EdData Privacy Update: 7/17/2015

EdData Privacy Update: 7/17/2015

It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago it looked unlikely that the Senate would get a chance to consider Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization this year, much less pass anything. But on Thursday the Senate followed the House’s example from earlier this month and passed their own version of ESEA by a wide, 81-17 margin.

As foreshadowed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s April mark-up hearing, data and data privacy were major topics and the subject of numerous amendments. What are some of the data themes and amendments to be aware of as the House and Senate ESEA versions head to conference (and perhaps even a final bill!)? Here’s a quick look:

Public Reporting. The Senate adopted several amendments to support the reporting of education data in more clear and meaningful ways.

  • Senator Booker’s (D-NJ) amendment requires more information (like graduation rates) on children who are homeless or in foster care to be included in state and district report cards to facilitate better supports for these populations.
  • Senators Capito (R-WV) and Durbin’s (D-IL) amendment includes postsecondary metrics such as enrollment and remediation rates in state report cards to help clarify how a school’s graduates do after high school.
  • Senator Warren’s (D-MA) amendment allows states to crosstab student achievement data in state report cards to make it easier to understand outcomes for different groups of students.

Data Privacy. The Senate considered a few amendments about student data privacy and the federal government’s role in this area.

  • Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Markey’s (D-MA) amendment would create a Student Privacy Policy Committee representing parents, educators, education privacy and technology experts, and state and district leaders to study and develop recommendations around student data privacy and parental rights.
  • Much of the student data privacy conversation at the federal level this week took place outside of ESEA. On Thursday Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Daines (R-MT) introduced the SAFE KIDS Act to safeguard student data while allowing for the use of data and technology in service of learning.

Parental and State Opt-Out. As it has been in many states across the country, the issue of allowing parental opt-out from assessments or allowing state opt-out from accountability measures was considered by the Senate.

  • Senator Isakson’s (R-GA) amendment to require districts to notify parents about their opt-out rights was adopted by the Senate.
  • An amendment offered by Senator Lee (R-UT) to allow parental opt-out from ESEA assessments was not adopted by the Senate. However, the version of ESEA passed by the House does include an amendment to allow parents to opt their children out of ESEA’s testing requirements. This issue will need to be resolved in conference.
  • Identical amendments introduced in the House and Senate that would allow states to opt-out of federal accountability failed in both chambers.

In considering these and other amendments, Congress has shown a willingness to explore the ways education data can inform decisionmaking and empower educators and families. ESEA reauthorization presents an incredible opportunity to shift the use of education data from compliance to service and ensure that everyone with a stake in education has the information they need to help students achieve their best.