Governance, State Advocacy

Legislative Update: State Policymakers Must Continue to Make Education Data Policy Work for Students

Legislative Update: State Policymakers Must Continue to Make Education Data Policy Work for Students

States are well into the fourth month of this year’s legislative session. As part of DQC’s legislation tracking efforts, we are monitoring 195 bills in 37 states. So far, 15 states have adjourned for the year and 29 states remain in regular session.  This month’s update was co-authored by Rachel Wallace, DQC’s spring 2022 graduate intern.

Education and workforce needs are always changing, especially as communities continue to navigate the pandemic. Students experienced a shift to online education and were asked to use new tools. A changing workforce and economy means that individuals need access to new information in new ways. And the most pressing questions that educators need to answer are most certainly not the same as they once were. To keep up with these changes, states must continue to update their education data laws to address emerging needs.  

This session, we’ve seen legislators take action to do just that. Legislators have updated their current education data laws to support data use in two ways:  

  1. Changing privacy laws to address current needs while allowing data to work for students.  
  2. Expanding longitudinal data systems to include data for nontraditional education and career pathways and transitions.  

Student data privacy needs are ever changing. This year, states have introduced legislation that updates existing privacy laws to address current needs.  

  • Following recommendations from Maryland’s Student Data Privacy Council, SB 325 updates the definitions of key data privacy terms to increase protections for student data and address the rapidly changing landscape of student data privacy.  
  • In 2014, Louisiana passed a restrictive privacy law that has made serving students difficult. Legislators this session have introduced two bills (SB 229 and HB 470) that would allow state agencies to collect and share the information they need while safeguarding student data. With increased access to data, both Louisiana bills would make it possible for agencies to better evaluate programs and discover areas for improvement—which will serve a variety of stakeholders, including students, families, and educators. 

Legislators are updating their longitudinal data systems to address the needs of their states and answer important questions. These two standout Maryland bills consider different ways that individuals transition into the workforce from nontraditional education programs or the military.  

  • MD SB 277 would expand the definition of student data in Maryland’s Longitudinal Data System to include those in correctional services by adding participation in prison-based education and training programs and/or participation in work release and other transition programs.  
  • MD HB 625 charges the state to examine methods to improve transitions and establish pathways of active duty and retired military to the civilian healthcare workforce. Understanding these pathways is especially important as individuals look to reskill due to economic and workforce impacts of the pandemic.     

Since DQC started tracking education data legislation nine years ago, states have made great strides in improving their education data ecosystems through legislation. But as technology and individual needs continue to evolve, state policymakers must consider ways to continuously improve their data systems and data laws. Policymakers can and should use existing infrastructure to help address the needs of all students and individuals, because there is no finish line for data.