“Educational records” include anything and everything from report cards to state test score reports to evaluation summaries and discipline records. There are lots of reasons you might want to take a look at these documents. For one thing, they can help you understand how your child is doing in school, and can be a starting point for conversations with their teacher. Sudden slips in grades or test scores can indicate a larger problem, so keeping track of your child’s progress is always a good idea.
There are also specific circumstances when you’ll want your child’s records in hand: for example, if you’re starting the process of getting an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child, or if they’re switching schools. Just like their medical records, it’s a good idea to know how to access their educational records any time you need or want them.
Here’s what parents need to know about accessing your child’s school records:
- Federal laws protect your right to review your kid’s records. This includes information about your child’s academic progress (like report cards or test scores), as well information about how your child has been evaluated in school, their class placement, and their teacher’s qualifications. You also have the right to review all emails related to your child’s education (although these might not be included in their hard copy file at school). In general, you have the right to review any information related to your child’s education.
- You also have the right to request an explanation of these records. If you’re not sure what you’re looking at (and let’s be honest, school records aren’t the most user-friendly), you can ask the school to provide an interpretation. Your child’s teacher should be your first stop in requesting this assistance. If you don’t get the support you need from them, reach out to your school’s assistant principal or principal.
- Schools must respond to your records request within a reasonable period of time (and no longer than 45 days). If you have an upcoming meeting (for example, regarding your child’s IEP), you have the right to access your child’s records in advance of that meeting.
- You have the right to all records and explanations in your preferred language. Your child’s school must provide translated versions of all “vital” educational records, including report cards, test scores and evaluation reports. They also must provide a language interpreter for any related discussions or meetings. By law, the school cannot ask your child (or any family member) to serve as your translator.
- School can charge you for copies of your child’s records. But there are limits. They cannot charge you if those fees will prevent you from reviewing your child’s records, and they cannot charge you for searching and producing the records in the first place. (So for example, if you need three copies of your child’s transcript, school might charge you a small fee for the additional copies. But they should not be charging you for providing the original transcript for your review.) If your school is refusing to share your child’s records until you pay a fee, remind them that as a parent, it is your legal right to review their child’s school records, regardless of your ability to pay.
So how do you actually get these records?
- Start by checking your school’s online portal. If your child’s school uses an online tool to store their grades and test scores, that’s a good place to start. Access to the login page should be available on your school district’s website. If you have trouble logging in or can’t find your password, contact your school’s family liaison for assistance (or the school office).
- If your child’s school doesn’t use an online portal, find out if you need to come to school in-person to make your request. Your school office will be able to answer this question. In some states, like Louisiana, parents are legally not required to make their student record requests in person. But since this varies by state, it’s a good idea to confirm with your child’s school.
- Next, make your request in writing to your child’s teacher and principal. Whether you are going to school in-person or making your request virtually, you’ll need to write a short letter explaining which records you would like to review. Here’s some sample language that you could use (adjust for your family and situation):
Dear [Principal’s name] and [Teacher’s name],
I am writing to request my child, [NAME’s], report cards and test reports from this year. I would also like to see the outcomes of any evaluations she has received (for example, her reading level). I would like to review her progress and understand how we can support her better at home.
Please send these records home with [CHILD] or mail them to me at: [ADDRESS] in advance of my parent-teacher conference on [X DATE].
- If your written request is ignored, be persistent. Along with a second written request (don’t forget to reference the date of your original request, too), share a resource about your legal right to viewing your child’s records. (Here’s a good one.) Keep track of all your correspondence with school, including how many requests you have made. If your child’s teacher and principal aren’t willing or able to help, you can escalate your request to the district office by emailing a staff member in your district’s academic or student services department. (Your school district’s website will have contact information for different departments.) If your district has an office responsible for family engagement, that could also be a useful place to seek support. Finally, if your child’s school continues to refuse or ignore your records request, you can file an official complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. (Here’s a video that explains that process.)
- One last thing to note: Your child’s educational records are confidential, and they cannot be shared with anyone outside the school without your permission. The law protecting your child’s privacy in school is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA. You can give someone else permission to speak to the school about your child (for example, your Navigator or another educational advocate you’re working with). To do that, you’ll need to sign a FERPA waiver to give that person permission to view your child’s records.
National PTA Parents' Guide to Success
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