The following post summarizes my testimony before the Wisconsin Legislature’s Study Committee on School Data.

WI Legislative Presentation Thumbnail

Invited to speak as an expert on the use — and especially the security — of student data, I was honored to provide my comments for the committee’s consideration as they work to focus Wisconsin on using only the most important data elements and securing that data against threats and misuse.

School leaders and educators face two fundamental challenges as they try to master the exponential increase in educational data:

  1. how to use the right data at the right time to improve outcomes; and
  2. how to protect and secure personally identifiable information.
“Data is not about adding more to your plate; data is about making sure you have the right things on your plate.” -Unknown

Student Data ExplosionBecoming more educationally effective and efficient is critical in this era of increasing expectations for students and constrained resources for districts and schools. IO Education’s technology can support widely accepted, research-based best practices around the effective use of data in education, like those identified by the Data Quality Campaign, SEDL (an affiliate of the American Institutes for Research (AIR)), and others. For example, SEDL found that “using data in instructional decisions can lead to improved student performance (Wayman, 2005; Wayman, Cho, & Johnston, 2007; Wohlstetter, Datnow, & Park, 2008).

With over 18 years of experience, IO Education provides a platform that enables schools and educators to aggregate and integrate data from their various solutions and products and securely store that data in one consolidated location. Educators and school administrators can then more effectively use this data to analyze performance and personalize student learning to increase academic achievement and overall educational performance.

The information explosion is only bound to accelerate under new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While the law is a relief to many states and districts in lifting the heavy hand of No Child Left Behind accountability, it comes with a little-discussed price: more complex accountability and assessment systems. States have great flexibility in how they design their systems to be more comprehensive and fair, but that means an increase in the number of data points to collect, track and manage. IO Education’s solution is uniquely designed to help states, districts, schools, administrators, educators and parents get the right data at the right time to improve educational outcomes. Districts decide which data is integrated with our platform.

Data Privacy and SecurityOnce data is provided to us, we take care of it as if it were our own children’s information. We understand that privacy is tremendously important to districts and schools who partner with us, and to educators, parents and students whose information we steward on behalf of a school district. IO Education is a market leader in protecting student privacy. Not only are we a signatory to the Student Privacy Pledge, but we also publicly describe our privacy policies on our website. Importantly, we have published a “Pledge to Parents” on our website at that covers important privacy policies in simple to understand language.

When it comes to student data privacy, what is NOT done with data can be as important as the purposes for which it is collected. For example, IO does not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational or school purposes as contractually agreed to with an educational institution. Further, we absolutely do not sell student personal information to anyone for any reason, or use or disclose student information for the targeting of advertisements to students. To adequately protect student data, the state, school districts, administrators, parents and vendors must work together in partnership.

One state taking a proactive and thoughtful approach is Colorado, which recently passed legislation called the Student Data Transparency and Security Act. This legislation is fairly unique in putting the burden of protecting student data on the school system AND vendors, while adding transparency and accountability to how data is protected. We hope more states follow Colorado’s lead in ensuring all stakeholders are involved — and obligated — to safeguard student data. Working in partnership with educators to ensure students achieve to their maximum potential is our joint calling.

Ensuring student data is protected is our shared responsibility; we work every day to continuously improve on both fronts, for student achievement combined with data security is an educational outcome we all want and need.

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Categories: Best Practices, Data Security and Privacy, Students