B24-0232 – “Student and Minor Access to Records and Transcripts (SMART) Act of 2021”
Education Reform Now DC
Good morning, my name is Kyle Myers. I am a Ward 5 resident, equity advocate, and a Community Organizer for Education Reform Now DC (ERN DC). We are a non-profit organization focused on providing a more equitable public education system for all students. I am testifying today in support of B24-0232, the Student and Minor Access to Records and Transcripts (SMART) Act of 2021. I believe the DC Council should also consider amending it.
Students must have access to all of their documentation during the school year and post-graduation. Students need these records for a multitude of reasons: transferring to a different school, applying for college, or seeking admissions to trade schools or vocational programs. Despite everyone knowing the significance of having these documents, our students and adults, in some cases, still face challenges when attempting to retrieve them.
Lower the age of those able to request records from 18 to 16
The (SMART) Act will lower the age required for minors to request their records from 18 to 16 years old, which I support. Lowering the age will make it easier for students to act independently who are in foster care, victims of neglectful parenting, or experiencing homelessness. Please note that the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) requires a transcript for students as young as 14 years old. The DC Council may want to review if sixteen is the right age cutoff.
Shorten the time to process record requests from 15 to 5 days
The amount of time it takes for a student to receive their transcripts can hinder their decision-making process when applying to colleges and put them at a disadvantage. As I recall my own personal experience, it took weeks for me to receive my documents (2016). I was 18 when I graduated high school. After several attempts of contacting the school, and getting the same response, I physically went to the campus and pleaded with one of the councilors, who then sent me my transcripts the following day. By this time, my options for colleges were limited because I had to submit the documents so late and I fell short of certain deadlines, which also resorted in fees from the colleges. There needs to be a considerably faster turnaround when students request these documents so they do not face the same issues when applying to colleges. These are crucial decisions, so students need all their documents to be returned quickly and made easily accessible. I recommend that this process is shortened from 15 to five days.
Improve record keeping and sharing
Tyrik Williams, a ward five resident, DC voter, and a friend who attended a High School in DC faced a different challenge after graduating in 2016 at 17. He was, unfortunately, incarcerated for 18 months. After being released in 2017, he attempted to retrieve his transcripts and other documents necessary to pursue new opportunities, such as finding a job and enrolling in a vocational education program. Again it took multiple attempts to contact the school administration just for them to reach a dead end. The administrators informed him that they could not locate his transcript. This was a major hindrance to his goals due to the misplacement of his records and the time it took to retrieve them. It also served as a mental deterrent for a young Black man trying to recover and succeed.
Additionally, The DCist published a story about how a student named Aaliyah Jones was told she had to take additional classes after she graduated from National Collegiate Prep. The DC Council should continue to push the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to quickly build the student data warehouse so all local education agencies (LEAs), students, and families have easily accessible records.
Educate students on this new policy
If passed, the DC Council should also require all LEAs to include this policy on their websites and in student handbooks along with information on student privacy.
Thank you for introducing this legislation and holding a hearing on it. This is the first step of ensuring more strategic thought, planning, and execution goes into sharing student records. Thank you for allowing me to testify.