State Data Systems and Privacy Concerns: Strategies for Balancing Public Interests


Better institutional systems for collecting and reporting student outcome data could help institutional, state, and national policymakers improve student outcomes, yet the collection of data confronts a powerful public interest: individual privacy. This policy brief explores how states can balance the interests of accountability and privacy. It describes how states have addressed the collection and use of student record data within the limits and constraints set by federal privacy laws, with particular reference to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Some states struck a good balance between preserving individual privacy and using individually identifiable data records to drive institutional improvement. Some states have created “data warehouses” and have the analytic capacity to identify inequities in educational outcomes for students from different population groups. The lessons from these states and their approaches can be helpful to other states as they try to address the need for more student outcome data in a time of great concern about individual privacy.

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