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data and privacy for digital learning - strategies by Metiri Group

Strategies for Data and Privacy

A teacher has noticed that one of his student’s performance, which was excellent at the beginning of the school year, began to slide in late winter. The student also seemed to be missing more class than he had earlier in the year. The teacher was curious if this had been a pattern for this student throughout his school career, or if other teachers were seeing the same problem. Logging into his school’s student data system, he discovers it only includes final grades and total absences rather than showing interim data throughout the year. As a result, he’s unable to determine if there is a pattern and left to probe into the issue on his own.

From the classroom to the school board, issues of data and privacy are flooding schools and districts across the country. Read on to learn a bit more about strategies for data and privacy.

Strategies for Data & Privacy: Data for now and forever

As the expectations for data-driven decision-making have increased in schools and districts, data systems and policies have often failed to keep up with the demand for real-time data on all students. Regardless of where your school or district is with respect to data and privacy, there are some steps that can be taken to better use data now and be better prepared for the future.

Strategies for Data & Privacy: Don’t go it alone

Thankfully, there are many online resources related to data and privacy. For example, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) offers a variety of tools related to protecting students’ privacy, including guides, infographics, and toolkits to help districts move forward regardless of where they’re starting. The toolkit provides a great description of the federal laws related to privacy which are often misunderstood or misinterpreted (we’re educators not lawyers after all). All of CoSN’s tools can be accessed from their Protecting Privacy webpage.

Strategies for Data & Privacy: Help teachers use data

Most schools and districts now expect teachers to use data to make instructional decisions. Few teacher training programs provide a substantial amount of instruction in this area though, and more experienced teachers may have developed their own methods over time which may or may not align with current data sources or practices. Assessing educators’ skills and confidence with respect to data-driven decision-making is essential to providing training to match their needs and build their skills. In addition, quick data practice sessions led by an adept colleague conducted in 10 to 15 minutes in staff or team meetings can provide just-in-time instruction to get everyone on the same page without devoting substantial resources to whole day training. For help, consult this compact reference guide from the Connecticut State Department of Education provides a Data-Driven Decision-Making Process chart that includes steps, guiding questions, and suggested resources to help guide schools’ and districts’ efforts.

Strategies for Data & Privacy: Keep up

Technology is fast-changing. In order to avoid the trap of having outdated systems and policies, schools and districts need to establish regular review cycles to assess the quality, accessibility, and effectiveness of their data systems. A system that operated smoothly for years may become unwieldy if users suddenly need to use data they don’t have access to or overly restrictive privacy policies prevent stakeholders from being able to use data in appropriate and powerful ways. Updated inventories of existing data systems are critical to ensure data are being stored in efficient ways and accessible formats. While overarching policies are necessary, policies by stakeholder group (such as parents, students, teachers, administrators, and district staff) are also necessary to ensure a balance is maintained between access and privacy for all users.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. We have many more so feel free to contact us for help! We’ve covered many of the components of our framework in other blogs already, so take a look back to refresh your memory. Next week we’ll define Community Partnerships as they relate to digital learning environments in schools.