Research, State Advocacy

2018 State Legislation Update: State leaders look at data privacy—and much more

2018 State Legislation Update: State leaders look at data privacy—and much more

Legislation is an important tool for policymakers to ensure that everyone supporting students, including families, educators, and policymakers, have the right information at the right time to make the best decisions—and state leaders are taking this charge seriously. For the fifth year in a row, state legislators across the country are considering hundreds of bills (238 so far) governing how they collect, use, protect, and share education data in service of student learning.

A significant number (70) of this year’s bills focus on safeguarding data privacy, but while privacy was the subject of roughly half of the education data bills in 2017, it accounts for less than a third of this year’s bills. With so many states having passed effective privacy legislation in years past, policymakers are now building on those foundational policies to consider more aspects of data use.

2018’s crop of education data bills show that legislation can be a tool to not only safeguard education data, but also to put it to work to meet a variety of education policy goals. Here’s a look at just a few of the ways state policymakers are using legislation to make data work for students.

Addressing inequities and underserved students’ needs

Echoing national conversations about disciplinary disparities and the unique needs of traditionally underserved students, numerous state bills this year target the reporting of data to address education inequities. For example:

  • Tennessee is considering a bill (HB 2651) to establish a commission on the school-to-prison pipeline. The commission would submit a report to the legislature including school discipline data and policy recommendations to implement restorative justice practices.
  • Indiana has a new law (HB 1314) requiring a report on how the state’s homeless students and students in foster care fare in school and how these students could be better supported.

Informing policy decisions and meeting state goals

Nearly 100 bills considered so far in 2018 have focused on how state policymakers themselves can use aggregate data to make policy decisions or meet their state’s education goals. For example:

  • California has introduced a bill (SB 1224) to create a state longitudinal data system (SLDS) with student data from kindergarten enrollment to workforce entry—a system that could help inform education policies across the state.
  • Mississippi considered a bill (HB 405) to use the state’s education data system to better understand the state’s workforce needs.

Empowering the public with more information

Over 60 bills this year would require states to publicly report more, or more useful and accessible, information about their schools. For example:

  • New Jersey is considering a bill (A 2192) to include data on chronic absence and disciplinary suspensions on school report cards.
  • Arizona is considering a bill (SB 1411) to create a new dashboard as part of the state’s school achievement profiles with new data on academic progress and school quality.

Empowering educators and families with student data

In years past, legislators have not frequently used legislation to give educators and parents secure access to their own student’s data. This year is seeing some more legislative activity on this important priority. For example:

  • Louisiana is considering a bill (SB 107) to ensure that teachers receive student-level assessment results in a format that is easy to understand and includes longitudinal student data if possible.
  • Massachusetts is considering a bill (S 40) that would create an electronic data “backpack” program for foster youth. The backpack would contain a student’s education record and would be available to the adults authorized to make decisions for that student.

With this year’s bills, state policymakers are demonstrating just how imperative data is to meeting state education goals—everything from addressing inequities to creating a well-prepared workforce takes data. And with many states still in session, we can look forward to more great work ahead. DQC will release its annual legislative analysis this fall, which will include a deeper look at the education bills introduced and passed in the 2018 session.