NAICU Washington Update

Drumbeat Continues for Comprehensive Student Data Systems

May 12, 2010

Late last month, the Department of Education announced its intentions to make further regulatory changes in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  This announcement has been long expected, as FERPA has been seen by proponents of statewide longitudinal data systems as an obstacle to use and expansion of those systems.  (See Chronicle of Higher Education story)

As summarized by the Department, "These proposed amendments would strengthen enforcement provisions under FERPA to cover additional recipients of information and clarify how States can effectively develop and use data in Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) while ensuring protection of individual privacy under FERPA."

Data issues also were at the center of a House Education and Labor Committee hearing earlier in April.  In his opening remarks, committee chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) stated that ". . . there has to be a tremendous focus on data in the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, so the new law can be a real catalyst for positive change in our schools."

Three of the witnesses described the benefits of increased data collection as improving the tracking of mobile students' progress, enabling teachers to evaluate their teaching effectiveness with subgroups of students, giving parents more information on school performance, and identifying students who are likely to drop out of high school.

A fourth witness, Joel Reidenberg, addressed the need for far better privacy protections than have thus far been afforded under statewide student data systems.  He directed a Fordham University study of elementary and secondary school state reporting systems, which found that basic privacy protections were generally lacking.  He recommended that states be required to justify the need for each item of personal student information, limit the retention of the data; and develop oversight mechanisms for the collection and use of children's educational data.

Copies of testimony and a webcast of the hearing are available on the committee's Website.

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