STUDENT PRIVACY FAQs
Does the state collect personally identifiable student information?
Yes, but because everyone agrees on the importance of protecting student identities, the state only reports aggregated data (statistics combined across many students) that do not reveal any personally identifiable information. Aggregate data allows us to protect privacy while still permitting the transparency necessary to make smart, informed decisions about how to improve our schools. In Washington, education data is maintained by local school districts and submitted to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
Why does the state need education data?
Parents, educators and policymakers need to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to schools, so they can make informed decisions about how to improve. Education data provides the information necessary to improve our schools so we can meet the needs of all our students.
State data systems provide the transparency required to make sure students are on track to graduate even if they change districts, and to determine, for example, what is working in special education, whether certain races are disproportionately disciplined, or whether race- and income-based achievement and opportunity gaps continue to persist.
What kind of education data does the state use?
The data collected includes things like student enrollment, attendance, discipline, demographics, academic growth measures, graduation rates and other types of information that help parents, educators and policy-makers make informed decisions about our schools.
Why would parents want data transparency?
Parents have the right to see the data that tells them which schools, districts and teachers are doing a good job. Data from statewide tests empower parents to make apples-to-apples comparisons about schools, and allows parents and policymakers to hold school districts accountable.
Do the Common Core State Standards protect data privacy?
The Common Core State Standards do not change state or federal privacy protections. Common Core is a set of learning standards with no ability to collect or require the collection of any data. The Common Core State Standards are focused solely on what students should know and understand at each grade level.
Do the new Smarter Balanced tests protect data privacy?
What are the rules about what the government can & cannot do with education data?
What federal laws protect privacy & transparency?
Several federal laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Federal Privacy Act protect students’ personally identifiable information.
The U.S. Department of Education has clarified how FERPA applies to state longitudinal data systems through a public process over several years and across two administrations. FERPA ensures that any individual or entity that a state or district authorizes to access its data must (1) use student data only for authorized purposes; (2) protect the data from further disclosure or other uses; and (3) destroy the data when no longer needed for the authorized purpose.
With the recent clarifications, FERPA allows student academic records to be transferred between school districts when a student moves, and allows non-identifiable data to be used for research to improve instruction and achievement.
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