Due Process Rights, Data Privacy and Other Student Rights

Q&A: Cumulative Records

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Division of Compliance & Assistance has developed this document to assist school districts who have raised questions about cumulative records. The purpose of this document is to provide helpful, general information to the public. It does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a substitute for consulting with a licensed attorney. The information below should not be relied upon as a comprehensive or definitive response to your specific legal situation.

Question 1: Is there an MDE or state policy on the retention of a student’s “cumulative record?”

Answer: No, there is not an MDE or state policy on the retention of a student’s cumulative record. However, statutory guidance does exist that districts may find helpful. Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.06, requires cumulative records to be kept permanently. It is important to keep in mind that this statute applies only to cumulative records, not all of a district’s records. The statutory text is provided below for your reference:

123B.06 EVALUATION OF PUPIL GROWTH AND PROGRESS; PERMANENT RECORDS.

Each school district shall provide a testing program for the purpose of measuring pupil growth and for curriculum evaluation, as well as a system for grading and making reports to parents. Each district shall develop an appropriate program of pupil progress and promotion for its elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Each district shall keep accurate and complete individual, permanent, cumulative personal records for all pupils.

In addition, Minnesota Statutes, section 127A.41, subdivision 5 relates to student attendance audits of MARSS related records. This statute requires that schools and districts keep any documentation that supports data reported in MARSS for at least three years after the close of the school year. Some of this data may be part of the cumulative record; for example, a student’s transcript, homebound requirement, entry/withdrawal dates, etc. The statutory text is provided below for your reference.

127A.41 DISTRIBUTION OF SCHOOL AIDS; APPROPRIATION.

Subd. 5. District appeal of aid reduction; inspection of district schools and accounts and records. Public schools shall at all times be open to the inspection of the commissioner. The accounts and records of any district must be open to inspection by the state auditor, or the commissioner for the purpose of audits conducted under this section. Each district shall keep for a minimum of three years at least the following: (1) identification of the annual session days held, together with a record of the length of each session day, (2) a record of each pupil's daily attendance, with entrance and withdrawal dates, and (3) identification of the to-and-from school transportation category for each pupil as defined in section 123B.92, subdivision 1.

Authority: Minn. Stat. §§ 123B.06 and 127A.41, Subd. 5.

Question 2: What must be kept in a student’s cumulative record?

Answer: As discussed in Question 1, Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.06, requires public schools to keep student cumulative records permanently. No further guidance is provided at the state level as to what exactly must be kept in a student's cumulative record; however, federal law requires documentation necessary to show that the appropriate use of federal funds be maintained as part of a district’s records. Some federal laws set out retention time periods for records that relate to the use of federal funds. For example, 34 C.F.R 80.42 (b)(1) and (c)(1) and the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA). MDE recommends that districts consult with their legal counsel or data practices individual with questions about these and other applicable timelines. 20 U.S.C. 1232f.

Individual districts decide what to include in a student’s cumulative record that will satisfy these broad statutory requirements. In deciding what to include in a student’s cumulative record, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lists certain records that districts can choose to maintain permanently, such as a student’s name, address, phone number, grades, attendance record, classes attended, grade level completed, and year completed. Districts may wish to use this list as a guide in deciding what records to maintain permanently as part of a student’s cumulative record. MDE recommends including a list of the types of information a district maintains as part of a student’s cumulative record in the district’s record retention schedule.

Authority: Minn. Stat. § 123B.06; 34 C.F.R. § 300.624 and 20 U.S.C. 1232f.

Question 3: How long must districts keep student cumulative records?

Answer: As stated in Question 1, Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.06, requires that student cumulative records be kept permanently. Cumulative records should also be included in a district’s record retention schedule. When thinking about how to maintain student cumulative records, or any other records, keep in mind that records should be kept in a consistent manner and must be maintained in an accessible format, whether that format is paper or electronic. This response specifically addresses student cumulative records, and the retention of other records should be handled according to the district’s record retention schedule.

For further guidance or ideas on how to organize and store student cumulative records, MDE recommends contacting other districts in your area or asking colleagues in other schools how they handle these records. You can also consult your district’s data practices professional, if there is one, or your district’s legal counsel. View the Information Policy Analysis Division Web page, part of the Department of Administration, for many resources related to data practices and records retention.

Authority: Minn. Stat. § 123B.06.