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Are School Tests Public Records?

Interesting case out of Ohio–The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that there is a fight over whether or not previously administered tests should be considered public records, and thus accessible to enterprising students who want to make a public records request to see the information prior to taking a test. The school district has taken the position that the tests are “trade secrets” and on that basis cannot be construed as public records. It seems that the Courts are agreeing with them.

For what it’s worth, I can’t imagine how the tests can be construed as “trade secrets” without changing the whole trade secrets system. Hundreds of students have seen the tests, none of whom were under any degree of confidentiality–by definition, the tests can no longer be considered “secret” after individuals under no confidentiality obligations have seen them.

The attorney for the school district said: “If this test is found to be a public record and we have to disseminate it, its utility is now zero,” he said. “Every student would have an economic incentive to try to get copies of the test beforehand.” Specious argument at best. So what if students get the tests–I had some teachers give me their previous tests as study materials and as an indication of what to expect on a future test. Just because a student gets a test and reviews the information, doesn’t mean that he will memorize the information, and it doesn’t mean that the information will appear on a future test.

Seems to me that this is a bunch of teachers who don’t feel like making a new test every year and instead want to rely on older versions–if the tests are public records, they won’t be able to do that. It hardly makes sense to turn the trade secrets statutes on their head in order to save teachers from more work though.


April 10, 2009 Posted by | Intellectual Property, Trade Secrets | , , , | 1 Comment