There is a growing need to provide parents with timely, relevant data to make informed choices regarding schooling options. Data is also needed by educators to personalize instruction. Data may be useful to organizations to drive improvements in overall instruction more quickly than previously possible.
Data privacy has received increased attention in the past few years, largely because of the increased availability of data and collection requirements.
As a company that serves teachers, schools and families across the country, we value the opportunity to use data. For instance, we can review student Algebra exams across 40 states to determine if there are curriculum or instruction issues. This data allows school leaders to see that most students missed question number 3 on an exam, which indicates either a problem with the question or the way material is presented through the online portal. For example, if students in Mr. Smith’s class all missed question number 3, then we know there is an instruction issue.
To successfully navigate through data privacy issues, it’s important to consider existing policies and safeguards in place.
These safeguards include several significant and far-reaching policies such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). These policies describe rights afforded to parents/families, restrict access to data, and define the purposes for which data may be collected and used. Additionally, there are laws, policies and practices at the state and local levels that define state- and school-level business practices.
As lawmakers consider data privacy laws this year, there is a complicated balancing act they must perform. Laws and policies need to strike the appropriate balance between:
Provision of relevant, timely information to parents to allow them to participate in state-level school choice options
Opportunities to personalize learning, forge data-driven innovation and improve instruction products
Obligations to ensure local flexibility, transparency and governance, capacity and training
Responsibilities to safeguard the collection, use, and distribution of student and family information
At its core, strong data privacy legislation inventories what type of data is being collected, avoids unnecessary collection, ensures data remains close to the student, strongly defines parental access, and develops security plans.
There are, however, additional nuances to consider: