Protecting Student Privacy By Promoting Student Data Collection?

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

Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign is going to Congress to weigh in on the Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157 – 114th Congress) that will be reintroduced this session of Congress.

What could possibly go wrong?

Morgan Polikoff, who they are helping send to DC, is an Associate Professor of K-12 Policy at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. In a blog post, he made the following suggestions to “strengthen” the bill.

  • Enable states and districts to procure the research they need. The Every Student Succeeds Act’s evidence tiers provide new opportunities for states and districts to use data to better understand their students’ needs and improve teaching and learning. FERPA must continue to permit the research and research-practice partnerships that states and districts rely on to generate and act on this evidence. Section 5(c)(6)(C), should be amended to read “the purpose of the study is limited to improving student outcomes.” Without this change, states and districts would be severely limited in the research they can conduct.
  • Invest in state and local research and privacy capacity. States and districts need help to build their educators’ capacities to protect student privacy, including partnering effectively with researchers and other allies with legitimate educational reasons for handling student data. In many instances, new laws and regulations are not required to enhance privacy. Instead, education entities need help with complying with existing privacy laws, which are often complex. FERPA should provide privacy protection focused technical assistance, including through the invaluable Privacy and Technical Assistance Center, to improve stakeholders’ understanding of the law’s requirements and related privacy best practices.
  • Support community data and research efforts. In order to understand whether and how programs beyond school are successful, schools and community-based organizations like tutoring and afterschool programs need to securely share information about the students they serve. Harnessing education data’s power to improve student outcomes, as envisioned by the Every Student Succeeds Act, will require improvements to FERPA that permit schools and their community partners to better collaborate, including sharing data for legitimate educational purposes including conducting joint research.
  • Support evidence-use across the education and workforce pipeline. We recommend adding workforce programs to Section 5(c)(5)(A)(ii) and to the studies exception in Section 5(c)(6)(C), . Just as leaders need to evaluate the efficacy of education programs based on workforce data, the country also needs to better understand the efficacy of workforce programs. FERPA should recognize the inherent connectivity between these areas to better meet student and worker needs.

Strengthen the bill for who? Not parents, certainly not students. The only groups that stand to gain are those who promote Big Data. What a nightmare if they are successful.

One thought on “Protecting Student Privacy By Promoting Student Data Collection?

  1. Data mining is all about Manipulation and Control. Whatever happened to Informed Consent and Parent Permission? Intrusive Data Gathering on ALL individual students is not necessary to do true educational research; Random Sampling is still an ethical option. Constantly monitoring millions of individuals is only necessary for wide-scale Behavior Modification and Top-Down Control of the population. Individual Freedom is being lost and children are being trained to accept that.

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