Leadership magazine March/April 2017 V46 No. 4 - Page 9

So , what , exactly , is student data ?
Student data can be broadly defined as falling within one of two categories – “ personally identifiable information ,” or data which constitutes a student ’ s “ Educational Record .”
Personally identifiable information includes any information about a student ’ s identity , academics , medical conditions , or anything else that is collected , stored , and communicated by schools or technology systems , particular to that individual student . This includes the name , address , names of parents or guardians , date of birth , grades , attendance , disciplinary records , eligibility for lunch programs , special needs , and other information necessary for basic administration and instruction . It also includes the data created or generated by the student or teacher in the use of technology , such as e-mail accounts , online bulletin boards , work performed with an educational program or app , anything that is by or about the individual student in the educational setting . Some student ’ s personally identifiable information , such as their social security number , is highly sensitive and law may prohibit collection .
Federal law protects educational records that contain information directly related to an individual student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution . However , new state student privacy laws protect all “ student personal information ” and data that is now collected and used via educational technology products and services .
What data is being collected , and by which systems ?
I remember when student data centered mainly on each student ’ s cumulative record . Traditionally , these files were held in the school office and access to that data was limited to school administrators , guidance counselors , teachers , or other school officials who needed it to serve the educational needs of the child . This data consisted of things like attendance , grades , discipline records , and health records .
Over the course of the past 20 years that “ traditional ” data is now often collected and
Effective technology adoption remains a challenge to widespread , effective use of educational technology .
stored electronically , by Student Information Systems ( SIS ), Learning Management Systems ( LMS ), and others . Recently , parents , students and others have raised concerns about what information is being collected and stored , with whom it is being shared and for what purposes .
More and more technology systems are collecting more and more data about our students , and this vast stockpile of data can be confusing for schools to manage .
Why do we collect so much data , and what are some of the risks of collection we may not be thinking of ?
Some of the data collected is compulsory and can be exhaustive for schools to collect in order to comply . The California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System ( CALPADS ) is a longitudinal data system used to maintain individual-level data including student demographics , course data , discipline , assessments , staff assignments , and other data for state and federal reporting . Another example is financial data used to establish a school ’ s “ Free and Reduced Lunch Population ,” ( FRP ). This number drives a school ’ s reimbursement rate to help feed low socioeconomic profile students . It also defines participation rates for other need-based funding programs such as E-rate discount levels , and others . The economic
impact to the district based on the percentages revealed can be profound , but this data is also very sensitive for the students and families involved .
Certainly , there are protective measures and guidelines in place for sensitive data like this , as well as health records , participation in programs like Special Education , and others . Federal measures like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ( FERPA ) and applicable state laws are in place for that very reason . But not all districts are aware of the data-handling restrictions contained in these laws , and at the same time , much of the data collected today is not so easily identified as being sensitive or under the constraints of such protections .
For example , parents often communicate with educators , administrators and other school staff via e-mail . Occasionally , these communications can refer to sensitive issues such as discipline , attendance ( health-related and other ), personal issues , and more . How long are those electronic records stored by the school ? Who has access to them ? Under what conditions can these records be searched for or shared ? Do these records fall under the same security guidelines as the information in your SIS ?
Another example of potential student data risk comes when we share data with compa-
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