I know that nobody asked me what I thought about student data privacy when I began inquiring about my children’s education records and how their privacy was protected, but now the Future of Privacy Forum conducted a survey that showed that the majority of parents with children in the K-12 environment are concerned about the privacy and security of their children’s information. With privacy being discussed more and more in education circles and by parents, I find that a survey that addresses parents is worthwhile, as parents (and more so students) are often left out of the conversations surrounding student data.
The results came in AND….not surprisingly, 85% of parents said they are willing to support the use of student data and technology in education but that it must be coupled with clear efforts to ensure its security. I would add that once parents are assured that their child’s data is safeguarded, they are more willing to give access to third parties as long as there is a clear educational intent. Once I am assured that my kids’ information is protected and only visible to appropriate entities, I am ready to have data sets that include my child’s information. And that is what matters, because there are so many ways of linking information that datasets can generate new insights – is my school addressing my child’s needs? Is the data showing that certain groups of students are being discriminated against? What is the graduation rate? For parents to have confidence that their child’s data is being protected, they must see first hand that collecting student data is valuable. Only then will they trust the process.
So I conducted my unscientific, most likely biased, survey amongst a few parents I know. Their responses were similar to those in the survey. My group of surveyed parents expressed that they are more willing to use student data for individual students when they can see the clear benefit of this data collection. For example, can the data help identify a struggling student so that schools can provide adequate support services? Another important result was that they are all encouraged by the use of personalized learning tools if they were able to see the results and trends of their children’s performance. But what we all came back to in our conversation was the trust factor. They all agreed that if we can trust the institutions that work with our children’s data we would all be more comfortable with it. And the only way I see how trust can be built is by schools, districts, States and the Federal government is by communicating with parents on a regular basis, to listen to their concerns and together come up with a plan that can be supported by the school’s organizations, such as the PTA.
So there you have it. A very reliable survey from the Future of Privacy Forum and my very own homegrown survey both agree that data is important and that parents are willing to allow for such data collection as long as we have adequate safeguards in place to protect student privacy.
I do wonder what a group of 6th graders would think of this debate and what they want to see protected in their records. We need to revise the methodology and compile results from students and how they would like their data protected. Maybe I will ask them soon…..
In the meantime, the entire survey will be released at the National Student Privacy Symposium on Monday, September 21st and if you haven’t registered I hope you do! The conversation promises to be engaging and I can’t wait for the debate amongst different panelists since we all have various perspectives on this issue. I’ll be there so please come by and say hello!