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As schools are "getting better at it," parents place a lot of faith in data protections

With student data privacy, there is no "perfect" solution, but parents' trustworthiness is encouraging, a privacy expert says.

Emily Tate
Emily Tate Tech Editor

Emily Tate is a reporter and tech editor for EdScoop. She writes about the latest developments in technology, applications and digital learning for...

(Data Quality Campaign)

There are positive signs within a new survey of how parents view the privacy and security of schoolchildren's personal data, says Linnette Attai, president of PlayWell, a compliance consulting firm that focuses on issues like privacy and safety.

The vast majority of parents — 88 percent — trust that their child’s school does a good job safeguarding student data privacy and security, according to recently released polling results from the nonprofit Data Quality Campaign.

The annual parent survey gauges attitudes toward data collection and use in schools. Commissioned by the Data Quality Campaign, the Harris Poll surveyed 1,212 U.S. parents with schoolchildren between the ages of 5 and 17.

Attai said it's “encouraging” that parents are placing a great deal of faith in the ability of schools to protect their child’s sensitive data.

“Over the past few years, schools and districts have done a lot of work to improve not only their data security and privacy practices and the way they engage with technology providers, but also to improve their communication with parents about why they collect data, how it may or may not be useful, and the steps they are taking to protect privacy of student data,” Attai told EdScoop.

The percentage of parents who trust schools to use their children’s data appropriately increased from 81 percent in 2015. Attai said that upward trend tracks with her own awareness of the issue.

“I do think schools and districts are getting better at it,” she added. “Across the ecosystem, this is an issue where there is no end — there is no ‘perfect.’” Protecting privacy and security of data is a continuous, constant engagement. We’ve seen schools over the years better recognize the issue … and with that has come improvement.”

The survey also found that 95 percent of parents want teachers to use their child’s data to create a more personalized learning experience. This could include data from grades, attendance and assessments.

Over 90 percent of parents rely on that same data — from test scores, homework and the like — to understand how their child is doing in school and make adjustments accordingly.

“[The results] appear to indicate that the message — that student data is useful in providing a personalized learning experience for students and allowing parents to better assess how their school or district is doing — that message is getting through,” Attai said. “Parents are finding some utility in this.”

The responses to the Harris Poll indicate that parents not only trust but also depend on schools for meaningful education data — and increasingly so. The next step is for schools to be clearer about what technology they are using, what data they are collecting and why they are collecting it, Attai said.

The openness, hopefully, will help foster more confidence.

“There is so much fear out there [among parents]. Even though these numbers are good, there are still pockets of fear out there,” Attai said. “Schools need to make sure they are communicating well, being open and transparent, and having conversations about how an individual or a group of students benefits from data collection.”

Just last month, a report from the Colorado-based National Education Policy Center suggested that school administrators and teachers, along with parents, have not done enough to demand transparency around student data collection and privacy protections. The authors said that the growing popularity of personalized learning, in particular, has made and will continue to make students vulnerable to privacy violations, and that school leaders and parents should be weary of technology providers.

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @ByEmilyTate.

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Education IT News, Edtech, K-12, Policy, Data Quality Campaign, Parents, personalized learning, student data privacy

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