An Investigative Article – Written By Reilly Kneedler
Originally featured in the November 12 issue of the Scratching Post
What’s the deal with your permanent record?
After discovering the ins and outs of scholarly record keeping, here is a brief summary of the process that tracks your life in high school.
“You better behave young man, or this’ll go on your permanent record!”
For anyone who has endured years or public school, this phrase has been etched into infamy. It exists as that constant threat; yet no student seems to have ever actually seen this archaic yellow musty file inside of a locked file cabinet known as your “Permanent Record.”
In reality, any student over the age of 18 can view their own record. However it doesn’t exist as one would expect.
back in the good ol’ days
The year is 1959. A young man (lets call him John Doe for the sake of identity protection) enrolls in Eastmont School District. In seventh grade, a guidance counselor fills out a transcript for him, the same one that he will use for the next six years of public school. The counselor writes out his classes and at the end of the year his grades for those classes are filled out… yes in pen and yes by hand. It went that way for every student in the district for many years, a single piece of thick yellow cardstock made up their entire class history and high school story.
After a number of years, typewriters took over as the main tool for creating school records. Suddenly secretaries and registrars had to become type specialists, transcribing discipline records and class grades for hundreds of students. However these records were still kept in file cabinets in the counseling office.
Then the year 1985 rolled around and with it came computers and more importantly: Schoolmaster.
That’s right teachers, the same program you use now to track attendance was also used back in the 80’s. It instantly became the central database for cataloging student info. Suddenly counselors could designate class schedules at the push of a button.
And with that invention, paper records became obsolete… kind of.
Where is your record?
Depending on who you are and what school categories you fall under, your record may be stored in three main sections:
Your cumlative record is like a history book into your past. It is also made out of good old fashioned paper and is stored under lock and key in the counseling office. It has test scores and progress reports from all the way back into elementary school. Remember that time you got sent to the principal’s office in third grade for hitting your neighbor? It’s probably mentioned in the third grade section of the file. Or did you happen to move school districts a few times since that young age? More than likely, that school faxed your records over to Eastmont and they’re stored in that file.
Next up on the list is your working file. This one is also a paper file with your name on it sitting in the counseling office. However this one is mostly used by the counselors to keep track of your progress since entering the high school. If you’ve taken the SAT, ACT, or an HSPE test in the last few years, then there will likely be a printout of the scores stored in the working file. This one is much more accessible for your counselor, constantly ready for a credit check or or to answer a question from a curious parent.
Finally there is your personal record on Schoolmaster. Anything dealing with discipline, behavioral corrections, or even one’s personal fines are stored in the Schoolmaster archives. Most of this info is only accessible to guidance counselors or administration. Yet any teacher can see things such as your schedule, transcript, or health info simply by signing in to the almighty Schoolmaster program.
There is one arcane piece of the puzzle; psychological records. Whereas these are only relevant to a few members of our student body, they have one of the more complicated systems of storage, rightly so.
Once a staff member has perceived that a student may have a mental or learning disability, and that student has undergone basic testing for that disability, the original records pertaining to the test are stored safely in the district office. However copies are available to their school psychologist and digitized within Schoolmaster and only accessible to Special Education staff and a few select administrators. Yet these psychological files are not legally allowed to be stored in the same place as the student’s cumlative file for security reasons.
Show me the records!
Up to four different files (paper or digital) which can be stored in up to six different locations within the district: its a lot to keep track of.
Yet any parent or any student over 18 can walk right into the counseling office and ask to see them. You’ll be shown into your counselor’s office and handed two yellow paper files filled with your scholarly past.
Such a trip down memory lane can be overwhelming. But it also begs the question: what happens to all of this after you toss your cap and move on with your life?
Well the district legally has to keep them in their entirety for two years locked inside a file cabinet ready to be pulled at a moment’s notice. After that, the story changes slightly. The transcript, vaccination reports and a copy of the diploma for each student are kept indefinitely, in fact there are school records sitting in counseling office dating back to the graduation year of 1973. And the rest of the file is often shredded into oblivion.
So if you get a chance before the year winds to an end, pop into the counseling office and check out your infamous student record. Depending on your behavior at Eastmont, the experience may either be a pleasant trip down memory lane or perhaps the inspiration you need to turn your high school journey around.