The Flashlight Blog

The Flashlight blog is an online conversation featuring illuminating perspectives on education data use.

Rachel Anderson posted on July 2, 2015. 0 Comments

EdData Privacy Update: 7/2/2015

Category: Privacy Security and Confidentiality, Uncategorized

With rising temperatures and summer vacations, this time of year can feel pretty lazy. But state legislatures must be immune to this feeling—there have been a host of new student data privacy bills and laws since my last update!

So far in 2015, 46 states have considered 182 bills addressing student data privacy. And 12 states have so far passed 24 new laws.

The states that have passed laws so far this year—ranging from Maine to Texas to Maryland to Nevada—represent a diverse array of regions, political environments, and demographics. And there’s been variety in the specific topics states are looking at as well, with new laws addressing topics ranging from breach notification to data security plans to using data for advertising. But some important themes are also emerging that shed some light on the national student data privacy conversation:

  • States continue to think a lot about the data that is collected from students based on their use of an online website or application. Five states (Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Oregon have now passed a law based on California’s SOPIPA language from 2014 to prohibit online service providers from using student data for commercial or secondary purposes while allowing data use for program improvement. In addition, four states (Maine, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington) have passed new laws based on a similar model that Microsoft put together with the principles from industry’s Student Privacy Pledge.
  • In 2014, nine states passed laws that gave school districts new or expanded responsibilities around student data privacy and security. This year, many states are thinking about the supports and guidance districts will need from the state in order to fulfill their new roles.
    • North Dakota now requires data sharing approval by the school board and implements data governance, transparency, and supports including data use training.
    • Virginia has a new law to direct the state to develop a model data security plan for districts and to designate a chief data security officer to assist local school divisions with the development or implementation of data use and security policies.
    • Nevada passed a law that instructs the state to develop a security policy for districts to follow.
  • A critical part of states’ work to safeguard student data is to provide transparency and build trust with educators and the public that education data are being used to support students and improve education in the state. States are looking at lots of ways to make education data useful! For example, this year Minnesota considered a bill to create student data backpacks to give families more control of their student’s data, Florida looked at early warning systems that help keep students on track for success, and Washington introduced a bill to support collaboration between educators by looking at multiple data sources to help identify student needs.

Although protecting privacy is not a onetime task that can be completed with a single law, states are doing incredible work in making sure they are using education data to support students’ learning while safeguarding student privacy. In addressing different aspects of data privacy and use in their legislation this year, these states are constructing a powerful foundation on which they can continue to build.

Jon-Michael Basile posted on June 17, 2015. 0 Comments

Making Data Work for Teachers

Category: Teacher Effectiveness

A new study shows 86 percent of teachers try to engage students based on their different needs and learning styles, and 78 percent believe that data can help them do that.

The problem—according to the study—is that two-thirds of teachers are not satisfied with the effectiveness of the data and tools they have to access it.

Many digital education tools that use data do need to improve, as they often are incompatible with one another and don’t provide teachers with actionable, easy-to-access data. But there is a broader issue here. A tool is only useful if you know how to use it.

Teachers aren’t tapping into the full potential of data because they haven’t been given the proper knowledge, skills, and capacity to be data literate. Like good teaching in general, good data use doesn’t manifest out of thin air; it is the result of many supports—proper training, pedagogical knowledge, skills, access to resources, and lifelong professional learning.

At a briefing for the new study Teachers Know Best: Making Data Work for Teachers and Students, a panel of teachers described the variety of challenges holding back their ability to use data effectively. From what they said, it’s clear that everyone—policymakers, school leaders, teachers, and product developers—have a role to play to make certain all educators are effectively using data to help kids.

“Unfortunately, I think too often the school system in general, and frankly the way the profession has been organized, is constantly like fighting upstream,” said Eric Westendorf, former public charter school principal and current CEO and cofounder of LearnZillion. “To actually be really data-driven you’re constantly fighting against the wind.”

“I’m not sure that very many teachers get good training on writing a good assessment and how to read that data,” said Nichole Cerra, teacher of English and design, and cofounder of Design Tech High School. “I think teacher education programs have a real role to play there.”

She’s right. To alleviate this problem, data literacy should be included in the curriculum of schools of education, and be one of the standards for all licensed educators.

Teachers and school leaders can also help bridge data literacy gaps. Allison Dodson never used data for the first six years of her teaching career. It wasn’t until her administrator encouraged and supported it that she started. Dodson now returns the favor, leading professional development classes to teach teachers how to use data at Spry Community Links High School in Illinois.

“What also needs to be done in schools is giving teachers more time to use the data,” Dodson said. Every weekend, she uses her free time to analyze data and group students for differential instruction. This is where school leaders have a critical role to play, creating the flexibility needed to provide time and resources for educator data use. Furthermore, states and districts have and will need to continue to ensure that schools have the bandwidth and up-to-date technology necessary to use digital tools and data. And they must consider teachers’ needs and wants when supplying data and technology to schools.

Teachers are the most important in-school factor to student success. Day in and day out, in classrooms everywhere, they’re responding to the real needs of their students. It’s our shared responsibility to ensure that they can do their best. That won’t happen until we support their ability to use data.

Team Blogs

Aimee Guidera
Brennan Parton
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Dakarai Aarons
Danielle Evennou
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Jon-Michael Basile
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Katie Ida
Paige Kowalski
Rachel Anderson
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Sara McClafferty
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Yasmin Fallahkhair


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