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How to protect all the data your child’s school is collecting

For many parents, understanding student data is an unavoidable aspect of the contemporary schooling system. From the Common Core to the college admissions process, data surrounds our children and saturates our media. Naturally, the articles you read, the news stories you see or even the forms your student brings home from school may raise more questions than they answer. Below are four more questions. However, these questions can lead to critical conversations about educational data, and they can help you learn what you need to know about your own child’s data.

“What types of data do you collect?”

Your student’s school likely collects data from a variety of standardized assessments, including the ACT and the PARCC. However, this may not be the only form of data administrators and teachers gather. Your child’s attendance may be recorded, as well as her class grades. Her instructor may even observe and document her behavior during group work or independent work, or as she completes a particular task. It is your right as a parent to know what type of educational data is collected about your student, so don’t be shy about asking her principal and teacher. Chances are they’ll be more than happy to tell you.

“How will you use this data?”

Once you’re familiar with the sources of your child’s data, investigate how this information will be used. Do statewide assessments, together with your student’s grades, determine whether she is promoted to the next instructional level? Do her grades affect which classes she can register for (AP, IB, dual-credit, honors, etc.)? Are certain types of data only applicable to school accreditation or teacher evaluations? These details may be available on the school district’s website or on your school’s individual website. You may also find additional details in a school newsletter or in the main office.

“Who has access to my child’s data?”

Some forms of educational data, such as classroom observations, may be intended for just two parties, the teacher and the parent or two instructors. Others, like PARCC results, may be viewed by parents, instructors, school and district administrators and so on. When you ask this question, inquire about whether “big” data like PARCC scores is presented blind (in other words, presented with a less personal identifier like a number, rather than a name). You can also research consent policies; to what degree can you control who sees this data, and in what form they view it?

“Is this data secure?”

All educational data is sensitive, and should be treated as such. This may be accomplished in a number of ways; teachers might store anecdotes or notes in a locked desk drawer, while digital score reports for the ACT or SAT might require a login and password to access the server where they’re stored. Many forms of student assessment are relatively new, and like any new system, errors can occur. Being proactive about the safety of your child’s educational data is an excellent idea, as is learning about the who, how and what of this data.

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