When I speak with parents about the Idaho Core Standards, the conversation often turns to a discussion about data and data collection. Why? As the state has raised its academic standards in mathematics and English language arts, there is a myth that has been perpetuated that this has in some way changed our data collection processes. Nothing could be further from the truth. When the state raises academic standards, we as a state are only changing the academic goals we set for what a child should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level. These standards do not affect the data we collect on students or teachers. However, that is what some have heard.
Still, I believe these conversations have been beneficial. Parents have raised some serious and valid concerns about data and data collection, such as what level of data is the state collecting on my child, does it serve an educational purpose, and how secure is it? These are all legitimate questions, and parents deserve answers.
We all know the importance of data. In any organization or industry, data is necessary to inform decisions. It is the same in public education. Great teachers have always used data to inform instruction and help individualize lesson plans for every child. Yet at the same time, we as legislators and policymakers understand the importance of keeping data safe and secure, especially when it comes to student-level data.
Based on my service in the Legislature as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I know firsthand that the Idaho State Board of Education and State Department of Education have put policies in place to make sure that the data collected on Idaho’s students not only serves an educational purpose but also is safe and secure. For example, no student-level data is sent out of state, except for in one program – the Migrant Education Program. In this case, these students are specifically identified as migrant students who transition from state to state within a given school year; therefore, their academic records are carried with them wherever they go. For every other student in Idaho’s public schools, if any data is required by the federal government, it is only sent in the aggregate, and it is always de-identified.
However, while these policies have been in place within these state agencies, these practices were not codified in Idaho law. This is critical to parents and students, who want to know that student-level data is not only safe and secure today but every day in the future. That is why I crafted Senate Bill 1372 this year.
Under this legislation, we as a state can ensure the following now and in the future:
- All the data collected on Idaho students serves an educational purpose. If the state needs to collect additional data points, they will have to get permission from the Legislature.
- Student data will remain safe and secure at the state level, not just today but also in the future. The bill includes requirements for the state agencies as well as model policies for local school districts.
- Student data will remain safe and secure at a local level. The State Board of Education is working right now to craft a model data policy that every school district and public charter school will have to adopt and implement to protect student-level data.
These are just a few of the measures that are in the new legislation. I encourage you to read the bill in its entirety. It is critical to our state’s education system, and I am grateful to my fellow legislators and educational stakeholders for working closely with me to make it a reality.