Ethical & Legal Principles of Sharing Assessment Results

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Have you ever wondered about the legal and ethical principles that protect the assessment results of your students? This lesson explores both types of principles so that you'll know the framework for what you are allowed to share with parents or legal guardians and school staff.

Ethical vs. Legal?

Can you imagine your teacher reading aloud your grades to all students? This behavior would embarrass you if your grades were bad or could make you feel exposed even if your grades were good.

As a teacher, you know there is a legal mandate that prohibits this behavior. Do you wonder, though, what the ethical aspect of it is? All legal mandates involve an ethical principle. When it comes to sharing assessment results, the ethical principle is that you, as a professional in education, should always maintain the confidentiality of your students' data.

You have a moral obligation as a professional to be respectful of others' information. With this principle in mind, you have the bigger legal framework, which is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This law protects the privacy of students' information and defines how teachers should manage all data, including assessment results. Let's explore this.

Federal law protects the rights of your students to maintain the confidentiality of their information, including assessment results.
teacher files

FERPA and School Policy

First, let's make sure to remember that assessments include not only quizzes, standardized tests, or exams for a given school subject, but also evaluations that other professionals, such as the school psychologist or nurse, do in school.

Second, let's differentiate between two sets of policies. FERPA is the law that protects the privacy of students. In addition, each school has a policy to guide teachers and other school professionals about disclosing results. Note that school policies can vary, but they also must adhere to FERPA in terms of safeguarding the privacy of students' data.

Now, let's see how you can share assessment results with different people who have an interest in them as we follow Diane, a teacher who is very aware of FERPA as well as her school policy.

Sharing With Students

Diane graded the math quiz over the weekend and now has the grades. Diane gives students their tests, but one student did not come to school. The student's best friend approaches Diane and shows her a message from his friend asking the teacher to let the friend know his grade. Diane tells the student that she cannot do that. The student argues his friend would show him his grade anyway. Diane's response is that she is aware students share grades with their friends, but she, as a teacher, can only show grades to the student who earned them.

This example illustrates the ethical principle to show grades only to the student who earned them. Some schools might have the policy to have the teacher call individual students to share their results. With quizzes, however, you would probably want to review the answers with the whole class so students realize their mistakes. Finally, common sense dictates that assessment results can be shared with students by the school professional who made the evaluation. For instance, it would not be appropriate for a teacher to tell a student about psychological evaluation results just because the teacher heard from the school psychologist.

Sharing with Parents/Guardians

As per FERPA, schools have the obligation to disclose students' data, including assessment results, to parents and legal guardians as long as children are under 18 years of age. While FERPA does not mention it, common sense dictates that you, as a teacher, guide the parent or legal guardian to understand assessment results. For instance, Diane knows the standardized test results parents see on a report card are not necessarily clear to everyone. In fact, a parent comes to school to ask Diane what 425 means as a score on a math test. Diane shows the parent the scoring scale for a standardized test in math and even explains the criteria to determine the student's level in math. In short, sharing results with parents or guardians often requires that teachers act as guides. Guiding parents can be done by:

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