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How Georgia became a national leader in protecting student data

• Clare Crowson

Ten years ago, I had a sweet brick phone. It made phone calls and even allowed texting. Through the smartphone I have today, I carry in my back pocket access to the word’s information.

But with the rapid rise of the digital age and digital information comes the compounded need for state and education leaders to address data privacy, especially student data privacy.

This is why the legislation Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law last week is so important. The Student Data Privacy, Accessibility and Transparency Act (SB 89), sponsored by Sen. John Albers and Rep. Buzz Brockway, is a comprehensive data privacy law. It strengthens protections for student information, empowers parents to access their children’s information and supports innovative technology solutions with appropriate safeguards.

It is important states get this right, because student data can be a powerful tool in the classroom. When used appropriately, data can help parents and teachers personalize instruction, inform educational choices and ensure students are able to reach their fullest potential. Student data can drive student learning and help educators customize education for students.

But if states are to use this incredible resource effectively, parents and students must be able to trust that student educational data is private, secure and being used solely to help students succeed.

Georgia’s Student Data Privacy, Accessibility and Transparency Act creates a plan to protect student data while responsibly using information to benefit student learning. ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque called the new Act the “most comprehensive student data privacy bill in the country.”

To begin, the Act requires an inventory of what data is being collected and why. Unnecessary data that is currently collected – such as a family’s political affiliation or religion – will be avoided in the future.

The Act demands security. Under the new law, Georgia will develop a data security plan for the state data system, and the Department of Education will designate a Chief Privacy Officer. Technology providers working with Georgia schools will also have to develop appropriate security procedures. And these providers will be unable to sell personal information about students or use it for targeted advertising.

The new law also recognizes that parents deserve access to their child’s education record. The Act gives parents explicit rights to review that record and requires schools to provide electronic copies of student records upon their parents’ request.

Before reaching the Governor’s desk, both chambers unanimously passed the Student Data Privacy, Accessibility and Transparency Act. In this action, Georgia’s lawmakers created model student data privacy legislation and demonstrated what is possible when leaders unite to accomplish something truly meaningful for students.

Check out ExcelinEd’s free self-paced, online course Data Privacy? Get Schooled. to learn more about this issue. 

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About the author

Clare Crowson

Clare is a writer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to joining the Foundation’s communication team, Clare taught Spanish in her native Iowa and English in Jeju-do, South Korea. She graduated from Northwestern College with a degree in Spanish and Teaching English as a Second Language.