Societies raise concerns about document removal from US Department of Education Web site

November 20, 2002

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2002 - The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Library Association (ALA), in concert with 12 other national organizations, have joined in an effort to retain documents on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site.

In a letter to Education Secretary Rod Paige, the 14 professional organizations have requested that all U.S. Department of Education materials retain the level of accessibility now available.

The groups have expressed concerns about the fate of information scheduled to be removed from the publicly accessible Web site. "Because the Internet has become, by far, the method of choice for disseminating information and research data widely and efficiently, we are concerned about efforts that would diminish access and use of these records," they wrote.

In addition, they are equally concerned about actions that would remove from access research, data, and other digests of information that otherwise have been publicly available, regardless of administration. They advocate that educational stakeholders be included in the web revamping process.

The AERA/ALA-initiated effort was triggered this fall after the library, educational research and related social science communities learned of an internal memo, "Criteria and Process for Removing Old Content from www.ed.gov," that the Education Department issued to staff members on May 31, 2002. According to the internal government memo, the federal initiative strives to remove from public access information that either is outdated or "does not reflect the priorities, philosophies, or goals of the present administration."

Dr. Felice J. Levine, AERA Executive Director, emphasizes the importance of access to research reports and data. "Sound policy depends on solid science," she notes. "We need to ensure that research materials remain accessible so that analysts can interrogate them further and compare new results with prior data. We need to resist policies or procedures that remove such information or make it difficult to find."

"The American Library Association supports Education Secretary Paige's effort to improve the functional usability of the Department's Web site - by making it more user friendly to the general public," says ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff. "However, we strongly believe that education information should be continuously accessible to educators, researchers, families, and children - and must remain permanently available to the public," she concludes.

In their letter, the professional societies state, "We, as well as the general public, need Internet access to the research, data, reports, and other digests and information that may be removed from the Department's Web site."

To read the complete text of the associations' letter online, go to http://www.aera.net/communications/news/021025.htm.
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