Wednesday Open Thread

Threads to come
- what's the issue w/enrollment counts (and Garfield fights on)
- testing opt-outs across the country
- recess - not just a problem in Seattle

I'll be seeing some legislators today and hope to get their take on the passage of 1351 plus McCleary in the upcoming legislative session.

Great article from The AtlanticHigh School Graduation Rates Hit All Time High.  

Last year, 86 percent of students took home high school diplomas, while only 7 percent dropped outdown from 13 percent two decades ago, according to Census Bureau data.

The national average reflects improvements across all demographics but is boosted by significant gains among black and especially Latino high-schoolers.  

Want to see what some of the Smarter Balanced testing for 3rd graders looks like? 

This morning, parents and teachers in the Portland Public Schools district are buzzing about one detail of a third grade practice test that's available online: the incredibly complicated instructions that one teacher said scored at eighth-grade reading level in online calculators

At Wal-Mart's website, they called Halloween costumes for larger teen girls "fat girl costumes."  Good job, WalMart. 

Want to show your kids a mind-boggling clever desk (made for Harry Potter or James Bond, take your pick) and all built by hand for a king?


Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said…
Okay. That is freakin' insane.

This discriminates against students who require library computer access, for lack of same at home.

How does this help learning!?
Po3 said…
What testing is being done at GHS this time of year?
Anonymous said…
I don't know the answer to the questions, but will find out.
Anonymous said…
Please ignore or take down my comment about GHS testing in the library until I verify the details.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Po3 said…
I heard that TAL episode-it was frightening.

Yes you need to lawyer up. Hire a criminal defense attorney-sooner the better.
Anonymous said…
Seattle Parents,

I suggest that you delete your post and seek advice of a lawyer. You've put many details on a public website and you do not have attorney-client privilege with anyone on this board. Please be prudent and seek proper professional advice.

-Concerned reader
Seattle parents, my sympathies. Good kids do dumb things.

Next, you did the right thing telling your son to stay quiet until you and/or a lawyer get there. Sadly, he didn't listen.

The police officers are NOT the prosecutor. Any talk of deals, etc. is just that, talk.

First, GET A LAWYER and get a police report. I cannot tell you how badly it could go without a lawyer. IT is worth the money.

Second, "likely to happen?" If what you say is true about your son, it is likely he will get a slap on the wrist and public service.

Get the charges dropped? I think unlikely if he was caught red-handed. Your lawyer can argue to the court for that based on his past behavior and a lot of mea culpa from your son.

Write to me; I know a pretty good lawyer.

Also, you may be in some trouble with early admissions - you should examine the offer. They may have some clause about "mitigating factors" after the offer. BUT, say nothing to them until you read the deal AND talk to a lawyer.
Anonymous said…
South Carolina Supreme Court just issued its own McCleary-like ruling. Couldn't be two more politically different states, but their highest courts are arriving at the same place. (Hey, on same-sex marriage too.)

Anonymous said…
Does anyone have more info on how the teacher allotments following the October head count has panned out? I'm still curious how hazel wolf argued out of their situation and how the other schools have fared. Maybe this will be discussed in the forthcoming thread?

Anonymous said…
You are almost certainly in trouble with your early decision acceptance. As someone familiar with college admissions, I can say it's one of the deal breakers. Really, it's a low bar - but colleges don't want kids to go crazy senior year after acceptance - the rules are usually 1) don't bomb/fail classes 2) no criminal or disciplinary behavior (suspensions, convictions, etc). It's a low bar. Yes, your son just made a mistake, but I bet it was spelled out in the agreement. It sounds harsh, but I think this is the consequences. I wouldn't say anything to the college, and hope the charges are dropped, but I would make some backup plans. And think of all the kids who didn't get's really pretty fair. Vandalism of a public park is a serious lapse in judgment, even ignoring the pot thing. It demonstrates exactly what that college wasn't looking for. This will be a tough lesson, but you are trying to raise a mature adult. Good luck.
-old fashioned
Anonymous said…
Another "Smarter Balanced" challenge for kids ... their answer will need to be typed on the computer - no more pencils and paper. What about kids with limited access to computers ... will they have the keyboarding skills to express all of their thoughts in the time given?

N by NW
Anonymous said…
"I'm still curious how hazel wolf argued out of their situation"

Me too.

- reality check
Transparency Please said…

The city's Office of Education and/ or the Family and Education Committee has determined that it is OK to use Family and Education dollars to support charter schools. Special thanks to Dora Taylor for uncovering this story; we certainly not count on any news outlet in this city to uncover- anything.

It is also important to note that the citizens of Seattle just supported $58M for 1B. The city will also receive $60M via Family and Ed. Levy for prek and approximately $50M from the feds.
The city has enough funds to cover- CHARTER SCHOOL START=UP COSTS.

Will the city post the fact that the Family and Ed. Levy will be supporting charter schools on their web page?
Disgusted said…

The below paragraph was taken from a Family and Education request for funds. It appears HOLLY MILLER control the funds. She has wayyyyy too much power and control. This department needs watchdog oversight.

3. The OFE Director (or her designee) will review the written appeal and may request additional oral or written information from the appellant organization. A written decision from the OFE Director (or her designee) will be sent within two (2) working days of the receipt of the appeal. This decision is final.
Appeals of decisions may be made in writing to Holly Miller, Director, Office for Education, 700 5th Avenue, Ste. 1700, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle, WA 98124-4649,
Anonymous said…
I could hardly get myself to read through the directions of the Smarter Balanced Assessment sample item and the attention span of a 3rd grader is soooo much shorter. Then there is the actual assignment - to be typed, no less. Kids are going to be in tears. Will these tests cause an implosion of Common Core? It makes me pine for the days of the more developmentally appropriate and straightforward ITBS.

Do you opt out, or prepare your child for the emotional meltdown?

Too MuchTesting said…

Here is Seattle Public Schools testing schedule. Grades 3-8 are expected to take 13.5-15.5 hours of standardized tests each year.
Anonymous said…
Asking third graders to keyboard an essay is an excellent marker for how developmentally appropriate high stakes tests are. The needs of the testing company are put before the needs of the child.

If we are going to do high stakes testing, the design and writing of the tests should be in public hands directly accountable to the public.

Suppressing Cursewords
Crazy Time said…
I'm also concerned that young students will be required to have typing skills to take Smarter Balanced Tests.

Test scores will go down. Then, we'll hear shouts of "Our Schools Are Failing!!"
Patrick said…
Yep, and I don't think that's an accident. Failing schools = scream and run in circles and send some more money to the educational-industrial complex.
Crazy Time said…
"Yep, and I don't think that's an accident. Failing schools = scream and run in circles and send some more money to the educational-industrial complex."

You bet cha. Let's remember that these tests are brand new and our children are being used.

College Admissions office are in a state of flux over these tests and how SBA can be used. Shall we thank our leaders?
Anonymous said…
Keyboarding isn't even taught in most public schools. It's up to families - and of course it is assumed that families will have great computer access at home. The Technological Divide in spades.

Anyhow, although most schools don't teach keyboarding, in our somewhat progressive SPS elementary school, a teacher did supply workbook and weekly optional lessons to begin keyboarding. In FOURTH grade. Most of the kids were not ready for the lessons and seemed to minimally participate.

Keyboarding for 3rd grade standardized tests seems like a huge equity fail not to mention a misunderstanding of child learning + development assumptions.


Also, I am very concerned that the city will be using Families and Education levy money for Charters. I think this is big, surprising, news for this blog to share.
Po3 said…
I am very confused about Smarter Balanced test for 11th graders. The test is not required to earn a diploma until 2019, but they are also saying that 11th graders are required by WA state to take this test starting this year.

On closer inspection (OSPI) it states that 11th graders need to take this test for Federal Accountability.

Seems to me that 11th graders really don't have to sit for this test for a few years.

Can I opt my students out until required for the diploma?
patent said…
Get a lawyer ASAP
Crazy Time said…
I understand that 11th graders will be asked to sit through EIGHT (!) hours of Smarter Balanced Tests this spring.

I've been told that students will not need SBA to graduate.

There needs to be transparency and the district needs to tell HS that it is their responsibility to inform parents.

I'm very wary of Smarter Balanced Test scores and Federal accountability. It appears the feds are getting ready for punative actions related to promoting charter schools etc.
Crazy Time said…
FWIW...I think having 11th grade students take SBA is more about determining cut scores than anything else.
Anonymous said…
Has anyone heard about SPS disclosing confidential information on 8,000 SPED students by mistake?

Tim p.
More on testing soon.
Tim P., yes that is to come. It did apparently happen (even after the district had been notified it had happened previously).

Anonymous said…
How would I find out if my son's information was disclosed?

Tim P.
Benjamin Leis said…

has a list of year by year graduation requirements. The federal accountability language is in there for assessment with all grades up from 3rd. That doesn't preclude you from opting out if its not a graduation requirement.
Benjamin Leis said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Po3, Crazy Time, et al --- The 11th grade Smarter Balanced test is required for federal accountability, according to law adopted by the state legislature two years ago.

Schools and districts are required to administer the 11th grade assessment to at least 95% of students (per NCLB) but students are NOT required to take it since it's not yet a graduation requirement. I'm not surprised that the schools and district are saying that it's required for students since their accountability is based on its results; however, students are still afforded the opportunity to opt out.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
I just spoke to a Julie at the John Stanford center and it was confirmed that some sort of unintentional release of confidential student information has occurred. She would not provided any additional information.

This is sickening, I thought they were suppose to be improving the operations of special education.

Tim P.
Anonymous said…
Suppressing Cursewords, I know you're just vetting but you don't really know what you're talking about.

"The needs of the testing company are put before the needs of the child." What does this even mean? Do you think testing companies would prefer that students take tests on computers? Do you think they have a larger profit margin if tests are taken online? You would be wrong. Pencil and paper tests are much more profitable for a variety of reasons.

"If we are going to do high stakes testing, the design and writing of the tests should be in public hands directly accountable to the public." Every single test item on the current WA assessments (MSP, HSPE, and EOCs) has been approved by OSPI assessment staff. And the last time I checked, the state superintendent of public instruction was an elected official. And furthermore, the elected state legislators have significant influence over the state assessment program, including the transition to Smarter Balanced. Also, every single test item in the Smarter Balanced item bank has been approved by state assessment staff of the member states. The current WA assessments as well as the Smarter Balanced assessments are customized assessment, not shelf products like textbooks. State education department/agency staff oversee every element of the Smarter Balanced assessments.

Finally, if only public officials, including public school teachers, designed and developed the state assessments, they would be more than 3x the cost they are now. It is more economic to have states contract with testing companies.

--- swk

Po3 said…
High schools have been telling parents it is a mandatory test for 11th graders.

But it sounds like we can opt out of any test that is not a graduation requirement.
Anonymous said…

@Melissa: Want to see what some of the Smarter Balanced testing for 3rd graders looks like?


Click Melissa's hyperlink in the text of the Wednesday Open Thread and click through all of the instructions to take the test as a 'guest'.

The test is utterly ridiculous. Truly, we must all opt out in mass. Only then will SPS get the message that they can't just blindly follow down a path 'cuz their OSPI General told them to do so. The so-call Nuremberg defense does not hold. The test is awful.

The test is way too sophisticated and difficult and complex. ridiculous. I clicked through all of the instructions just to get to the test, and the questions were logic puzzles and complicated and required sophisticated math, far beyond the level that is now taught. So, I ask, what is the point? To make children cry? To waste time?

Please, please please, take the test. Then decide if you want to subject your child to it.

If we all lock arms and refuse to have our kids take this, then, and only then, will SPS be forced to rethink their idiotic strategy.

SPS is positively GLEEFUL about this test. Really. They are showing the Board 'dashboards' of color coded tiles that 'describe' a child down to a 'T'. They honestly believe that this is what teachers need to be successful in teaching children. Nuts.

I am not a teacher, but I am a parent. Yet, I know teachers need good textual materials, enough instruction time, well-rested and fed children, and support from IAs for their ELL and SpEd students in order to be effective as teachers. Giving them 'sexy' dashboards of multicolored honeycombed tiles of a student's learning based on summative and formative assessment like the Smarter Balance is not going to help them reach children. But, it might demoralize them, and, make them frustrated enough over time to leave the profession.

Benjamin Leis said…
The SBAC 3rd grade math test is a state mandate not a SPS specific requirement. SPS has zero control over whether to administer it or not. If you want to lobby then you'll need to do it at the state level and really at the federal level as well since assessment requirements are being linked to various programs like Race to The Top.

That's not to say that opting out isn't a bad idea. If there were mass state wide opt-out I'm not sure exactly what would happen. However, since it takes effort and awareness to do so, it still seems a huge barrier to surmount in order to have it occur at large levels. For the meantime, I'm glad to at least have it available as an individual option for those of us who do care about over-testing.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, Can you find out the details about the reported SPED information disclosure?

I just spoke to another parent and she knew more details, but could not say for a fact if the rumors are true. She said the district sent out just about everything for some students perhaps their entire compliance file.

Tim P.
Anonymous said…
SWK, I would call it venting. (I wish I were in a position to vet.) And my vent is about Smarter Balanced- the topic at hand. I am a pretty rational person and open to your assertions, but without sources and facts, they are just assertions.

One thing I would caution against is such binary thinking as Pearson vs. an unqualified local group. Why must we lean on a for-profit company where a profit motive adds no value? This is like privatized utilities- it is doable, but not in the public interest. States are perfectly capable of grouping together and hiring math education experts to write excellent exams (PhD in math education would be the floor here.) My biggest concern is developmental appropriateness, and it is clear that Pearson couldn't give a flying fig about what is good for kids. They are hiring hacks to write "content." I would be willing to bet that they are 24 year-old contractors with very little expertise and I would be amazed to have see your claim that there is public oversight substantiated. Math education experts live and breath developmental appropriateness, but Pearson is not going to shell out what they would need to get them to the table. It would hurt the bottom line. It is nearly as irrational as a profit motive mixed up in health care.

Suppressing Cursewords
mirmac1 said…
The SpEd disclosure is only known among a few individuals and, given the sensitive nature, must remain so. Melissa should NOT be at liberty to obtain this information. That is the whole principle of protecting student information: some Joe Blow citizen or stranger off the street should not just ask "hey, what'd you screw up and disclose?"

Report it and rectify it as soon as possible, rather than post it on Blogger. Doh!
I do not have the specific files on this issue. I do know it did happen.
Anonymous said…
"The SpEd disclosure is only known among a few individuals and, given the sensitive nature, must remain so."

Sorry don't want to be rude but, I don't care what you think. If my son's information was compromised I should know along with everyone else. Would you care to define "few" and what gives you your self proclaimed authority to say how this situation should be handled.

I can tell you that everyone on our school's yahoo group knows of this, so I guess the rabbit is out of the hat.

Jeez some people!

Tim P.
mirmac1 said…
Okay, Tim P. I suggest you pursue a remedy that does more than raise a kerfuffle on the blog. Let us all know the end result. I'm all ears. You obviously know more than everyone else. Spill.
Unknown said…
@Tim P,

Disclosing personally identifiable information and educational records concerning a child with a disability violates both IDEA privacy rules as well as FERPA.

You should assume that if your child has an IEP that at least his or her child's eligibility category and service model was disclosed along with directory information. This happened in the course of a public records request made by a parent.

The individual who received the records has been instructed to destroy them, and I believe he or she will do that shortly.

FERPA creates no private right of action so that even if you believe you suffered damages, you would not be able to recover those damages from the district. FERPA violations may mean that the DOE would withhold federal funding from SPS. We know how effective that has been.

If you would like to file a FERPA violation with the DOE, send a letter of complaint to Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-8520.

For the IDEA violation, you can send a "citizen's complaint" to OSPI. The information for doing that is here:

Again, do not expect that you can recover damages from this violation. You can expect that OSPI will investigate, and tell SPS that they need to obey the rules and possibly that they need to attend some training.

Anonymous said…
@ Mirmac

What gives you the right to say that. It is perfectly within the rights of parents of kids (sounds like it could have been hundreds/thousands??) who may have been affected by this to say " hey what did you screw up and disclose" and to whom did you disclose the information too. Sheesh. Why the secrecy? It only serves to protect the district, not the kids or families.

Anonymous said…
Suppressing Cursewords, you keep referring to Pearson and Smarter Balanced. Pearson is not involved in the design and development of the Smarter Balanced assessments (except for a small contract to develop an IT readiness tool for schools and districts). They were not involved in the writing of items. They were not involved in the development of the online test engine. They were not involved in scoring. They were not involved in reporting.

If you would like a list of contractors and vendors involved in the design and development of the Smarter Balanced assessments, please refer to You will see that Pearson was not involved in the design and development of the Smarter Balanced assessments.

For a list of member state staff involvement in Smarter Balanced assessments, including minutes of Executive Committee meetings, please refer to

As for my "assertions", you can continue to claim them as such. I might be able to find documentation of the OSPI oversight of the state assessment program but I'm not willing to do this work to prove my assertions. If you read through my many comments on this blog, you might rightly conclude that I'm simply "in the room" and I speak from experience and not conjecture. If not, so well. I feel no need to justify my experiences to you.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Thanks SWK, I appreciate you following up and you are right that I need to do my homework. I indeed thought that Smarter Balanced was written by Pearson. Why do you think they (those who *are* doing the design and writing) are having young kids do keyboarded essays? Why would a sample essay given to parents be so poorly conceived and written?
Suppressing Cursewords
Anonymous said…
The individual who received the records has been instructed to destroy them, and I believe he or she will do that shortly.

That's a ridiculous assertion. The person who received private information us under NO obligation at all. If he has any brains or ethics, he will absolutely keep that information and not destroy it. It's evidence of the district's neglect and utter disregard for students with disabilities. If the information is destroyed, the infraction never happened. It's really that simple. Keep the evidence Sam!

Yes Tim, if your child has a disability, he list his privacy.

Sped Parent
Anonymous said…
Suppressing Cursewords - you are not entirely off base associating Pearson with the common core testing, just confusing SBAC with the competing test consortia, PARCC. PARCC is the one signed a contract with Pearson for test item writing, etc.

Anonymous said…
See, Mirmac likes to be the distributor of Seattle district documents that Mirmac happily posts to a publicly accessible site including apparently oopsy daisy! the name of the Garfield alleged rapist. But when OTHER people want sensitive information it's all no, no, no too sensitive.

What a bunch of crapola. Those special education names were probably exposed because of an oversight by lawyers overwhelmed by other public information requests by Mirmac and others


cmj said…
I'll echo the commenter signed "yikes" and add my $0.02.

The WASL was a rather poorly written test, but what was wrong with the multiple-choice ITBS (not used by WA for NCLB, IIRC, but for other purposes)? Clear, simple, and quick to grade.

I looked through a few questions on the Smarter Balanced 3rd grade practice math test. It seems to be much better written than the reading test and relatively demanding in terms of 3rd grade content. Of course, I don't spend much time around 3rd graders, so take that with a grain of salt.
Anonymous said…
Here here, Goose-Gander.

Mirmac, your hypocrisy and public information requests are crazy-making. Talk about raising kerfuffles.

mirmac1 said…
Mary, you are correct. After a disabled student's name was posted on the SPS website, my OSPI complaint resulted in a slap on the wrist: an admonishment, and "corrective action" calling for the district to review its FERPA practices.

None of my public records requests are fulfilled by outside counsel. These clowns make $300-$500 per hour and do a lousy job.
Anonymous said…
Once again, OSPI doing jack for sped students. File again! With OSPI's mommy, whoever that is.

Sped Parent
Anonymous said…
Heard last night on KOMO that there are no classes today at Rainer Beach, due to a power outage at the school. Some sort of accident in the building?

- North-end Mom
Crazy Time said…
The district didn't acknowledge that many 11th grade students are also taking AP exams. These tests need to be considered.
Ron said…

Adding on to Goose Gander.

Why are some ok with not having ALL information?
TheGoodFight said…
Here's why there is no problem, there are close to 8,000 students with IEPs yet only 15 complaints filed this year.

That's a problem most corporations like SPS would love to have.

File or shut-up
"FERPA creates no private right of action so that even if you believe you suffered damages, you would not be able to recover those damages from the district."

That is so. But if the law firm has repeatedly shown itself unable to follow district directives on FERPA, well, something could be done about that.

CMJ, the ITBS used to be called the gold standard for assessments and it was cheap. Districts were perfectly happy using it for decades. Not saying that any assessment is perfect or didn't need to be updated but I did find it strange when it disappeared.

Unknown said…

The fact that this has happened more than once is very concerning. Theoretically speaking it is grounds for over 7,000 FERPA violation complaints to the DOE as well as 7,000 citizen complaints to OSPI.

Again, the person who received the information has no standing to file a FERPA complaint, although he or she could file a citizen's complaint for an IDEA violation. The FERPA complaint has to be from other families or students over the age of 18.

Anonymous said…
And will SPS notify those families of the data privacy breach, so they can file complaints? Otherwise, how would they know to do so? If SPS won't confirm whether specific info was released, as Tim P suggested, how does one have standing to file?

Half Full
Anonymous said…
Melissa, there were legislative hearings back in 2002 or 2003, I believe, after NCLB was passed. The legislature decided to drop ITBS as part of the state assessment program because (1) it didn't align to the EALRs and (2) it was/is a norm-referenced test, not a criterion-referenced test. Since ITBS could not be used for NCLB purposes, the legislature decided to drop it.

Nothing, however, prevented local school districts from using it as a district assessment and many districts did/do.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
I liked the ITBS much better than WASL or MSP. It matched the results from days of individual testing & assessment that my child did as part of a psycho-educational evaluation, which neither WASL nor MSP ever did. So I think it was more accurate.

Also the results were more specific & easier for me to understand.

And I do think that the district has a responsibility to notify parents of the FERPA breach. Are they going to do that?

-hs parent
Anonymous said…
There have been some emails on the Sped PTSA list about the information disclosure - it affects not only all SPED students, but hundreds of non-SPED students at all grade levels as well. I'll attach a copy of the letter this evening (it's on my other computer).

Basically, it sounds like a lawyer for a private law firm, who filed a public disclosure request related on one particular incident, received emails fom the school districts' lawyer's that have attachments containing all sorts of confidential information, all completely unrelated to the case he is working on. He wrote a letter alerting the school board and superintendant of the situation. He also mentions that this is not the first time this has happened at his law firm.

I do believe this individual will destroy all the data, since he has gone to the trouble to alert the board that there is a problem. The real question is how many other people has the SPS law department been randomly emailing confidential info to? And what is going to be done to ensure that this does not continue? This is not just a SPED issue - it just happens that THIS TIME a lot of SPED records were involved.

Mom of 4
Anonymous said…
One would hope the district would handle the data breach in the manner in which corporations are now handling hacking. After all, the sensitivity of the data is similar......

I would suggest the district send out by email and physical mail and robocall a message to every family affected by the Roosevelt (or wider) disclosure. The message should say something like: "Some of your child's private academic information, which may include his/her (insert information here such as grades, discipline, special ed. status, etc.) was inadvertently disclosed on (dates) to (recipient's business name). We take these data breaches seriously and have put measures into place (COME UP WITH OPERATIONAL METHODS, NAME THEM, FOLLOW THEM) to minimize the chance of this reoccurrence. Although we believe the data was destroyed upon receipt of the documents, please notify us at this dedicated number (USE THE OMBUDSMAN NUMBER OR A NEW CUSTOMER SERVICE NUMBER AND HAVE AN EMPLOYEE ACTUALLY FOLLOW UP ON ALL CALLS AND TRACK THE NUMBER OF CALLS FOR REPORTING TO THE SCHOOL BOARD AND THE SPS LEGAL DEPT) if you have any current or future concerns about this data breach."

If this happens again in a different area of the district, repeat the above instructions and calls.

Sheesh. I just saved SPS a chunk of change on a data breach consultant not to mention customer service hours spent trying to deal with a pretty egregious mistake. You're welcome, SPS.

And frankly, SPS: These things really aren't that difficult to avoid in the first place, and to apologize for and track when accidents happen, if you are committed to running a quality central operation. Which, unfortunately, as usual you do not seem to be.

Anonymous said…
There are systemic issues at SPS in handling PII, PHI, HIPPA and FERPA related documents. Most of the time the district will respond to request by sending you PDF files. These PDFs may have embedded attachments which depending on your viewer you might be able to see. If you have ever received information from SPS via a public disclosure request(PDR)you know that they will send you many emails that are duplicates or not relevant to your request.

I recently received a 5 pound box of documents sent to me from one of the other bull dog law firms SPS sicks on parents and in the box was close to 1200 pages of disjointed non sense emails and other documents. The firm appeared to have redacted many documents containing PII and PHI. The process the firm used was to simply paint over the PII and PHI text with white out then photo copy the document. The copied document would then have a blank spot with the text "redacted" filled in place of the original text. The problem was that the firm mailed both the photo copied documents and the originals with the white out. I could hold up the original to a light source and easily read the original text.

SPS should NEVER attach the entire list of SPED students or any other bulk form of data to emails internally or externally. If a consultant needs this information the consultant should be required to view the information at the district office.

Anonymous said…
Amazing, especially that it isn't the first time. An families don't hear zip about it. If this was a hospital or medical provider that did this with patient info it would be a big deal! Patients would need to be informed etc, apologies, investigation into how happened. But I guess this is just another day, another F**K up for SPS.

open eyes
Anonymous said…
WOW SPS is wonder they are doing nothing to fix SPED.

Anonymous said…
Dear Seattle Public Schools families,

Late Tuesday night Seattle Public Schools learned that a law firm retained by the district to handle a complaint against the district inadvertently sent personally identifiable student information to an individual involved in the case. The district promptly removed the law firm from the case and is working to ensure that all improperly released records are retrieved or destroyed.

Protection of student privacy is of critical importance, and this inadvertent release of student information is unacceptable. Confidential information about several thousand of our students was improperly released. They are primarily Special Education students. Seattle Public Schools is reporting the release of student information to the U.S. Department of Education and is asking for their assistance in investigating how this happened.

Seattle Public Schools is looking into the exact extent of the disclosure and will be sending follow-up communications to affected families.

We appreciate the action of the individual who received these documents in reporting this to the district so that we could quickly move to retrieve the student information and notify families.

Dr. Larry Nyland
Interim Superintendent

posted by "midnight"
Anonymous said…
law firm of Preg, O'Donnell and Gillet

Unknown said…
There you go: a decent not "business as usual" response from the district. Hallelujah.
Anonymous said…
What that sound? It's Pandora's box opening!

Ha Ha
Ah, I had a call into the law firm for a comment. Maybe the Superintendent's letter is why I didn't get a call back.

I'm going to have to write more on this and tweet it out.

FERPA may not be able to do much; maybe the hard,cold light of day might.
Anonymous said…
Nyland's letter = my outline = standard procedure in these cases. When SPS stops and thinks, it can operate like a real professional organization.

Patrick said…
It's absolutely appalling.

At least at this time the District seems to be trying to do the decent thing.
cmj said…
Nyland's letter says "Seattle Public Schools is reporting the release of student information to the U.S. Department of Education and is asking for their assistance in investigating how this happened" [Bold mine].

It's possible that SPS voluntarily asked the DoE for help with tracking down a FERPA (and IDEA?) violation. Still, I'm reminded of how SPS said that they asked the DoE to help them with their Title IX compliance issues -- after people found out that SPS was being investigated by the DoE for Title IX compliance problems.
cmj said…
It seems like the the FERPA leaks are happening rather frequently. Someone mentioned one leak with the Garfield-NatureBridge case and now there's this one. That's two rather significant FERPA leaks in a few months -- and those are just the ones that are publicly known and mentioned on this specific thread. There are probably even more that have happened in the past few months.

So, a few questions. How many people at SPS are filling public records requests? I looked at the website and it only lists one person. Maybe that person is the manager of the Public Records Office, not the only person working there? If it's only one person doing all the redacting for the district...that is a huge job and I'm not surprised that person occasionally makes mistakes.

There are a few things that could be changed to fix the FERPA leak problem. I don't know all the details about, so I'm not sure what the best choice would be.
1. If the problem is that the staff are incompetent, replace them.
2. If the problem is that there simply aren't enough staff to handle all the records requests, add more staff. (I hate to recommend adding more non-teaching employees to SPS, since they're cutting/transferring teachers due to budget issues, but student privacy is important.)
3. If the problem is that the procedures for filing requests aren't working, then fix the procedures. Maybe requests need to go through a 2-step process where one person fills it and the other reads over it and checks for any mistakes. That would add a lot of time but hopefully solve the problem.
CMJ (and everyone else), this is why student data privacy is important to me.

You are only as good as the person handling the data. Clearly the law firm was not doing a great job. You send out student data to any entity - law firm, non-profit , etc - and you don't know how careful anyone is. There's a lot of trust in just sending data out the door w/o truly checking for systems.
Wonderful said…
The US Department of Education is part of the problem. They are the ones that provided us with relaxed FERPA laws.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
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Unknown said…
King 5 covers the leak of personally identifiable information of students with disabilities:
Anonymous said…
Interesting. King 5 is reporting that SPS has cut all ties with this law firm. That would be appropriate, yet, the District's letter states that it is only taking this firm off of this particular case. Leaving the impression that the firm is free to squander public funds in some other routine contexts, just not this one.

And let's see how many families are actually contacted concerning this matter, as evidently at least to the media this is the District's intent. Remember that there are SSN#s in some of those files. SPS must explain why these were ever given out in the first place.


Anonymous said…
I saw the story on King5, who is the person trying to marginalize the severity. Does she work for the district? The report mentioned the PTA...It wasn't made clear why the PTA is involved with the leak, or why that's relevant.

Tim P.
Unknown said…
@Tim P,

What is your point? What are you identifying as severity? Aside from properly notifying parents via standard mail, what more should the district be doing?
Anonymous said…
Are you serious? There are 3-4 levels of information security that should have prevented this.

The law firm was the at level 4, levels 1-3 are performed by the school district. I will know more about their polices and systems soon. I work in information security, so you have to trust me when I tell you that this far from over.

Again why would the news have a PTA member speak damage control. I wasn't that concerned before, but now I'm livid.

Tim P.
Anonymous said…
@Griffin: what more should the District be doing? Gee let's think about it for a second. Establishing procedures so that this doesn't happen again? Verifying where SSNs were given out over email and directly contacting THOSE families? Examining why this info was shared in the first place?

The person in the KING 5 report is a member of the SPED PTA board. She does not work for the district. KING 5 wanted an opinion from a parent and that's what she gave.

Unknown said…
@Tim P.

You're making me laugh. I have to trust you? You, who claim you work in information security? I don't know anything about you and I certainly don't have to trust you.

The district has asked for the DOE to investigate. The purpose of the investigation is to find out what went wrong and how to prevent it.

Again, what is your point about having a fellow parent express her concerns? Did you expect King 5 to interview you?

Anonymous said…
So I googled

Found the listing of board members and noticed they have a Communications/Outreach Chair. I would have found it more natural for the Communications/Outreach Chair person to do the talking BTW I just guessing her name in not SAM,I could be wrong and in that case ignore the next line.

It's still not clear how or why the person was on KING5 downplaying this event. Did she reach out to KING5. It just seems to me this person could have some direct relationship with the district and was contacted to do damage control.

Tim P.
Tim, let it go.

NO, the district did not talk to her at all (I know this from both sides).

Is it being downplayed? Yes.

But I think what is being downplayed by the parent is that the parent who asked for the info is NOT going to reveal any of it nor spread it widely.

Now should we all turn to the district and ask some hard questions? Yes.

I'll have a separate thread on this soon.
Anonymous said…
Ok fair enough. I hope to hear/read/watch something with a little more substance soon.

Tim P.

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