State data systems present privacy concerns

Creators of state data systems are trying to find the right balance between obtaining useful information and respecting data privacy.

Data privacy is a top concern for stakeholders when it comes to using educational data to drive student achievement and school improvement—and an Oct. 21 webinar from the Data Quality Campaign revealed that IT staff are trying hard to uphold data privacy while at the same time implementing valuable state data systems.

“We have been frankly paranoid about taking Social Security numbers and matching them to different data sets to a point where we can create a worker education record, because when you do that … you can actually find out quite a bit about somebody,” said Carol Rogers, deputy director of the Indiana Business Research Center.

But concerns about access to sensitive information aside, the educational data obtained through such a tracking system are valuable. “I don’t care. I want the results of the data,” said Rogers.

Others are more cautious.

Michelle Kalina, senior director of operations for the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success, said limiting access to databases and encrypting information are important when it comes to handling educational data and protecting data privacy.

“We are truly paranoid about privacy and maintaining the integrity of the system,” said Kalina. “The [information] gets encrypted at its school site before it ever leaves.”

“Having as few people as possible have access to student-level data is probably the best thing you can do to make sure you maintain [data] privacy and security,” added Ruben Garcia, manager of the Texas Workforce Commission.

Linking educational data systems across states

Panelists also examined how best to link various educational data systems both within and across states, and they discussed the need for educators to know what methods of teaching are most effective for students in post-secondary education and the workforce.

“We’re living in an interesting world, where every single state is living under the expectation that [it] will have the ability … to be able to communicate and share data among the early learning, K-12, post-secondary, [and workforce [environments], and yet we only have eight states that report having the capacity to do so,” said Aimee Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, who moderated the discussion.

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