Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seattle Schools and Data Confidentiality

I found something interesting on the SPS website this morning.   It's an SPS communication called "Data Confidentiality: How Seattle Public Schools Protects Student Information."  Interesting that it was released while the district is on Spring Break.

I think this deserves more investigation (and indeed is on my reading/writing list as I have piled up some articles).  This is becoming almost as big an issue as opting out of assessments.  I'm putting this up now to get it on your radar but there will be a part two to this thread.

It's a fairly carefully worded piece but it does seem to dodge/leave out a few things.

First, they say:

As a District, we strictly adhere to the Superintendent Procedure on Student Records and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements to protect the confidentiality of student information.  

Then they say:

The Superintendent’s Procedure builds upon the FERPA law with detail regarding how educational records can be released and disclosed within Seattle Public Schools. 

Do they explain what the Superintendent's procedure is or give a link to it?  They do not.  Here you go.  There is also another one about surveys and student data.


Then they go into (somewhat) what they do with regard to third parties.   One passage:


Sharing Agreements and Contracts involving student data are required to include an explicit Obligation and Confidentiality Clause. These clauses guarantee any external party and members of that party adhere to the same district requirements.

Data Sharing Agreements and Contracts involving student data clearly outline penalties such as loss of access, disciplinary action, dismissal or prosecution should there be deliberate or accidental misuse of the data.

The communication then explains YOUR role as a parent.  Basically, you can't opt out of releasing student data mandated through State and Federal regulations.  However, it doesn't say anything about not opting out of data allowed through the Superintendent's procedure.  It also says:

Families can opt out of District and State Assessments by submitting a written letter to the school requesting to opt out of the assessment.

7 comments:

mirmac1 said...

I found this proposed handy-dandy dashboard on your kid here:

This language is how they purport to meet the spirit and letter of the law:

"This report contains detailed student information. In order to protect student rights and privacy, and in compliance with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), every person with access to the report must keep its contents confidential and secure. Restrict access to the report to only staff members with “legitimate educational interest.” Avoid making electronic copies. Do not print unless you can ensure it is kept in a safe location. Do not email the report to anyone outside of the Seattle Public Schools network. Always discard in a secure recycling location.

Jane Doe (SEATTLESCHOOLS\jdoe) is responsible for the security of this report

NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
INTERNAL USE ONLY"

How will this be used?

Watching said...

Mirimac,

I would think the data would be compiled by CCER and the results would be distributed to others. Data can also be used to form policy, but by whom?

I'd been concerned about student discipline records, RTT and CCER. Mirimac's document would indicate that this information would be available to CCER.

Does anyone know if CCER will receive information for every student in the district? Or, will CCER receive information on student that are in schools that "benefit" from RTT dollars?

Yes, the district provides a very carefully worded document. As per usual, it is not the message the district communicates, but what is left out. i.e. our children's information will be tracked throughout their entire educational experience in SPS.

I remain unclear about information transmitted to CCER regarding sp. ed. students.

Thanks for keeping this conversation in the forefront.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, I'm going to check into this. I believe third parties can only get info on students involved with their activities and not the entire student population in SPS.

mirmac1 said...

I am also concerned about student discipline records. SPS legal recently opined:

"Records such as NDAs (notices of disciplinary action) provide helpful information to school
staff after a student transfers schools, which enables them to determine whether the student may need additional supports at school."

With what we know about disproportionate discipline, do we want to perpetuate it from school to school - branding a student throughout his/her educational career? Do universities get to ask for this information? Employers?

data said...

This document should be titled "How Seattle Public Schools doesn't Protect Student Information!

Families cannot opt out of releasing student data that is mandated through State and Federal regulations.

There it is in black and white. Because FERPA changes now allow this type of data sharing, SPS now dictates that parents get absolutely no say in the matter?! What is wrong with these people??

There are a bunch of situations where you really don't want your kids' records passed around among commercial companies, not to mention passed upstream to colleges and/or potential employers. What your kid does in 3rd grade can potentially follow them for life. And what about Confidential Students? They have entrusted the school district with confidential information in order to access public schools, and now it appears they will have no provision to prevent the district from sharing that information with various commercial organizations (who can potentially share with other organizations)

Melissa, have you heard any rumors or reasons at all (justifiable or not) why the district is currently not planning to let families opt out of this? Surely they can't be worried that large quantities of parents are going to go to the effort.

mirmac1 said...

data,

The district will amass and distribute as much data as FERPA allows. That's what Gates wants, that's what the state's Longitudinal Data System requires. This is supposedly going to improve education. I'm waiting for the improvement part.

If commercial interests are able to capitalize on our kids' data, that'll only make Gates and his lackeys at the Chamber of Commerce more happy.

mirmac1 said...

BTW, I see the Road MAP Project is having, rather belatedly, a parent forum where concerned parents may ask hard questions. I won't be there, but it would be great to know just how they think amassing all this information is going to help Josephine Student.

Parent Forum flyer