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New Report on Student "Permanent Records" Separates Perception from Reality

Transparency, Governance, Capacity Building, and Improved Policies are Key Elements for Building Trust in the Data Needed to Help Students Succeed

Washington, D.C. — The linking of student data across agencies and over time—also known as “student records”—can be leveraged in powerful ways to improve student success, but lack of clear information about these practices has led to growing privacy concerns.

A new report seeks to clear up the confusion by putting to bed many misconceptions about student “permanent records.” The key takeaway: public educational institutions and agencies have not created a single, lasting repository where individual students’ educational histories could be accessed at a keystroke.

“The goal of effective education data use is to improve student success, but we can’t reach this goal without assurance that students and their data are safe. Policymakers need to take responsibility and action by building an environment of trust and a culture of ethical data use,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, founder and executive director of the Data Quality Campaign.

A new policy brief by the Data Quality Campaign and its partners provides recommendations for policymakers, including the following:

  • Establish governance by clarifying who is responsible for managing data across agencies and over time.
  • Identify where state policy can supplement federal law. For example, establish, implement, and monitor data destruction policies and create consequences for violating such policies.
  • Create robust requirements, model language, and transparency for third-party service provider contracts.
  • Help parents understand how linking student data over time improves their child’s college and career readiness.

Here are some key facts about the collection and sharing of student-level information:

  • Employers and the media cannot, by law, access an individual student record.
  • States collect from districts a small subset of student-level information to evaluate and improve student learning.
  • The US Department of Education is prohibited by law from creating a federal database with students’ personally identifiable information.

States have policies regarding how long data can be stored and when it must be destroyed.

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