As a mother, especially in recent years with the advent of parent portals, I've had easy access to loads of data about my kids as students... grades, test scores, comparative school statistics, even attendance records. The information, I've been told, makes me a smarter parent and others in the educational chain more intelligent, too.
Beyond our family, the overarching goal in collecting and, of course, analyzing all this data is in improving student achievement (setting aside politics and fund allocation for the moment). As a parent, I appreciate this. If student data, when examined in the aggregate, can help improve curriculum, then let's use it.
But that presumes I trust my children's teachers and school administrators as well as the local and state officials involved in the data chain to keep my children's data private and to use the data in a responsible way. I can't say I haven't been worried from time to time that this isn't always the case. (Call me cynical but I do live in Chicago, where neither the local teachers' union nor the mayor's office are models of professionalism when it comes to school issues, and in the state of Illinois, known as place where coveted university admittance could be had in exchange for political support.)
Not surprisingly, I'm not alone in my concerns over student data privacy. The Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, national advocacy group, has them, too. This nine-year-old organization, I've learned from the DQC website, "leads a partnership of nearly 100 organizations committed to realizing the vision of an education system in which all stakeholders -- from parents to policymakers -- are empowered with high-quality data from the early childhood, K12, postsecondary, and workforce systems to make decisions that ensure every student graduates high school prepared for success in college and the workplace." Privacy is a concern for all.
Last week, the DQC released a report detailing how states might further safeguard student data. Aimee Rogstad Guidera, DQC executive director, explained the organization's goal in an official statement:
Everyone with a stake in education must prioritize safeguarding the privacy, security and confidentiality of student [data] as we use it to improve student outcomes. We hope this roadmap helps states engage everyone who works with education data in a culture of valuing data, clearly communicating about data, and understanding and practicing ethical data use.
The more confident everybody is that student data is appropriately safeguarded the more trusting we'll be of its use in improving our understanding of student performance and, therefore, boosting student achievement. As DQC stated, "Safeguarding student data is a critical component of effective data use and builds the necessary trust for data to be used to help prepare students for college and careers."
In the report, the DQC offers three recommendations for how a state education agency (SEA) can "keep moving down the road of using data ethically and effectively to support students." Here's a quick overview of the recommendations, which the DQC said it developed in collaboration with education and privacy experts from government and nonprofit organizations, including the consultancy EducationCounsel and the Council of Chief State School Officers. (For an in-depth read, download the full report, "Roadmap to Safeguarding Student Data.")
Governance: SEAs must define and establish decision-maker roles and responsibilities to ensure data is used effectively and in compliance with federal and state privacy policies and practices. "Without a data governance strategy there is no clear ownership of the data; no clear business processes for collecting, managing, and reporting data; and no accountability for data quality and integrity," the DQC explained why stringent data management practices are required.
Data protection procedures: SEAs must implement strategies, processes, and controls that safeguard data physically, technically, and legally. Data should be encrypted, for example, and the agencies should have formal procedures in place for how the data is stored, disclosed, and destroyed, the DQC said. In addition, SEAs should designate levels of data sensitivity.
The DQC has a ton of great resources on student data and how it's used, including the video below.
But the question I have is one of accountability. These are all great recommendations -- if not no-brainers. But who are the SEAs beholden to for their implementation? Parents? Educators? An advocacy group such as the DQC? Do you feel the DQC has enough backing and authority to help ensure our student data doesn't get misused? Share your thoughts below.
Somehow the idea of student data and intelligent use of it by school authorities doesn't make me feel good. I'm guessing the schools just don't have the budgets and high enough salaries to attract the best in data analysts and may have to rely on farming out the work, which may lead to some provacy concerns as well as the overall probable lower efficiency of the efforts.
I think this was a very interesting article that raised some good points. I also think this is an good jumping off point to have a broader discussion regarding children being made more aware of safeguarding their information in general. I've had a number of friends and siblings of friends have their identities stolen because they gave their social security number (!!) to someone claiming they were from their bank.
Jim, as the video says, personally identified data does become available for use by third parties, like bus companies and meal service providers. Are they safeguarding that data? The further removed it gets from the student's school, the more worrisome it becomes, I think.
@Beth. Great point about the need for accountability to be built into these policies. They need to define what happens if someone violates the public trust when it comes to student data.
The other thing I would look for is a clear delineation between use of an individual's data vs aggregated data. While I like the concept of using an individual student's data to help that student, I have my doubts about whether the school infrastructure is prepared to act effectively on something like a customized curriculum for a student (one possibility that the data could open up). Of greater concern is who is using or has access to data that can be identified as belonging to an individual student. That's pretty tough to secure if you take it up to the state level.
I think the more immediate benefits could be found in solid analysis of aggregated data. Currently, most states aggregate data with only a single source or view, typically statewide test results or factors such as college placement by high schools. As we have seen in the business world, a single point of reference seldom provides a clear picture of an individual or a group. Yet, states and the federal government do that with test results that tell only part of the story.
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2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- DetroitThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- ChicagoThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- Cary, NCThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- BostonThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- AtlantaThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
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