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STUDENT DATA AND PRIVACY: Alliance State and District Learning Director Testifies, Tells Congress, “Fear of Data Must Not Prevent Us from Realizing the Promise of Technology”

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"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,” said Tom Murray, state and district digital learning director at the Alliance.

On June 25, 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 uses 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 uses 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.”

The joint hearing, entitled “How Data Mining Threatens Student Privacy,” was called by the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and the U.S. Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies.

In addition to Murray, the hearing featured testimony by Joel R. Reidenberg, founding academic director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University School of Law; Mark MacCarthy, vice president of public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association; and Joyce Popp, chief information officer of the Idaho State Department of Education.

Murray’s testimony is available at
https://all4ed.org/press/murray-testifies-on-student-data/#Testimony.

Archived video from the hearing, opening statements, and other witness testimony are available at http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=385776.

Categories:

Data and Privacy

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