Safeguarding Student Data in a Digital World

When it comes to student data, striking the right balance between collection, analysis, privacy, and security can be complicated. A new policy brief released by the National Education Association (NEA) offers recommendations on how data can be used for good with policies and systems that prevent it from being used for ill.
Collecting student data isn’t new, and the goals are often lofty – data helps identify potential problems early and can allow educators to personalize learning and create more targeted instruction. But unfortunately the data can be used for less noble goals.
Some private companies collecting the data have shared, sold and mined it for profit. For example, in Arizona and Tennessee, health care provider chains inappropriately gained access to student information and used the information to market services to parents.
The main problem with the practice of collecting student data for monitoring and improving student performance, according to the report, is that statutory protection hasn’t kept pace with the technology.
Flaws in Federal Laws
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits the circumstances under which a school, district, or state education agency (SEA) may disclose personally identifiable information (PII), and requires schools to inform parents of their right to review and correct their children’s records. It also empowers parents to opt out of disclosure of information for purposes not specifically authorized by the law.
But FERPA does not require parental notification or consent for disclosure of educational records to contractors, …