238 Education Data Bills Hit State Capitols in 2018 So Far

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Data Quality Campaign (not our ally in the fight against data mining) provided a snapshot of the number of education data bills hitting state capitol buildings near you.

They report there are 238 bills related to education data this year so far, and less than a third (70) have anything to do with protecting student data privacy.

They highlight bills before state legislators this year where they are trying to “make data work for students.”

Addressing inequities and underserved students’ needs

Echoing national conversations about disciplinary disparities and the unique needs of traditionally underserved students, numerous state bills this year target the reporting of data to address education inequities. For example:

  • Tennessee is considering a bill (HB 2651) to establish a commission on the school-to-prison pipeline. The commission would submit a report to the legislature including school discipline data and policy recommendations to implement restorative justice practices.
  • Indiana has a new law (HB 1314) requiring a report on how the state’s homeless students and students in foster care fare in school and how these students could be better supported.

Informing policy decisions and meeting state goals

Nearly 100 bills considered so far in 2018 have focused on how state policymakers themselves can use aggregate data to make policy decisions or meet their state’s education goals. For example:

  • California has introduced a bill (SB 1224) to create a state longitudinal data system (SLDS) with student data from kindergarten enrollment to workforce entry—a system that could help inform education policies across the state.
  • Mississippi considered a bill (HB 405) to use the state’s education data system to better understand the state’s workforce needs.

Empowering the public with more information

Over 60 bills this year would require states to publicly report more, or more useful and accessible, information about their schools. For example:

  • New Jersey is considering a bill (A 2192) to include data on chronic absence and disciplinary suspensions on school report cards.
  • Arizona is considering a bill (SB 1411) to create a new dashboard as part of the state’s school achievement profiles with new data on academic progress and school quality.

Empowering educators and families with student data

In years past, legislators have not frequently used legislation to give educators and parents secure access to their own student’s data. This year is seeing some more legislative activity on this important priority. For example:

  • Louisiana is considering a bill (SB 107) to ensure that teachers receive student-level assessment results in a format that is easy to understand and includes longitudinal student data if possible.
  • Massachusetts is considering a bill (S 40) that would create an electronic data “backpack” program for foster youth. The backpack would contain a student’s education record and would be available to the adults authorized to make decisions for that student.

The best way to “make data work for students” is to not collect it without parental knowledge and consent and to keep it at the local school level with the teachers where it could possibly do some good. The problem is, evidenced by the Louisiana bill, when data gets collected it heads to the state (and the feds and who knows what other third parties) who don’t teach the kids and have no business having that data.

2 thoughts on “238 Education Data Bills Hit State Capitols in 2018 So Far

  1. I agree the states have done little to protect student data BUT Tennessee did have an extremely comprehensive 11 page bill that would protect student privacy. It was crafted to do what FERPA fails to do and it also provided HIPAA like protections into the school. Basically it require informed (the bill provided a minimum requirement of “informed”) written parental consent BEFORE any personally identifiable information (PII), biometric, health both mental and physical, behavior, disciplinary etc. information could be collected and/or shared. I was able to get Senator Mark Green and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver to sponsor the bill. The TNDOE went bonkers and brought the sponsors and committee into a meeting and said the bill could affect federal funding if passed. Which was just a scare tactic because there is no law that states you cannot require informed parental consent before collecting and/sharing a student’s data. It is more like TNDOE knows the score when it comes to this data and would not be looked at favorably by the feds. The bill was watered way down (which I was not shocked to hear) but the watered down version did pass and we will be back next year. The bill was: HB2690/SB2029.

  2. Few teachers or administrators know how to read test/assessment results, particularly in how to use that information to impact lesson plans. (Well-trained special ed teachers do have that skill. Even with the skill, the extra time needed to “individualize” lessons is enormous. That’s one reason so many do not remain in special education.) States that keep talking about using data to help plan for students need to tell how their program will work: who, what, when, where, and how? Otherwise, it’s another binder of pages that sits on a shelf. It’s “busy work” for leaders.

    Since the push is for “workforce” training, let’s be honest and go back to tracking students. Those who can’t/won’t learn in a traditional academic setting need to be trained for meaningful work. There is a huge need for great vocational programs in schools. Not everyone has to go to college. In truth, I’d rather have a plumber who can fix my leaking toilet over someone who can explain the theory of water flow to me.

    Those students who can’t/won’t participate in vocational training in a school setting need to have other job training opportunities to which they are assigned in place of incarceration. In reality, it would be a boot camp for life changes. Dual tracks for students are not evil.

    And for Glory’s sake, stop talking about “restorative justice” as a job for the schools. That is a job for outside of the schools!!!! School is for learning academics. Clarity of purpose allows all students and adults to understand their roles and their responsibilities in the results of their work. Are there any leaders out there who have the guts to say this and follow through with a plan to implement dual tracking?

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