Education chiefs from 34 states have made a public declaration that their states will not share personally identifiable student data with the federal government. In a letter sent to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on January 23, 2014, the state superintendents wrote that they are responding to a rising concern that student assessments performed by the two federally funded multi-state consortia – PARCC and SBAC – puts student privacy at risk.
In the letter, the state education leaders wrote that “[w]e are writing today to confirm that the consortia will not share any personally identifiable information about K-12 students with [the U.S. Department of Education] or any federal agency.” The letter noted that states have not submitted student-level assessment data in the past and that it was their expectation that the consortia will not change that practice. The states noted that they will continue to share state-level data with the department and will “continue to retain control over” the privacy of student-level data.
For its part, the Department of Education has clarified its data-collection requirements and posted information about data privacy on its website. Additionally, both PARCC and SBAC are developing more detailed privacy policies. The Department of Education states that “[t]he department is not legally authorized to create a national, student-level database and has no intention to create a student records data system at the national level.”
Given increasing public concerns about student data privacy in the context of new standardized assessments, it remains to be seen if the Department’s response will be sufficient to address and quell these concerns.