approaching them in behalf of the charter schools have had student performance data.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Schools posted a graduation rate of 79.6 percent for the 2016-2017 academic year, up almost a full percentage point from the previous school year.

The school system has set a goal of a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2025 and the 79.6 percent graduation rate marks the fourth consecutive year SCS has increased its graduation rate.

The 79.6 percent graduation rate compares to a statewide rate of 89.1 percent, which Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen touted as the highest on record for the state. More than half of the state’s local school districts with high schools saw their rates increase last school year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, in a written statement, said the statewide rate shows efforts by teachers and other educators are making a difference.

“As more students graduate from high school, we are committed to helping them go to college, succeed and become skilled members of Tennessee’s workforce,” he said.

The Arlington Community Schools district is one of 43 across the state with a graduation rate at or above 95 percent. The graduation rate for Arlington High School, the only high school in the system, was 96.8 percent.

The ASD, with all but two of its schools in Memphis, posted a 12.8 percentage point increase in its graduation rate for a rate of 53.2 percent across four high schools and two alternative schools. The ASD is specifically for schools in the bottom five percent statewide in terms of student achievement.

Bartlett posted a 93.9 percent graduation rate, Collierville 94.5 percent, Germantown 92.8 percent and Millington 85 percent. Each of the six suburban school systems have one high school. There are two public high schools in the city of Germantown – Germantown High School and Houston High School. But Germantown High School is a part of Shelby County Schools.

Lakeland does not have a graduation rate since it does not have a high school at this point.

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