Stacy Lynch
Max Stieve
Case 5
Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo
United States Supreme Court.
Argued November 27, 2001. Decided February 19, 2002

Background:
A parent brought suit against a school district after she failed in her attempt to get them enact a policy banning all peer grading within the classrooms. The parent stated that the act of peer grading and the “calling-out” of grades violated the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and publicly embarrassed her children. The court sided with the school district. However, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision stating that the graded assignments were school records and protected under FERPA. From there the case went on to the U.S. Supreme Court to answer whether peer-graded assignments are educational records. The Supreme Court was able to make a decision on the case because of three other cases: Gonzaga University v Doe, Bragdon v Abbott, and Steel Company v Citizen for Better Environment. Also, Davis v Michigan Department of Treasury was used by the court to help them reach their decision.

Decision and Rationale:
There were nine votes to zero in favor of the Owasso Independent School District. The court found that peer grading is not a violation of FERPA. The papers are only records under the act if and when they are, “maintained by and education agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.” Even in a narrow interpretation, grades are only educational records when they enter the teacher’s grade book, so the time the students have with the papers is irrelevant. The court also explained that in peer-grading situations the students that grade the papers are not “acting for” the institution and the grading can be as much of a part of the assignment as doing the assignment. It can be considered as a way “to teach material again in a new context.”

Impact on Teaching:
There is definitely a good impact to teaching in this court ruling. Peer grading is an important part of the classroom. It is an opportunity for students to see other students work and possibly learn something or help their classmate with an issue in their work. For peer grading to be efficient though there has to be an honor code in place and this lets the students know that the teacher trusts them. Of course, the upside to peer grading is that it lessens the load of stuff that has to be graded. The down side is that students may use the information to embarrass their classmates. However, this is a separate situation that should be addressed before peer-grading is introduced and immediately if any incidence should occur.

Quiz Question:
Which court decided that peer-grading was in violation of FERPA?
a. District court
b. U.S. Court of Appeals
c. U.S. Supreme Court