# How to FOIA educational data

## Individual student scores cannot be released due to privacy concerns, but most high schools have aggregate numbers that can be released

Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.

May 22, 2019

###### Photo credit: istockphoto.com

##### While individual student scores cannot be released due to privacy concerns, most high schools have aggregate numbers that can be released. Fairfax County had nonetheless not shared this aggregate data. Obtaining the information was a simple matter of submitted a Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) request.

##### Fairfax County hosts a **website **that describes the process for obtaining information, which includes email addresses, forms, instructions, and categories of shared information. A quick search for “Fairfax County FOIA” with “public schools” results in a **link** describing the guidelines for FOIA requests.

##### It also explains that reasonable fees will be assessed in responding to these requests – for example, $0.50 will be charged for a CD-Rom, $.20 per photocopy, and $35 per hour will be charged for FOIA requests that require basic administrative work (including photocopying). As they note in a summary report, the average fee paid for a FOIA request is $12, but some requests result in fees over $1,000. Subsequently, a **web-form** was developed to receive these requests, making pursuing the data even easier. The turn-around is pretty fast – by Virginia law, the County must provide some kind of answer within 5 days; in our experience, it typically responds within that time frame saying that they need additional time—an additional 7 business days are allowed.

##### For Fairfax County Public School Data, one individual responded to our formally submitted requests for data, so subsequent requests have been sent directly to her. Here’s an email we sent in 2018 to acquire data on AP exam scores across the county (as well as some information about IB scores, National Merit semi-finalists, and IB candidates) in 2017 and 2018. The cost for this data was $54.39.

Dear —,

The Fairfax County Association for the Gifted (FCAG) would like to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for some data from FCPS. The request is below, however before you go forward, can you please tell us what this request will cost? I will need to get approval from our advisory board if the cost is above $30. Thank you!

Best,

Rebecca Goldin, on behalf of FCAG

For **each AP exam** in **each FCPS school in 2017**, please provide us

– the number of 1’s earned on the exam

– the number of 2’s earned on the exam

– the number of 3’s earned on the exam

– the number of 4’s earned on the exam

– the number of 5’s earned on the exam

– the average score

– the % at 3 or higher

– the total # of exams taken

For **each AP exam** in **each FCPS school in 2018**, please provide us

– the number of 1’s earned on the exam

– the number of 2’s earned on the exam

– the number of 3’s earned on the exam

– the number of 4’s earned on the exam

– the number of 5’s earned on the exam

– the average score

– the % at 3 or higher

– the total # of exams taken

For **each IB exam** in **each FCPS school in 2017**, please provide us

– the number of 1’s earned on the exam

– the number of 2’s earned on the exam

– the number of 3’s earned on the exam

– the number of 4’s earned on the exam

– the number of 5’s earned on the exam

– the number of 6’s earned on the exam

– the number of 7’s earned on the exam

– the average score

– the % of exam at 4 or higher

– the total # of exams taken

For **each IB exam** in **each FCPS school in 2018**, please provide us

– the number of 1’s earned on the exam

– the number of 2’s earned on the exam

– the number of 3’s earned on the exam

– the number of 4’s earned on the exam

– the number of 5’s earned on the exam

– the number of 6’s earned on the exam

– the number of 7’s earned on the exam

– the average score

– the % of exam at 4 or higher

– the total # of exams taken

In addition, please provide **for each FCPS high school**:

– the number and type of AP scholars in 2017 (i.e. AP Scholar, with AP Scholar with Honors, AP Scholar with Distinction, National AP Scholar)

– the number and type of AP scholars in 2018 (i.e. AP Scholar, with AP Scholar with Honors, AP Scholar with Distinction, National AP Scholar)

– the number of National Merit Semifinalists in 2017

– the number of National Merit Semifinalists in 2018

– the number of National Merit Commended Scholars in 2017

– the number of National Merit Commended Scholars in 2018

– the number of IB Diploma candidates in the junior class in 2016-2017 school year

– the number of IB Diploma candidates in the junior class in 2017-2018 school year

– the number of IB Diploma candidates in the senior class in 2016-2017 school year

– the number of IB Diploma candidates in the senior class in 2017-2018 school year

– the number of students earning the IB diploma in 2017

– the number of students earning the IB diploma in 2018