Friday, February 19, 2016

Seattle Schools News (Whoops)

The district is reporting that more than 300+ letters to AL parents were sent to the wrong address.

Due to a mailing error, 348 letters of Seattle Public School student test results were mailed to wrong addresses. 
The error was discovered Thursday, Feb. 18, by a staff member and reported. The letters were mailed in initial batches on February 12. The error was identified at the beginning of a mailing of an estimated 1,200 letters, and halted before the remaining letters were mailed.

In good news, the district tweeted more than $30K was awarded to different schools for composting and recycling efforts.


Anonymous said...

Like recycling 348 letters.


Po3 said...

Just doesn't seem to get any better in that AL office these days.

Anonymous said...

I sense a lawsuit.

Seen it

Anonymous said...

Are they going to blame it on the vendor again, or is that one getting old?


Anonymous said...

Is this why the head of HCC is on leave? Seems like a straight-up guy. Nevertheless this is yet another SPS downtown disaster. Headline on front of Seattle Times will quickly let the region hear another story of SPS downtown (@#*@(#* up.

Here's the outrage from the Seattle Times article: The families that received the wrong letters have been notified and will be receiving correct letters soon, district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said.

Did you all catch it? The families RECEIVING the wrong letters have been notified. Fine. But that's not the crux. The families WHOSE PRIVATE INFORMATION WAS MADE PUBLIC have to be notified. Stat. Those families should expect a personal letter of apology. They can decide what measures to take from that point. My kid? I'd be beyond livid.


Anonymous said...

Really, special education records release ... test scores release ... you get the sense that the district can't manage itself and doesn't prioritize the privacy of its students.


Anonymous said...

District Watcher --

Good thing the letters didn't contain any sensitive information, like children's cognitive test scores.

Let's not forget this happened at the start of the school year as well. My friend found out that sensitive information about her child's custodial status was sent to another family's address. I contacted my own regional director about that, and my friend did the same. It sounded like it was a widespread issue.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said...

Have to repost for Anonymous (too good a comment to allow it to be deleted):

"If it's any consolation, they probably included the wrong scores! :)"

Here is the odd thing -- frankly, if the computer system/process is that bad, they could do this stuff BY HAND more easily than making these errors and then having to fix (and deal with the privacy fallout from the mistake). Or, how hard is it to have someone grab the first batch (and randomly sample after that) to confirm (by matching student name and student number) with what the system is generating to confirm that the system is working correctly -- BEFORE they are actually mailed.

MGF said...

On the first day of school this year, we got an enrollment update form with my son's info on the front, and the MEDICAL INFORMATION for another kid on the back. That kid didn't have anything listed. Whoever got MY SON's info on the back of theirs now knows all about his complex medical needs and accommodations. I have 0% confidence in the district's ability to manage confidential information.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this part : The error was discovered Thursday, Feb. 18, by a staff member and reported.

If the letters were mailed on Feb 12 but maybe didn't go out until Feb 13, wouldn't someone have called or emailed AL when they received the erroneous letter on Feb 16 or 17?


Anonymous said...

My student tested this year and we have wondered where results were. Into my inbox a second ago came the same basic notice as on the Seattle Schools website regarding this error. But the wording is not what Seattle schools said in the Seattle Times article. It isn't what is on the website either. The AL department is running fast with corrections but we families are not getting the information we need.

As DistrictWatcher noted, the Seattle Times said families who received information about the wrong student have been notified that the information is confidential and should be returned---which does nothing for the families whose students actually had their privacy breached.

On the Seattle website, it says families whose student privacy has been violated have actually been notified. It specifically says All 348 families affected have received a communication notifying them of the error, with an apology and letting them know a second letter with correct name and address will be issued soon.

The email that just arrived says ...Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that a database error occurred that caused student names to be misaligned with their correct home mailing address. As a result, your residence may have received another student’s results letter and your student’s results letter may have been inadvertently provided to another family. The error occurred in 348 letters out of a mailing of almost 1,200 letters....

So what is the deal? Was my child's information leaked and if so, to what address. I don't want to wonder whether we were impacted. I want to know one way or the other. I appreciate the effort Seattle schools is trying to make in not hiding what happened, but vagueness is not OK. Also, if we were affected, that means the email came out after the district told the public that impacted families had been told. That would be a further erosion of faith.

Specifics Please

Anonymous said...

Specifics, it sounds like your letter was mis-sent and they should have phrased it definitively. It seems like all 348 families affected would both receive a letter for another child AND have their own letters sent elsewhere, is that how others interpret this? Assuming it's just an Excel-type error where everything is shifted down by one row or something.

But I'm really skeptical of the timing. The Friday afternoon release. The interim supervisor on 2/16. And if these were mailed on 2/12, why have families not received them already and reported the errors?

Also, 348 letters out of almost 1,200. Are we supposed to be impressed that they got the majority correct? (And when were the rest mailed? Today?). They used the same phrasing when their email snafu occured. They sounded smug that they had managed to contact SOME people successfully.


Anonymous said...

Someone just posted on Soup for Teachers:

I received letters addressed to someone else's children, and despite it saying on the website that "The 348 families who received letters with incorrect student information have received a communication asking them to please mark the letter Return the Sender," I have received no communication.


NO 1240 said...

State Representative Chris Rykdal claims the bill to fund charter schools is nothing more than a money laundering scheme. Representative Larry Springer sheds light on what they are trying to do:

"This is not the final solution,” Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said. “It is the first step in finding that final solution” which legislators will continue to work on over the next several weeks."

Passing unconstitutional legislation is NOT a good idea.

Anonymous said...

We got the wrong child's letter yesterday, 2/18, and I emailed the district. I opened it and looked at the scores before realizing that it wasn't my child. It said "to the parent of…" on the front, but I didn't notice - I saw advanced learning and ripped open th envelope When I reported this to advanced learning yesterday, they responded with, "please 'return to sender.'" Nothing about my child (who I asked about), no thanks, no apology.

ALSO, my child tested on the first testing weekend. We'd received our email notification the day before, but when we showed up they had no record of her. I was glad we got there early because it was chaotic - two employees were rifling through these stacks of papers with names that were not alphabetized. Our daughter tested in a group of like 20+ kids and then they took the next group with only 5 kids.

After that we received SIX MORE emails with different dates and locations for her to test! The second email we received (after she'd already tested) worried me, so I emailed to make sure they had a record of her test. I got a response and they apologized (and did have a record of her taking the test). I ignored the 3rd email, but after getting the 4th I thought about having her test again - just to see (but didn't).

Not confidence inspiring!


Anonymous said...

Soup for teachers ? How about brains for teachers. Ha Ha. Seriously I give public schools less than 5 years. A billion a year...POOF

Rise repeat

Anonymous said...

Rise repeat- yes clearly this was the fault of sps TEACHERS. Lol. How about brains for you.
People suck

Liza SfT said...

Excel tip for SPS: never sort, always FILTER! Keeps the spreadsheet cells aligned.

AL confusion said...

Well, I guess this explains this week's change in AL leadership.


Anonymous said...

Not the first time. In 2007 the first AL letter we received had the wrong results. Happened to many others too. That was the fiasco that year.
Then just last year another family received a letter/invitation from AL re: the Robinson Center that was addressed to our child. I think these gaffes are routine.


AL confusion said...

Moving slightly past my outrage at this snafu, I have to giggle that it is the ADVANCED LEARNING team making these mistakes. You can't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

The information is supposed to be federally protected, right? Did the federal govt. do anything to help when the special ed info was distributed the other year? Do I understand correctly from the article that the possible federal protection in the current incident would be cutting funding to the district? It seems like that only hurts the kids and families. How about holding the individuals and managers involved accountable? Wouldn't that make more sense than cutting funding? What does federal protection mean if they don't do anything? I am not trying to be snarky, just sincerely asking what the consequences are supposed to be. I am really unhappy with the frequency of data breaches from SPS and don't have any confidence in the district's ability to prevent more.
concerned mom

Charlie Mas said...

I wonder if this will be mentioned in either the program evaluation - the one required by Board Policy, the one that Shauna Heath promised years ago, the one that has never been done - or the Management Oversight meeting with the Board.

Somehow I doubt it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

FERPA needs to be rewritten and needs teeth. It has virtually none. You can report this to the Feds, they can agree it happened but then what? Maybe a tsk, tsk.

This is why I want a student data privacy law for Washington State. I don't believe the Feds will do it.

As for what to do in SPS, tell your Board director. Demand that they hold the Superintendent accountable and ask why this keeps happening (especially when it's consistently blamed on IT issues.)

OhDear said...

All I can say is PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard). It's always easier to blame it on technology. Call me crazy, but I don't think Excel is to blame for this one. Advanced Learning needs to get its act sorted out.

Z said...

This is why I want a student data privacy law for Washington State. I don't believe the Feds will do it.

Totally agree, and with you on this 100%.

The problem is, there needs to be a lawmaker who wants to champion this issue. Pollet isn't interested. Maybe Carlyle? Do you know of anyone who might want to take this on? It can't be done half-assed, because that will just give parents (and students) a false sense of security, perhaps an even worse situation than now (like FERPA).

Anonymous said...

FERPA would be a real deterrent if it had a private right of action. The Feds have almost no one enforcing FERPA -- if they can't do it, let parents bring their own lawsuits.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I've talked to Pollet and he does seem interested; why do you think he isn't? What's interesting is that this will be a bi-partisan effort because there are many far-right Republicans who don't like all the data collection involved.

Yes, it cannot be a half-measure.

IMO, and that leaves districts kind of free to make mistakes and never get punished because most parents can't afford to sue. That said, if parents sued collectively, it would be cheaper for each and send a big message to the district.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah, remember the good ol' days of Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson when "accountability" was every other word out of her mouth? What would she have done to hold staff accountable?
Oh, right, nothing. She would have said that it happened too many layers below her on the org chart for her to care.

Anonymous said...

This has been an issue with AL for awhile. Three years ago my child's testing assignment (date, time, location) was mailed to someone on our emergency contact list. This happened to several other families that year and the person at AL that I spoke to about it acknowledged it was a problem they were "trying to fix." Hmm.

As for the strange way this has been communicated to families and the media, I have noticed this academic year that whoever is doing PR for the district is having a harder-than-usual time with this job. At least since the strike, it's been vague and meaningless press releases, talking in circles, poor grammar ("effected," anyone?). I doubt these people are privy to much more information than we are. And not only are they not telling us what we need to know, they don't seem to be very skilled at their job of telling us nothing.

Happened Before

Z said...

I've talked to Pollet and he does seem interested; why do you think he isn't?

Because I've spoken with him about it, and his suggestion was to find someone else to champion the effort. So perhaps "isn't interested" is over-stating; perhaps he would support someone else's bill, but he's not interested in taking a leadership role on this issue.

What's interesting is that this will be a bi-partisan effort because there are many far-right Republicans who don't like all the data collection involved.

And this is exactly why I think something like this has a chance of passing -- if it can get started! Ideally two people need to work together to get this rolling, one from each party. The specific details will be critical. Making sure there aren't gaping holes (like FERPA has now). Our state could take a leadership role.

Are you connected well enough to know if there are two lawmakers, one on each side of the aisle, that could work together on this?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, do you know who is serving as #3 below on the MSC(for making eligbility decisions)? Stephen Martin or the interim supervisor?

In compliance with the Washington Academic Code: WAC 392-170-070, The multidisciplinary selection committee for the final selection of the most highly capable students for participation in the district's program for highly capable students shall consist of the following professionals:

(1) A special teacher: Provided, that if a special teacher is not available, a classroom teacher shall be appointed;
(2) A psychologist or other qualified practitioner with the training to interpret cognitive and achievement test results;
(3) A certificated coordinator/administrator with responsibility for the supervision of the district's program for highly capable students ; and
(4) Such additional professionals, if any, the district deems desirable.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Z, I don't know about "connected" but yes, I think I can find two people from either side of the aisle. The most important part is the actual bill but luckily, I've slowly been working on that.

Observer, I do not know the answer to your question. I'm going to ask again for clarity on Mr. Martin's role and the role of the interim.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, MW! I haven't had luck myself.


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