New Guidance: Tech and Protecting Student Data

Today, more than ever, schools and districts are managing a lot of digital data. Some of that has to do with teaching and learning, but there’s plenty more: from bus routes, to food service records, to enrollment and attendance information. Districts and schools are working to be more efficient and smarter about storing and using data. Many have chosen to move data “in the cloud,” meaning off-site data centers that securely store information.

PTAC VideoThis advancement in data storage has created some important and reasonable questions about what steps are being taken to insure that student data is kept secure and private. In a speech yesterday at the Common Sense Media Privacy Zone Conference, in Washington, D.C., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reaffirmed that school systems “owe families the highest standard of security and privacy.”

What I want to say to you today is that the benefits for students of technological advancement can’t be a trade-off with the security and privacy of our children.

We must provide our schools, teachers and students cutting-edge learning tools. And we must protect our children’s privacy. We can and must accomplish both goals – but we will have to get smarter to do it.

Duncan noted that many school systems are showing leadership on the privacy front, such as the Kansas State Department of Education, which has developed an innovative data quality certification program to train staff on data quality practices and techniques, including privacy and security.

Read Secretary Duncan’s speech – Technology in Education: Privacy and Progress

In a panel following the speech, Acting Deputy Education Sec. Jim Shelton talked with Julie Brill of the Federal Trade Commission about further actions the federal government can take to protect student privacy in education, floating the possibility of joint efforts between the two agencies.

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) released new guidance to help school systems and educators interpret and understand the major laws and best practices protecting student privacy while using online educational services. The guidance addresses a range of concerns regarding the security and privacy of student data.

Click here to read the new guidance.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education


  1. There needs to be a law passed that prohibits employees of the U.S. Department of Education, particularly those involved with FERPA or student data from ever going to work for (either as an employee or independent contractor) or serving on the board of inBloom or CCSSO or the Data Quality Campaign or similar organizations.

    I do not want my children’s data kept from the time they are small, nor do I want the data used (even if anonymous) to identify needs upon which products will later be based. The tracking of so much data on children is unnecessary.

  2. To improve the study there should be new technology and the school should reserve a server for students data and should also appreciate to upload all the lectures on the server, so that the students can access the data anywhere.

  3. Would it be appropriate to have a class on “How to study” at the 4th grade level; 7th grade level; and at the 10th grade level?

  4. Since when do the Feds care about people’s privacy? This is hypocrisy, and politically motivated damage control.

    • Darned if they do and darned if they don’t. Isn’t that right, Will?

      I think this is a gesture of good will and demonstrates a willingness to protect students and their families.

      • You are right. Some people simply sit around and find ways to complain. I am willing to bet that Will does not do anything to further the national agenda; well, except complain!
        Be apart of the solution!

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