“Just as doctors use data to treat patients, teachers and administrators need access to data in order to best personalize learning for each student,” said Murray.
WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, in testimony before a joint congressional hearing on student data and privacy, Thomas C. Murray, state and district digital learning director at the Alliance for Excellent Education, said student data can be used effectively to strengthen student achievement and personalize learning for individual students while simultaneously maintaining high levels of student privacy.
“Our students need and deserve an effective, world-class education to be competitive in the global economy,” Murray said. “In the twenty-first century, that means using data and technology effectively in the classroom. Just as doctors evaluate the medical history, current condition, and records from other physicians to diagnose, care, and treat patients, teachers and administrators need access to data in order to best personalize learning for each student.”
Murray’s testimony built on his fourteen years of school district service as a principal, assistant principal, teacher, and, most recently, as the director of technology and cyber education in the rural Quakertown Community School District (QCSD).
During his testimony, Murray discussed how QCSD used data at the classroom, school, and district level to personalize instruction, analyze trends in curriculum, allocate resources, and make decisions about curriculum renewal, standardized assessments, professional learning, budgets, and more. To protect the student data it collected, QCSD used firewalls, security certificates, and 128-bit encryption to transfer data—the same level of security used in online banking.
To better support educators in effectively using data to improve instruction while also protecting sensitive student data, Murray recommended that Congress use funds from Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He also urged Congress to use caution as it explored policy around student data and privacy.
“Privacy concerns are real, but education in the twenty-first century must take advantage of all that technology has to offer,” Murray said. “We must not let fear of data prevent us from realizing the promise of technology. The nation’s students, their parents, and our economy deserve nothing less.”
Murray’s testimony coincided with the release of Capacity Enablers and Barriers for Learning Analytics: Implications for Policy and Practice, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education that includes examples of how states and school districts nationwide are using “learning analytics,” which it defines as data collection and analysis for the purposes of understanding and optimizing student learning and classroom teaching.
The report offers suggestions for how states, districts, and schools can build and improve capacity to reach the full potential of learning analytics. It stresses that policymakers and education leaders at all levels must develop a clear understanding of the potential for and rationale behind learning analytics and provides recommendations for federal, state, and district leaders on how to ensure that policies enable the use of data while providing necessary privacy safeguards.
An executive summary of Capacity Enablers and Barriers for Learning Analytics: Implications for Policy and Practice, as well as the full report is available at
Murray’s testimony before the U.S. House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and the U.S. Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies is available via the links below:
Archived video from the hearing, opening statements, and other witness testimony are available at http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=385776.
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org.