A friend just advised me to look at my child's cumulative record file before we move to a new school district. Is this a smart thing to do? My daughter has always been a good student and is considered well-behaved. -- To Look or Not


Go ahead and take a look. You have this right by law. Call or request in writing to see the records. You can read the records at school or request a copy, which you may have to pay for. The reason for looking at them is to make sure that they are accurate and up-to-date and contain nothing derogatory that is untrue. Because the new school will use these records in making educational decisions about your child, errors need to be corrected. You can also ask for material to be removed or amended if it seems unfair to your child as well as add your own version of an entry.

Cumulative record files start the day children enter kindergarten and are kept through high school. They contain such things as grades, progress reports, standardized-test scores, attendance and discipline records, extracurricular activities and honors, teachers' and counselors' comments, medical histories and the names of everyone who has looked at the file. Because errors can occasionally be made, it's wise to keep your own copies of grades, test scores and important communications with the school.

Moving to another school is not the only time to look at these records. They should also be checked for accuracy before high-school students apply to college. And some educators think that they should be looked at every few years.