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Should students grade one anothers' work? The Supreme Court will decide. (News connection: up-to-date and usable education information from schools, government, business, research and professional organizations).

Kristja Falvo, a mother of four, started the legal right to change the practice of students correcting one anothers' papers. That was 1998, when her son, Philip, was in sixth grade in Owasso, Okla. She says he was called "dummy" and "stupid" because his reading disabilities were made public knowledge because peers were correcting his pop quizzes. She says she got nowhere when she complained to the school. She eventually won in court.

Falvo's legal battle went to the 10th Circuit Court where she and her lawyer won the argument by charging that paper swapping violates the Family Education and Privacy Right Act. That 1974 act states that education records are to be kept private.

Although her concerns are in the past, and her children now do well in school, her battle lives on at the U.S. Supreme Court level. Before the close of 2001, the justices heard the case regarding the legality of children correcting one anothers' work. The Rutherford Institute argued the case on Falvo's behalf. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler argued for the government.

Although a decision is not expected until late February or early March, the justices did not seem especially sympathetic to the privacy argument. Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether the court should be dictating the way teachers run their classrooms. Other justices, including Stephen Breyer, noted that peer pressure often motivated students to do better.

The National Education Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief favoring peer grading. "We support the school districts," says Michael Simpson, the assistant general counsel. "If the decision is allowed to stand, it could have significant impact on teachers' methods."

There are good reasons for peer rating, adds Simpson. Teachers and students receive immediate feedback. Enlisting student help in grading also frees up teachers' time for creating lessons plans. If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the circuit court's decision, teachers may be prohibited from assigning group work, or from accepting help from parent tutors, Simpson argues.
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Author:Angelo, Jean Marie
Publication:District Administration
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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