Policy & Privacy

10 Principles Tackle Appropriate Use of Student Data

stock image of a folder with a lock on it. Cuz it's data privacy.

A lengthy list of educational organizations has signed on to support a new set of principles for protecting and guiding the use of student data by educators, researchers, state people, parents and others. The principles were developed out of a coalition convened by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) to discuss what needed to happen to address concerns about student data privacy and help those in "the field" to use and protect student information.

The 10 student data principles are these:

  1. Student data should be used to further and support student learning and success;
  2. Student data is most powerful when used for continuous improvement and personalizing student learning;
  3. Student data should be used as a tool for informing, engaging and empowering students, families, teachers and school system leaders;
  4. Students, families, and educators should have timely access to information collected about the student;
  5. Student data should be used to inform and not replace the professional judgment of educators;
  6. Personal information about a student should only be shared with service providers for legitimate educational purposes; otherwise the consent to share needs to be given by the student's parent or guardian if the student is under 18 and by the student directly if he or she is over 18. School systems should have policies for overseeing this process, which include support and guidance for teachers;
  7. Educational institutions and their contracted service providers should have clear, publicly available rules and guidelines for how they collect, use, safeguard and destroy those data. That includes the use of data by researchers;
  8. Educators and their contracted service providers should only have access to the minimum student data required to support student success;
  9. Everyone who has access to students' personal information should be trained and know how to use, protect and secure it efficiently and ethically; and
  10. Any educational institution with the authority to collect and maintain student personal information should: 1) have a system of governance that designates rules, procedures and the individual or group responsible for decision-making regarding data collection, use, access, sharing, and security; 2) have a policy for notification of any misuse or breach of information and available remedies; 3) maintain a security process that follows widely accepted industry best practices; and 4) provide a designated place or contact where students and families can go to learn of their rights and have their questions about student data collection, use and security answered.

Among those supporting the 10 principles are the School Superintendents Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, the International Association for K12 Online Learning, the International Society for Technology in Education, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Council on Teacher Quality and the State Education Technology Directors Association.

"Educators will only gain the trust of parents and families if student information is used responsibly, ethically and only when necessary to benefit students," said CoSN CEO Keith Krueger. "This is a very important effort by the education community to work together to articulate core beliefs and a commitment to building transparency and trust."

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, president and CEO of DQC, added, "High-quality education data [is] critical to improving student achievement and success and to empowering educators and families. Ethical data use that safeguards student privacy is a critical component of effective data use. Everyone who uses data to help students achieve should adhere to and build upon these 10 principles."

The two organizations said in a statement that they would continue encouraging other groups to adopt the principles and educate their members about them.

The latest initiative isn't the first time CoSN and DQC have taken on the challenge of student privacy concerns. In 2014, CoSN launched the Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning project to give school leaders resources for understanding current federal regulation in this area. DQC also provides a number of resources related to the use and protection of student data on its site.