Like all parents, I have big dreams for my kids. This school year, and every year, I want my two daughters to experience continued academic growth, personal and social development, and the joy of learning.
However, sometimes it can be hard for parents—and even our child’s teacher and school—to know how our child is really doing. Is he or she understanding the material? How can my child’s teacher teach to her strengths and needs? Will he be ready for next year? Ultimately, is my kid on track to graduate high school and go to college or get a job?
Fortunately, you and your child’s teacher have a powerful tool in increasingly rich and robust education data. What are education data? They’re simply any information, including measures of academic growth (including, but not limited to test scores,) that helps parents, educators, and policymakers make informed decisions about education.
School boards, the executive team in your school district, legislators and other state policymakers are using aggregated data that has been stripped of all personally identifiable information to determine what investments of our increasingly scarce resources of time and money are having the greatest impact on our children’s education. But equally exciting is that teachers can now more efficiently and effectively use data to personalize learning for your child in the classroom. Check out this new infographic that shows how data can support teacher efforts to tailor teaching to each child—including yours.
With this increased focus on using data to make informed decisions and personalize learning comes an increasing need to safeguard this data and ensure that our children’s personally identifiable information is kept safe and secure.
State education agencies and school districts limit and control access to student data very carefully so that teachers and other designated local personnel can only see the pieces they need to help children be successful. States and districts usually work with a service provider, operating under strict safeguarding rules and guided by federal and state privacy laws, to help maintain their data; it is illegal for these service providers to use the data in any way the state or district doesn’t want them to, sell the data or let anyone else access it. The US Department of Education is forbidden by several laws from collecting any information about individual students.
As a parent, you need assurance that your child’s data is kept private, secure and confidential. To support educators and education leaders in their efforts to use data effectively and protect it completely, the Data Quality Campaign (a nonprofit organization working to support the safe, effective use of data to improve student achievement) is pleased to have partnered with National PTA to create a parent guide to education data. We hope that this guide will empower you to ask questions about how education data is being safeguarded and used to help your child—and that this information will help make this school year a great one for you and your family!
For more information about the Data Quality Campaign, see http://dataqualitycampaign.org/. Please find the parent guide and other materials on data security and student privacy here. Let us know what you need to help be a more informed advocate for the use and protection of data in your child’s school. We are eager to hear from you.
Aimee Rogstad Guidera is founder and executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, national advocacy organization committed to realizing an education system in which all stakeholders—from parents to policymakers—are empowered with high-quality data from the early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems. To achieve this vision, DQC supports state policymakers and other key leaders to promote effective data use to ensure students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace. Most importantly, Aimee is the mom of two school aged daughters. She is actively involved in her school’s parent organization and believes that parents, students and teachers need to be equally strong legs of the stool of academic success.