The U.S. Department of Education proposed new regulations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).
The department proposes the following changes to FERPA:
1. Tighter enforcement:
In the past, department officials said there has been confusion about whether agencies permitted to work with student data—but not collect it or work with the children directly—could be held to the same standards for protecting students’ privacy. The new rules would require that everyone who has access to student data, even through an “exception” in FERPA, would still be held to the law. Those who fail to meet the requirements could see their grants withheld or be barred from student data-sharing for five years.
2. Directory information protection:
The department proposed that schools be allowed to have directories for limited uses, to limit the ability of marketers or identity thieves from accessing the data. For example, a school may collect data for a yearbook, like a student’s name, grade, photo, and activities, but restrict that use to the yearbook itself.
FERPA allows districts to enter into written agreements with researchers to use data to evaluate programs, but the department also would allow states to create such agreements on behalf of multiple districts. This would permit state officials to research the effectiveness of a statewide kindergarten-reading program, for example, or to compare the implementation of math coaches among districts.
In keeping with the department’s effort for better college and career readiness information, it would allow high school administrators to share student achievement data to track graduates’ academic success in college.
The department launched a new division devoted to “responsible stewardship, collection, use, maintenance, and disclosure of information at the national level within the Education Department.”
Under the proposed rules, the department would define “education program” for the first time as any program principally engaged in the provision of education. The proposed rules point out that some early childhood, special education, and adult education programs are run not by state or local educational authorities, but by other agencies, such as state human resources departments, which often oversee Head Start programs.
Another provision involves student identification badges. The proposed rules say parents could not use their right to opt out of making public their child’s directory information to excuse the child from having to wear a school ID badge.
Comments on the proposed regulations are due by May 23.
The department hopes to release final rules by the end of the year.