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Iowa Watchdog

Iowa withholds student cheating documents

5/23/2013

DES MOINES – Officials with the Iowa Department of Education say they won’t release information collected in an investigation of a cheating scandal involving Davenport third-through fifth-graders at Madison Elementary School.

They declined to do so at the advice of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who said that material contained was protected under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, which keeps some student information confidential. Iowa Watchdog, however, requested emails that did not disclose confidential information.

Madison test scores come under scrutiny, district investigates.

Madison test scores come under scrutiny, district investigates.

Additionally, Davenport Superintendent Arthur Tate said his district’s investigation focused on using erasure trends to look for possible cheating, in which wrong answers were erased and changed to the right one, Tate said in an interview with Iowa Watchdog. That information would not protected under law if identifying information wasn’t attached to it, according to Iowa law.

Davenport officials turned over all of their materials to the state, but Tate said the investigation is ongoing. The state required the district to turn over their investigative materials earlier this month.

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Staci Hupp, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education, said Miller advised the agency against releasing any information, blanketing it all as confidential, according to email accounts.

Miller represents state agencies when it comes to freedom of information issues, but is also charged with being a cheerleader and main enforcer when it comes to implementing transparency laws.

Miller’s office did not provide written documentation of the advice it provided to the Iowa Department of Education, Hupp said.

“On your question about redacting: It’s not an option in this case because, even though only some of the documents are FERPA protected, all of the documents are considered personnel records,” Hupp wrote in an email response.

Geoff Greenwood, spokesman with the Iowa Attorney General’s office, said they were looking further examining the confidentiality of the non-student information.

Contact Sheena Dooley at dooley@iowawatchdog.org. Sheena Dooley is the Iowa bureau chief for Watchdog.org, where this story first appeared.

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