Summer means that most state legislatures have adjourned or are entering the final stretch of their legislative sessions. While bills continue to wind their way through the legislative process in some states, the hundreds of education data bills states have considered this year have already yielded 56 new laws. Echoing the diversity of bills introduced this year, these laws show the importance of data in everything from college and career readiness to supporting students in foster care. In short, this year’s laws affirm that data matters and is a critical tool to help students succeed.
Data Helps Highly Mobile Students Succeed
Because they are highly mobile and served by different state agencies, students in foster care and students experiencing homelessness are often underserved. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to disaggregate information about the performance of these student populations as well as those connected to the military. Several state laws reflect these new data responsibilities and will help ensure educators have data to serve individual students while policymakers have the information they need to support these vulnerable student populations more generally.
- Colorado passed a law (HB 1306) ensuring that when students in foster care change schools, their education records go with them so their new school can immediately understand their progress and needs. The law also requires the state departments of education and human services to share data to research and improve programs that serve students in foster care.
- Indiana passed a law (HB 1314) requiring the state board of education and state department of child services to annually report on education outcomes for homeless students and students in the foster system. The data will be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and special education status to better understand unique challenges and successes for these students.
Outcomes Data Shines a Light on Student Needs
Several states this year passed laws that support the use of data to produce meaningful insights into how well institutions serve all students and prepare them for success after graduation. For example:
- Virginia passed a law (HB 347) requiring the State Council of Higher Education to publicly report outcomes data for the state’s higher education graduates. These annual reports will include employment numbers and salary by degree program to help prospective students choose among schools and programs.
- Maryland passed a law (HB 1254) requiring the disaggregation of discipline data by race, English language proficiency, socioeconomic status, gender, and disability status. The law also requires demographic data on discipline for students in special education. Meaningful disaggregation helps shine a light on inequitable disparities and helps schools identify solutions to better serve all students.
Privacy Always Matters
Of the 56 bills that have been signed into law so far, only 20 deal with privacy, which marks a shift from previous years when well over half of state legislation focused on data privacy. But privacy is not a compliance exercise; even states that have already passed strong privacy legislation are revisiting and refining their privacy policies to ensure they evolve to meet new needs. As in previous years, state privacy legislation in 2018 focuses heavily on the collection and use of data by online service providers. Many states continue to work from California’s 2014 Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA), which prohibits these service providers from using student data for commercial purposes or other purposes unrelated to their service. For example:
- Iowa is one of three states that passed a law (2354) this year based on SOPIPA. While states continue to adapt and update this model, state laws based on SOPIPA remain focused on prohibiting third-party online providers from engaging in targeted advertising, selling student information, and using data to amass student information for commercial purposes.
- Utah passed a law (SB 207) that adopts many SOPIPA provisions and also includes new transparency requirements to better inform children and their parents about the data the school collects, as well as an explanation when it is shared.
These laws illustrate the importance of data in so many aspects of education—from meeting the needs of previously undercounted student groups to ensuring that schools prepare their graduates to succeed in college and career. 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. Read the 2017 legislative analysis here.
Also published on Medium.