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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Supports Flexibility in SLDS Program to Better Protect Student Data

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Gentz

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Increase Access to Broadband

Students working on laptopsThe Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides many new opportunities for schools that are working to create personalized learning environments. A key piece to creating these personalized, competency-based systems is the ability to capture learning data in real time, and to use the data to effectively inform instruction.

In these data-rich environments, it is important to enact safeguards to ensure the data is secure, protected and confidential. With the growth of data being used in the classroom, many districts are realizing the need for a dedicated staff person with the expertise to oversee the implementation of student data privacy policies. Unfortunately, filling such positions with well-qualified privacy professionals can be very difficult because of significant salary disparities between public and private privacy positions. As a result, states and districts are often left without a single position dedicated to leading data privacy efforts.

To address this gap, iNACOL, along with 22 other partners, signed on to a letter submitted by the Data Quality Campaign to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that states, “Congress could help address the need of qualified privacy personnel by permitting states that require assistance to use existing funding within the State Longitudinal Data Systems program for hiring a student data privacy professional.”

State longitudinal data systems are educational databases designed to capture, analyze, and use student data from preschool to high school, college, and the workforce. The State Longitudinal Data Systems Program is administered by the United States Department of Education and was created to help propel the successful design, development, implementation, and expansion of K12 and P-20W (early learning through the workforce) longitudinal data systems through grants.

The new flexibility would be optional and permit states to continue allocating the funds to other existing purposes (like developing and designing SLDS), but would also help jurisdictions that require additional capacity to implement and support privacy protections for students and their families.

The iNACOL State Policy Frameworks recommend that states establish policies for the protection and good governance of student data privacy and avoid prohibitions on the collection and use of student data that can hamper personalized learning environments. Providing states the flexibility to use existing funds to hire a privacy expert is one way to foster an environment of good governance for student data, while also using the information to accelerate student achievement.