Privacy & Security

New Principles Aim to Guide Use, Protection of Student Data

By Benjamin Herold — March 10, 2015 4 min read
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In an effort to ensure that the voices of school officials and educational data-use proponents are heard in the increasingly cacophonous debate over student-data privacy, a coalition of more than 30 groups released Tuesday a set of “principles for protecting and guiding the use of the personal information of America’s students.”

The guidelines seek to affirm the value of student data for improving teaching and learning. They also aim to encourage the mounting call for improved security and privacy protocols, and to make sure that front-line educators are properly trained to both use and protect student information.

“Ethical data use that safeguards student privacy is a critical component of effective data use,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, the president and CEO for the Data Quality Campaign, in a statement.

“Everyone who uses data to help students achieve should adhere to and build upon these 10 principles,” she said.

The Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit that advocates for effective use of student data, joined the Washington-based Consortium for School Networking, a professional association for school technology leaders, in crafting development of the principles. The complete list of organizations supporting the effort, including groups representing state education chiefs, superintendents, principals, teachers and parents, is below.

The new guidelines are the latest addition to a growing mix of enacted and proposed legislation, federal guidance, professional toolkits, industry pledges, and other materials related to student-data privacy.

In an interview, Paige Kowalski, the vice president of policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign, said development of the principles was driven by the desire to articulate a set of consensus beliefs among educators about how to use student data effectively and safely.

Existing tools and resources “help people go about their jobs, but we wanted to make a statement about what we believe,” Kowalski said. “These are important concepts that any law and any policy solution should be grounded in.”

Among the principles:

  • Student data should be used to further and support student learning and success.
  • Students, families, and educators should have timely access to information collected about the student.
  • Students’ personal information should only be shared with service providers for legitimate educational purposes.
  • Everyone who has access to students’ personal information should be trained on how to effectively and ethically use, protect, and secure it.

Amanda Karhuse, the director of advocacy for the Reston, Va.-based National Association of Secondary School Principals, one of the signatories to the principles, said her organization supported the effort in large part to make sure the many student-data-privacy-related legislative and policy efforts underway “do no harm” to schools.

“Our folks really value the data and it can be used to transform what’s happening in their schools,” Karhuse said in an interview. “There is obviously concern about who has access to data and how it is being used, but [principals] also don’t want to limit innovation.”

More training and better professional development are key, Karhuse said.

“The use of digital technologies in schools is growing exponentially, and it’s hard for [principals] to keep up with all the changes,” she said. “It used to be so much easier when there was a filing cabinet with a lock.”

The coalition has not yet taken a formal stance on major federal student-data-privacy legislation being pushed by the White House, or on discussions about updating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (the major federal statute related to student-data privacy.)

The complete list of signatories to the principles as of March 6 include:

  1. Alliance for Excellent Education
  2. AASA: The School Superintendents Association
  3. American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
  4. American Association of School Librarians
  5. Association of School Business Officials International
  6. Consortium for School Networking
  7. Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
  8. Council of Chief State School Officers
  9. Data Quality Campaign
  10. Digital Promise
  11. Education Trust
  12. Educators 4 Excellence
  13. Foundation for Excellence in Education
  14. Institute for Higher Education Policy
  15. International Association for K12 Online Learning
  16. International Society for Technology in Education
  17. National Association of Secondary School Principals
  18. National Association of State Boards of Education
  19. National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification
  20. National Center for Learning Disabilities
  21. National Council on Teacher Quality
  22. National Education Association
  23. National Parent Teacher Association
  24. National School Boards Association
  25. PDK International
  26. SIF Association
  27. Stand for Children
  28. State Education Technology Directors Association
  29. State Higher Education Executive Officers Association
  30. StriveTogether
  31. StudentsFirst
  32. Thomas B. Fordham Institute

See also:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.