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MAXIMIZING THE POWER OF EDUCATION DATA: New Issue Analysis from the Data Quality Campaign Balances Need for Data with Privacy Concerns

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“Federal law sanctions and supports state longitudinal data systems, which are intended to facilitate more effective use of data for improving education and meeting the academic needs of students, consistent with core state and federal policy and law.”

There is increasing recognition that educational data—particularly student-level data—is extremely powerful for educators and policymakers in evaluating student, school, teacher, and program performance. Such data is also useful for appropriately targeting interventions and support where they are most needed. In an effort to capture this data, states and districts across the country are building statewide longitudinal data systems, which follow each student over time.

One issue of concern to states as they develop data systems is compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, imposes limits on the disclosure of student information, and gives parents the right to review and challenge their children’s records. A new issue analysis from the Data Quality Campaign, a national coalition working to improve the collection and use of education data, provides critical information to assist states as they build and use state longitudinal data systems in ways that comply with federal privacy laws.

The increased demand for education data has created some questions about FERPA compliance, including some that cannot be answered definitively by current law or regulations. Unfortunately, states need this information now to build state data systems consistent with FERPA requirements. The DQC issue analysis, Maximizing the Power of Education Data While Ensuring Compliance with Federal Student Privacy Laws: A Guide for Policymakers, describes both resolved issues and approaches to issues for which there is not currently a clear answer.

“Federal law sanctions and supports state longitudinal data systems, which are intended to facilitate more effective use of data for improving education and meeting the academic needs of students, consistent with core state and federal policy and law,” the brief reads. “Through state longitudinal data systems, states, educators and researchers can have access to and use student data to meet these purposes—subject to applicable safeguards and procedures—while safeguarding privacy protections for students and their parents that FERPA is designed to secure.”

According to the brief, current FERPA law and regulations permit the sharing of student data that are not personally identifiable. In addition, state longitudinal data systems can obtain and disclose anonymous student information provided that there are safeguards against sharing data that are easily traceable to individual students. The brief also tackles three of the most common unanswered questions from states about state data systems, including whether schools and districts, without parental consent, can provide students’ education records to a state longitudinal data system, or whether data may be released for studies to improve instruction that are initiated by an entity other than a school or district.

The U.S. Department of Education is planning to issue proposed regulations that will clarify some of these issues. In the meantime, the DQC issue analysis provides states with some approaches for consideration. The issue analysis also includes a set of actions for state policymakers to take to ensure privacy while supporting the use of data.

The complete issue analysis from the Data Quality Campaign is available at http://dataqualitycampaign.org/publications/#publication.

 

Lights On Afterschool!

 

On October 12, more than 7,500 communities and one million Americans will celebrate Lights On Afterschool, a nationwide event organized by the Afterschool Alliance to rally support for afterschool programs. This nationwide event calls attention to the importance of afterschool programs and to the resources required to keep the lights on and the doors open. In the United States today, 14.3 million children go home alone after school.

“Instead of receiving help with homework and a chance to explore their talents and interests, too many of our children are unsupervised and at risk in the afternoons,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “Americans are keenly aware that opportunities are lost when children have no safe, supervised activities after the school day ends. That is why Lights On Afterschool has grown so quickly. We expect events this year in every state and every corner of
the country. The tremendous participation underscores the strong support for afterschool programs and widespread awareness that our nation needs many more.”

To learn more about Lights On Afterschool, including events scheduled in your area, visit http://www.afterschoolalliance.org.

 

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