The Education Department released guidance for school districts Friday on how to keep parents and students informed about what student data is being collected and how it is being used.
The department also announced a new website from its Family Policy Compliance Office that includes resources and information regarding the federal laws put in place to secure the privacy of public school students.
“Now more than ever, schools need data to monitor academic progress and develop successful teaching strategies,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “At the same time, parents need assurance that their children’s personal information is being used responsibly. This guidance helps schools strike a balance between the two.”
To enhance the site, the department plans to post decision letters on prior complaints from FPCO, which administers the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The website will also feature an online “community of practice” for school officials to share best practices, information, templates and other resources.
The guidance from the department also calls on school districts to make more information about their student data policies clear and easy to find on a public website.
The announcement comes as education institutions are collecting more and more data on students, particularly through the use of education technology learning tools. Educators have data on students in a variety of areas, including test scores, grades, credits earned and other related information, such as demographics, enrollment, discipline and special education status.
Education agencies use this information to identify student talents and special requirements, check academic progress and develop successful learning plans.
The guidance encourages schools and districts to take a hands-on approach in communicating with parents to help alleviate confusion and misunderstandings about the use of student records.