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Today's Newsletter: Student Data Privacy Still Under Fire

Today's Newsletter: Student Data Privacy Still Under Fire

T&L Advisor Guest post – Steven M. Baule, Ed.D, Ph.D. Superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200, IL:

Student data privacy seems to be a major concern for many parent groups and other privacy advocates recently. On Monday, Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Luke Messner (R-IN) introduced a new Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act. In the March 22, 2015 New York Times, Polis stated “This is a first step in providing a framework that can address the concerns of parents and educators and, at the same time, allow the promise of education technology to transform our schools." A recent New York Times article addressed the concerns of privacy raised regarding educational apps. Politico is already stating the newly introduced bill will do little to prevent data mining of kids' data. Edtech companies--including testing companies--seem intent on gathering more student use and preference data to improve their products and reduce cheating. Pearson's efforts were recently discussed by The Wire.

One of the other significant issues seems to be in cloud-based storage contracts, making sure the district retains control over student data (which is required under FERPA anyway; so federal law should trump an individual vendor contract). Being clear with this type of vendor contract and ensuring that the district remains in control of student data is relatively easy in comparison to reducing some of the data mining efforts identified above. There is a student privacy pledge developed by the Software & Information Industry Association and endorsed by the Obama Administration, CoSN, and the NBSA among others. Some seem to think this voluntary effort doesn't have enough teeth. How much thought has your district given to protecting and securing student data?