We have more useful and rich data than ever before that can be used to support learning and achievement of every child in this country. But teachers and families won’t use this information to make decisions, personalize learning and help students succeed if they don’t trust it is safe to do so.
Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding data. From the White House to the schoolhouse, we need everyone to prioritize keeping student data private and secure. In the past several months, there has been growing evidence that the nation is taking this charge seriously.
In the past year 21 states have passed 26 new student privacy laws, which provide greater transparency about what data are being collected, for what purposes, and how they are governed and protected. The education technology industry, which is providing data analytic tools for teachers to tailor teaching to individual student needs, has pledged a series of commitments to safeguard data that has been signed by more than 90 companies. School districts are strengthening their policies and practices around data collection, access, and use.
Over the past several months, DQC and the Consortium for School Networking have convened a coalition of national education organizations, representing a range of perspectives, experience, and stakeholders in the field, to develop a set of shared principles for safeguarding the personal information of America’s students. Those principles will be released this spring and will be shared widely throughout the education community to broaden and reinforce the efforts mentioned above
President Obama has named protecting student information one of the nation’s most important priorities, calling for Congress to pass new laws that protect student data in the State of the Union address. The president also addressed student privacy during a speech last week at the FTC, where he announced forthcoming resources from the US Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center, including a model terms of service and teacher training assistance.
In a year when Congress is considering making revisions to our foundational federal education laws, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the Higher Education Act, it is important that student data privacy and security be prioritized in each of these reauthorizations. There is an opportunity to clarify the federal protections of student data and to create coherence and alignment across federal and state actions that safeguard privacy while ensuring data can be used to improve student achievement.
Development of the principles to safeguard student data is just one of many efforts by DQC to work in collaboration with education and privacy experts on protecting student information. You can see the full suite of our resources on safeguarding data here. To learn more about CoSN’s privacy initiative, which provides education leaders with resources to better understand and navigate today’s major federal laws, go here.
As the New Year gets into full swing, media outlets from NPR to the Harvard Business Review are imagining what education trends 2015 will see. Education and technology experts and reporters imagine a lot of exciting and potentially transformative developments, including new opportunities for personalized learning, use of technology in the classroom, and college completion pathways. These predictions have real breadth, but a few common themes emerge—notably the smarter and more informed use of data to support students and the growing prioritization to ensure these data are safeguarded.
In a piece for NPR, Elana Zeide, a privacy research fellow at New York University’s Information Law Institute, predicts that questions about how education data should be collected and used (both by districts and service providers) could lead to “more examination, and perhaps increasing regulation, of how long information should be retained in a way that can be associated with an individual student.” A need for clear policies around data privacy and security was echoed by a recent panel of higher education leaders at the EDUCAUSE annual conference. As reported by the Center for Digital Education, the panel predicted that security policies for “mobile, cloud, and digital resources” would be one of the top 10 education technology issues of 2015. Similarly, the Harvard Business Review imagines a growing intersection between technology and privacy in 2015, with clear implications for education.
In a 2015 forecast for District Administration, Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, articulates perfectly the challenge facing the field: “educators must comply with privacy laws and demonstrate aspirational practices.” In other words, districts, schools, and service providers must protect education data privacy and security with clear policies and practices, while also looking to the future of how education data could be used to benefit students and creating privacy guidelines and principles that can evolve with changing opportunities.
In his piece for the Huffington Post, Brad C. Phillips, president of the Institute for Evidence-Based Change sums it up: “Privacy concerns should never be taken lightly, but neither should the value good data used to improve and personalize student learning.” Education leaders recognize the amazing potential of data to support students and also the need to safeguard these data as a part of their use. As states, districts, schools, and service providers continue to create clear and comprehensive privacy and security policies, communicate transparently about their activities, and commit to meeting the challenges of a changing field, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year for education data and for students.
New Book: How Do School Leaders Effectively Use Data to Improve Achievement?
In 2013 the Petworth neighborhood campus of Center City Public Charter Schools posted the biggest English Language Learner (ELL) achievement gains in Washington, DC. Through the use of data, teachers and other education leaders in the school found patterns that improved instruction by addressing the unique needs of each student.