Missouri issues ID numbers to pupils
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Missouri issues ID numbers to pupils

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | July 19, 2005
By Carolyn Bower

Missouri is assigning a 10-digit identification number to its public school students, from the 34 in tiny Wyaconda, Mo., to the more than 37,000 students in the St. Louis Public Schools. The ID numbers will allow educators to track students from preschool through high school.

So far this summer, nearly two-thirds of the numbers have been assigned. By January, well ahead of testing time next spring, Missouri expects to have IDs assigned to nearly all of the state's 905,000 public school students.

That will allow officials to save money and collect more accurate data by precoding test booklets with student information. It will provide a way to track students and their scores year to year, even if they move to other schools and districts. It also could help answer questions about how many students should be counted as dropouts.

"All states in the country are in the process of putting in place a student identification system," said Leigh Ann Grant-Engle, data manager for Missouri's education department.

Illinois also is developing a statewide identification system, said Becky Watts, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education.

"Missouri did not want to be one of the leaders of the pack," Grant-Engle said. "But with the federal No Child Left Behind law, this seemed to be the right time to do this."

The federal law does not require statewide identifiers, but identifiers make the required public reports more efficient to compile, said Glynn Ligon, president of ESP Solutions Group of Austin, Texas, the company Missouri has hired to help develop the ID system. "It's real clear that states have difficulty verifying information if they can't look at individual student records," Ligon said.

For now, participation by Missouri school districts is voluntary. Grant-Engle said confidentiality would be ensured by keeping Social Security numbers hidden and requiring a security clearance for people who operate the system.

School officials submit to the state information such as a student's first, last and middle name, date of birth, race, gender and grade, as well as school district, school attended and district where the student lives.

The database will include information about English language learners and students in migrant, Title I, special education and vocational education. In addition, the database will contain state test score information. Links to postsecondary education records could be possible.

The $600,000 cost of developing the Missouri Student Information System will be financed through federal money.

Bertha Doar, director of data analysis for the Rockwood School District, served on a committee to study the idea of statewide student ID numbers.

Doar said the switch could save Rockwood about $6,000 to $7,000 a year in precoding tests. In addition, she said, the information could provide teachers with more information about a student's academic background. "When a kid transfers in without documents or records, this system will tell us what school to call," she said. "That way we don't have to reinvent the wheel and do screenings all over again."

But the switch does not come easily. School technology departments have to jump through several hoops to allow the new statewide ID to become part of the school district systems.

Ferguson-Florissant school officials register new students frequently, said Dan Wineinger, director of technology services for the district. The district will provide student information to the state once Wineinger gets some questions answered. "This will not be quick and easy," he said. "It could require extra work each day."

Andrea Wood, coordinator of student assessment for the Parkway School District, doubts the transfer of information will be easy for anyone. Parkway students will continue to use their Parkway ID number to check out books or buy food. But they won't have to remember all the numbers or even their names. The state system will code their tests with both the state and the district numbers as well as the student's name, Wood said.

"In the long run, this will be good," Wood said. "In the short run, this will be a lot of work."

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