Privacy and Data Security

How can you manage your district's data in a way that both protects privacy and benefits the district?

Using student data to support student learning is an important strategy for school leaders and educators. As the use of student data grows, school districts must work to protect student privacy and confidentiality, including satisfying the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Protecting Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).  

The House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing in June 2017 titled, “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy.” The hearing is connected to the House Education and the Workforce Committee's broader efforts to update the Education Sciences Reform Act, which authorizes the work of Institute of Education Sciences, including the State Longitudinal Data Systems program. CoSN expects the committee to consider legislation in early 2018 to update ESRA, which might include updates to FERPA.  

What’s CoSN Doing?

CoSN is working hard to education Members of Congress and other federal leaders about the importance using data to support student success. We are also briefing federal decision makers about how districts work to ensure that students' personally identifiable information is protected. We plan to be an active voice in any effort by the committee to make changes to FERPA to ensure that the law carefully balances data use and student privacy. 

The Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal Program is an initiative of CoSN, in partnership with AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), and ASCD, and was developed in collaboration with a diverse group of 28 school system leaders from across the country. The program requires schools to have implemented student data privacy protections that meet a set of high standards around 5 core practice areas. Schools that demonstrate that they have met the Program requirements will be able to display the TLE Seal, signifying their commitment to student data privacy. Different than existing voluntary privacy programs, the TLE Seal is the only data privacy seal for school systems, focused on building a culture of trust and transparency.

CoSN also launched an initiative (with support from by Microsoft, Lightspeed Systems, Schoolwires, and McGraw Hill) entitled Protecting Student Privacy in Connected Learning. The initiative works directly on issues of student privacy and helps give ed tech leaders practical guidance on data use in their districts. Our Protecting Privacy toolkit contains resources focusing on compliance with federal laws, communications strategies, and best practices.

CoSN also teamed with the Data Quality Campaign to identify 10 principles for protecting student data. In April, CoSN issued a statement supporting the privacy bill first introduced by U.S. House of Representatives Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) during the 114th Congress and joined with other national organizations to sign on to "The Federal Role in Safeguarding Student Data."

What Can You Do?

Download the resources above and join the CoSN Advocacy Network and be sure to download the free resources from our privacy initiative.


About CoSN

CoSN empowers educational leaders to leverage technology to create engaging learning environments and provides the tools essential for their success. 

CoSN's work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. CoSN's Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) program is trademarked.

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