From helping to personalize learning to targeting resources to making sure our schools are preparing students for college and career, education data (i.e., any information that helps people make good decisions for students) is an incredibly powerful tool to support every student’s success. And making sure that this data is always kept private and never used to harm a child is a hallmark of using it well. State legislators across the country clearly see their role in protecting student privacy–in the last few years, they have introduced more than 400 bills to protect students’ data privacy and support using data to help students succeed!
Everyone has a role to play
If you’re a teacher, school leader, or parent, you have a role to play in safeguarding students’ privacy and using data well, too. But if you can’t introduce a bill, you may feel your role is not so apparent. Happily, a diverse coalition of national education organizations have created a set of 10 principles—reasonably named The Student Data Principles—to help articulate what good education data use looks like for anyone with access to it.
Data should open doors
The first principle, and one that permeates the rest, is that data should be used only to further and support student learning. In other words, data use is about opening doors to opportunity for students, never closing them. If you’re a parent, this means using information about your child’s learning to support their learning and be their advocate. If you’re a teacher, this means using data to personalize learning and empowering your students to own their learning. If you’re a school leader, this means working with your teachers to understand and improve how your school serves its students.
Protecting data privacy is part of data use
Good education data use is not only about supporting each student, personalizing learning, and improving school practices. An equally important component of data use is protecting data privacy. Another of the Student Data Principles states that everyone who has access to students’ data should be trained on how to use it ethically and safeguard its privacy. State and district leaders must commit to developing robust data privacy and security policies and providing data privacy trainings to ensure their educators know how to use data ethically in their practice while keeping it secure.
When parents, teachers, and school leaders all know how to use data well—including how to protect privacy—we will truly see the full power of data to improve learning for every student. Resources like the Student Data Principles can help everyone on a student’s education journey play their role in making this happen.
For a full list of the Student Data Principles and additional information including signatories and lots of related privacy resources, check out www.studentdataprinciples.org.