Thursday, December 19, 2013

What Every Parent Should Be Asking about Data Privacy

Asking the questions on the previous page, families are more ready than ever to use education data to help their kids. However, along with the great benefits of education data come school, district, and state responsibilities to keep your child’s data private. Empowered parents can ensure that their child’s data are being protected by demanding answers to the following questions:

1. How is my child’s privacy being protected?

  • There are many federal and state laws that protect the privacy of students.
  • Data systems use complex security processes and technology to protect student data.
  • Example: Oklahoma’s HB1989 outlines policies and processes to protect student data.
Tip: Ask for an explanation of your district’s privacy and security policies.

2. If my school district or state works with a vendor to keep track of things like attendance, grades, and test scores, will my child’s information be secure?
  • Districts and states almost always work with a vendor to keep the data they collect safe and make it easy to use.
  • Federal and state laws prevent these vendors from using the data in any way the district doesn’t want them to.
  • These vendors also can’t sell the data or let anyone else access it.
  • Example: A federal law called FERPA specifies that student records cannot be accessed for purposes not related to education or a health or safety emergency.
Tip: Ask your school and district what oversight is in place to ensure that its data security policies are being followed.

3. Who has access to this data?
  • Access to student data is role based, which means that only teachers and other designated local personnel have access to student data.
  • FERPA was designed to protect student privacy. And most states have their own privacy laws in addition to FERPA.
  • The federal government is forbidden by at least four federal laws from collecting student data. And the federal government can’t look at the data about individual students that states collect.
  • Example: Section 9531 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act prohibits the creation of a federal student database.
Tip: Ask for an explanation of your rights as a parent to access your child’s data.

What Are Education Data?
Education data means any type of information (like student attendance, demographics, or success in college and the workforce) that helps parents, educators, and policymakers make informed decisions about education. For more information on how education data can help parents, educators, and education leaders, please see
 Source: National PTA, August 2013

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