Student Privacy

Protecting Student Data Privacy:

There is no question there should be legitimate concerns about federal and corporate intrusion into our privacy rights. Current events remind us that the federal government has access to enormous amounts of data, and we must be vigilant in ensuring our privacy rights, and those of our families, are protected.

One misleading issue that continues to be raised around Common Core State Standards is the issue of data collection. The most important thing to know is that the higher standards do not change current policies regarding student data, and the federal government will remain without access to personal information on individual students.

Opponents of higher standards have raised this issue to deter support for this initiative, but it is time to separate fact from fiction. It is also time to learn what measures states are taking to strengthen the security of student data.


State Data Collection and Accountability

States now gather data on student test performance, and for good reason. For decades we had been funding education bureaucracies without measuring results.

They hid student failure while pulling in bigger and bigger budgets. This is why America leads the world in education spending, but not results.

By testing students and tracking their progress, reformers blew the whistle on this failure. Accountability allows us to determine the quality of schools and the effectiveness of teachers.



The Federal Role

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the U.S. Department of Education follows the academic progress made by different demographic groups in schools. It uses their performance on state reading and math tests to determine the quality of schools.

The states send the U.S. Department of Education compiled data from each school. So, for example, the department receives results of how white or Hispanic students at a school performed on a math test, but does not receive the individual results or personal data about a student.

This system of data collection does not change for those states that transition to the Common Core State Standards.


The State Role

States receive student data from school districts. They are the gatekeepers in deciding what to do with it in accordance with privacy laws.

They can, for example, allow access to it by researchers to study trends in education. This is done after the data is scrubbed of any information that can identify students.

Through such research we learn what strategies work and which don’t so the successful ones can be replicated and unsuccessful policies can be disregarded. This is good for students, their parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Each state continues to make its own decisions about dissemination of education data. And the voices of parents must be heard.

But the Common Core State Standards are a separate issue. Just like existing standards, they simply are the expectation that will be used to produce data.

What is done with that data remains a state decision. States that do not adopt Common Core face the same privacy concerns as states that do. Common Core comes with no mandates. It is a voluntary effort.

Conservatives Are Leading the Way on Protecting Students

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal recently signed an executive order banning the dissemination of any personal information about students, further strengthening protection of privacy in Georgia.

Additionally, Oklahoma legislators concerned about protecting students passed new legislation this past session directly addressing this issue. Oklahoma House Bill 1989 requires the state to establish data collection and privacy policies for students. Republican Governor Mary Fallin signed this bill into law in May of 2013.

These are good approaches in dealing with privacy issues and should be considered by other states, regardless of Common Core standards.