NEW FUTURE PRIVACY FORUM SURVEY SHOWS PARENTS OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORT USING STUDENT DATA TO IMPROVE EDUCATION
CONCERNS ABOUT PRIVACY AND SECURITY REMAIN
WASHINGTON D.C., September 21, 2015 – Today, as students, parents, teachers and school administrators begin another academic year, the Future of Privacy Forum released new survey data showing that a majority of parents support using student data to improve education. While support for using data in the classroom is strong, parents remain concerned about the level of student data privacy and security in U.S. K-12 schools.
Few topics in education have generated as much discussion as the potential for data and technology to transform teaching and learning. The public discourse has been dominated by technology proponents and critics alike. But less time has been spent working to understand how most parents of school-aged children view the risks and opportunities of using data and technology in the classroom.
To help answer this question—and to better inform decisions made by educators, school leaders, product developers and policymakers—The Future of Privacy Forum and Harris Poll conducted a national survey of parents with children in public school grades K-12.
The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Future of Privacy Forum from March 26 – April 2, 2015, included 1,002 parents in the United States with children between the ages 0-17 (of which 672 have children in public school grades K-12). It focused on understanding what parents know about the way technology is being used in schools;
“Parent’s are one of the most important stakeholders in the discussions around using student data to improve classroom education,” said Future Privacy Forum Executive Director Jules Polonetsky. “Yet, not near enough work has been done to bring parents into the conversation. This survey is an important first step.”
The survey asked parents to outline their goals and fears about the use of technology and student data. The findings are summarized below.
Key Survey Takeaways
- What Do Parents Know About the Use Of Technology in Schools?
According to the survey, most parents (71%) say their child uses technology provided by school
and over half (58%) say they have used school-related technology. A majority of parents (76%) understand what data are being collected and how they are used. The results here demonstrate a strong baseline of knowledge and communication between schools and parents.
- When Do Parents Support Access to and Use of Student Data Within Schools or the Educational System?
The vast majority of parents express comfort with using student data to improve teaching and learning such as grades (97%), attendance records (94%), special needs status (91%) and standardized test scores (88%). But they want a strong justification of administrative need or educational benefit. For example, parents say they are less likely to be comfortable with schools sharing student data with private companies that create educational software, websites, apps (42%). However, if companies are providing a service that parents perceive to directly benefit students, the results are more favorable, as a majority do support companies using their data to improve their products and services (57%).
- What Do Parents See as Benefits from Additional Uses of Student Data?
Parents support many uses of individual and aggregate level student data to improve education. According to the survey, parents are strongly in favor of using individual student data to both identify struggling students in need to provide appropriate support earlier (84%) and to personalizing learning by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of individual students (79%). By wide margins, parents say that using aggregate level student data to improve the effectiveness of teacher instruction (78%) and help schools measure and hold teachers accountable for their effectiveness in the classroom (73%) are convincing reasons to use student information.
- Where Do Parents Stand on the Creation of Electronic Education Records Amid Security Concerns?
While most parents worry about student data being hacked or stolen (87%) or that an electronic record would be used in the future against their child by a college or an employer (68%), a majority are comfortable with the creation of electronic education records for their child as long as those records are properly protected (71%). That support level increases when parents know that schools are required to ensure student data security (85%); and when parents are aware that student data use is restricted to educational purposes (87%).
- What Protections Do Parents Want; What Do They Know About Existing Laws and Policies?
More than half of parents (54%) say they know nothing about existing federal laws regulating the use of student data. This finding may explain why parents say the best way to ensure student data privacy is the adoption of new state or federal laws (57%). Nearly half of parents (47%) say that they want companies to adopt better contracting practices and publish enforceable privacy policies. Most parents appear to be unaware of the benefits of complementary strategies to ensure the responsible use of student data like industry codes and best practices.
In general, parents are very aware of, engaged with, and concerned about technology and student data use in schools. While they are eager for the individual learning benefits that educational data can provide, parents are also concerned about the security of their child’s personal information. Educators, education service providers, advocates, and policymakers should embrace the opportunity to work with parents as partners in addressing these issues.
“This survey makes it clear that we must do a better job of explaining to parents how their children benefit from improving the effectiveness of education products based on things learned in the classroom,” Polonetsky said. “And parents want a commitment that their student data will never be exploited. I think that’s a commitment they deserve.”
About The Student Privacy Symposium
The survey is being released in conjunction with the National Student Privacy Symposium in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 21, 2015. The symposium features research experts, education leaders, privacy and security professionals, advocacy groups, parents and government leaders in an open and honest debate about how to best serve our youth.
In addition to core student data privacy issues – education, privacy, security, and civil rights leaders will also discuss the benefits and risks of data use for underserved student populations—and its impact on inequality and discrimination.
The Keynote speaker is Kati Haycock, President of the Education Trust, a leading national nonprofit education advocacy organization. Haycock is a civil rights champion and one of the nation’s top advocates for high academic achievement for all students, especially low-income students and students of color.
Support and funding for the event has been provided by: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Digital Trust Foundation; Data Quality Campaign, the National Association of State School Boards of Education; the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN); the Houston Independent School District; iKeepSafe; the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and AASA: The School Superintendents Association.
For more information, please visit www.studentprivacysymposium.org.
About Harris Poll Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Future of Privacy Forum from March 26 – April 2, 2015 among 1,002 parents ages 18 and older who have children ages 0-17 in the household (of which 672 have children in public/charter school grades K-12). This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Future of Privacy Forum
The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) is a Washington, DC based think tank that seeks to advance responsible data practices. The forum is led by Internet privacy experts Jules Polonetsky and Christopher Wolf and includes an advisory board comprised of leading figures from industry, academia, law and advocacy groups. It facilitates discussions with privacy advocates, industry leaders, regulators, legislators (and their staffs) and international representatives.
FPF expanded into the student data policy area in 2014 with the introduction of FERPA|Sherpa (www.ferpasherpa.org), a compilation of education privacy resources and tools with sections aimed at parents/students, schools, service providers and policymakers. In addition to original tools and resources, this site has aggregated many of the references made available by government agencies, education advocates, academic centers, and commercial partners. FPF continued its work in education with the announcement of the Student Privacy Pledge for K-12 Ed Tech Providers, in partnership with the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), to safeguard student privacy built around a dozen commitments regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information. Started with 14 market leaders, the Pledge has since expanded to over 170 signers, and has been endorsed by President Obama.