data laws

New analysis: State legislatures prioritize education data collection, use and protection

The bulk of these new data laws are going into effect this fall, ushering changes in state education agencies, school districts, and classrooms across the country.

Twenty-six states passed 53 new laws focused on the collection, use, and protection of student data during the 2017 legislative session, according to a new analysis published recently by the Data Quality Campaign. The bulk of these new laws are going into effect this fall, ushering changes in state education agencies, school districts, and classrooms across the country.

While most legislative activity this year focused on privacy, some of these new data laws are focused on addressing some of the biggest current challenges in public education:

  • Connecticut passed a law that helps prospective students and their families make more informed higher education and career choices by creating a new public report about how students fare after graduating from different colleges and programs.
  • Maryland’s new law charges districts to report how discipline practices like seclusion and restraint are applied to students by characteristics like gender, race, and age. The law also mandates districts to use this data to revisit their disciplinary practices and associated teacher training.
  • Washington passed a law to collect and report information on paraeducators, as well as to establish associated data-informed standards and policies reflective of the unique role these educators have with Washington students.

Student data privacy has been a significant focus for lawmakers; they have introduced 504 bills and passed 94 laws since 2013 to improve how states and districts safeguard the privacy, security, and confidentiality of student data. This year, states have continued to refine these laws and adopt model laws from other states.

Of the 93 privacy bills introduced this year, 11 states introduced bills based on California’s Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA) from 2014, with five of those bills becoming law in Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, and Texas. These laws ban service providers from selling student data or using it to conduct targeted advertising. Twenty-one states now have laws based on SOPIPA on the books.

Despite these successes, legislators have not given the same attention to ensuring that data is getting in the hands of those closest to the classroom. Just 11 bills this year were specifically designed to help school districts use data better. Even fewer focused on training educators to use and protect data, and only six bills and one new law focused on giving teachers and parents access to data on their own children and students.

“Legislators have made protecting student data privacy front and center and should be commended for building on previous efforts to make data use safer,” said Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of the Data Quality Campaign. “State legislators, however, must do more to provide educators and families access to the data they need to help students succeed in school and life.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

eCampus News Staff