Federal Policy

Federal policymakers have a significant role to play in ensuring that all students, regardless of their zip code, receive an excellent education. They must help develop the conditions and resources needed to foster a culture that uses data for continuous improvement—and that empowers families, teachers, and education leaders in communities and statehouses with the high-quality data they need to make great decisions for students.

Key Federal Laws

Several federal laws and programs help support state and local innovation in effective, ethical data use. The nation’s primary K–12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires states to provide richer information on outcomes for all students, produce high-quality public reports, and rethink their accountability systems to provide transparency and value to the public. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) creates opportunities for states to capitalize on provisions in the law and go beyond legal compliance to use data to ensure that every child excels.

The Higher Education Act (HEA) can support state efforts to prepare their educators to use data in support of student learning, to provide meaningful information about teacher outcomes back to the program that trained them, and to enable data systems that provide educators, families, and policymakers the information they deserve while reducing burden on states.

The federal government has an important role to play in safeguarding student data and in building trust in the value of data use. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) not only governs when student information can be disclosed, but it also provides a strong foundation on which states can build their own data and privacy practices and ensure every child is ready for success.

Action Steps

  • Read our November 2020 memo to the next administration which lays out both opportunities to take bold action to solve some of our country’s largest data challenges and areas where the administration can and should prioritize work on day one to make a difference immediately.
  • Read our federal recommendations to make data work for students.
  • Read our blog about the data opportunities for the next generation of education policy under ESSA.
  • Learn more about the federal role in prioritizing student data privacy and building trust in the use of student information to support learning.