States mismanage student information, study concludes

A new national study concludes that states often collect far more information about students than necessary and fail to take adequate steps to protect their privacy, reports the Washington Post. The study from the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, released Oct. 28, casts new light on data systems created at the urging of the federal government to track student progress. One finding: States often fail to spell out protocols for purging records after students graduate. "Ten, 15 years later, these kids are adults, and information from their elementary, middle and high school years will easily be exposed by hackers and others who put it to misuse," said Fordham law professor Joel R. Reidenberg, who oversaw the study. States, he said, "are trampling the privacy interests of those students." The movement toward statewide databases with unique student identifiers, rooted in the standards-and-testing movement of the 1990s, has grown significantly in this decade under the federal No Child Left Behind law and is getting a fresh push this year from the Obama administration. Advocates say the data warehouses have strong privacy protections, but they acknowledge potential shortcomings. The study recommended that states tighten protocols to keep data anonymous, with special provisions for those in local schools who need to know more; that they articulate reasons for collecting data and jettison what is unjustified; and that they appoint officers to oversee compliance with state and federal privacy laws…

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