August 31, 2015

State Education Board Votes to Allow Data Release

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Oklahoma Watch reporter Nate Robson discusses high school graduation rates on OETA’s Oklahoma News Report.


It just got easier to find out basic details about Oklahoma school districts, such as graduation rates, after the state repealed a controversial rule used to redact data for many districts.

The state Board of Education voted 6-0, with Cathryn Franks absent, to repeal a rule that was used to redact the graduation rates for 58 percent of the states school districts. That rule required the Education Department to redact data that listed fewer than 10 students.

Oklahoma Watch asked for the graduation rates earlier this summer, but was given heavily redacted data.

Most of the districts with redacted graduation rates were small, rural districts. They also tended to have really high or low graduation rates.

Moments before voting to ax the rule, the board voted to release four unredacted reports, including graduation rates. The other three reports included enrollment numbers, dropout rates and data on students considered to be living in poverty.

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Board member Bill Price said releasing unredacted graduation rates was a step in the right direction.

“The pendulum has swung so far in the direction of non-discloser and privacy that 58 percent of districts were not reported,” Price said. “And now we are putting it much more in line. We are protecting privacy and at the same time transparency is the rule of the day.”

The Education Department will rely on student privacy protections already in place through the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits the release of data that can identify individual students.

Department officials on Thursday said the unredacted data being released didn’t identify individual students.

Thursday’s vote came on the heals of an Oklahoma Watch story where lawmakers criticized the department for misinterpreting a law they wrote to prevent private student data, like social security numbers, from being given to test vendors.

Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, said the department improperly added a rule defining the intentions of the bill to limit the release of data with fewer than 10 students.


2014 Oklahoma Graduation Rates (Text)