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SXSW Update: Student Data Privacy

• Samantha Tankersley

Last week, thousands of innovative teachers, ed tech companies, district leaders and stakeholders flocked to the annual SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas. This event focused on many of the most pressing topics in education today, including personalized learning, student data privacy and classroom innovations. ExcelinEd’s team helped lead this powerful and meaningful conversation on education.

Today we’re sharing the first of a three-part series on our top takeaways from the event.

Part 1: Student Data Privacy

The Sessions
Student Data Privacy was among the most popular panel topics at SXSWedu. Over ten sessions were focused on creating trusted environments, using data responsibly and creating sensible policies around student data.

John Bailey, ExcelinEd’s Vice President of Policy and Executive Director of Digital Learning Now, moderated at the Aspen Institute’s session “Designing Principles for a Trusted Environment.” He was joined by an impressive panel:

  • Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, USED
  • Aimee Guidera, President and CEO, Data Quality Campaign
  • Akili Lee, Co-Founder and Director of Digital Strategy and Development, Digital Youth Network
  • Brendon Lynch, Chief Privacy Officer, Microsoft

Bailey also served as a panelist for the session “Privacy 201: From Compliance to Trust.” Other panelists included:

  • Aimee Guidera, President and CEO,Data Quality Campaign
  • Aden Fine, General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Edmodo
  • Troy Wheeler, Vice President of Strategic Marketing, Ed-Fi Alliance

In the sessions, panelists explored the existing student data privacy landscape and steps that policy makers, technology companies and school systems should take to build trusted environments for learning. This requires going beyond compliance with FERPA and COPPA to share with students, parents, and teachers what data is collected, why it is collected, how it is used and what protections are in place to protect that personal information.

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Data Privacy Principles
Also at SXSWedu, Data Quality Campaign’s Aimee Guidera and Keith Kruger of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) released new Data Privacy Principles. These ten principles are supported by more than thirty national organizations, including ExcelinEd, and strive to safeguard student’s personal information while using data effectively to support student learning and success.

The principles include:

  1. Student data should be used to further and support student learning and success.
  2. Student data are most powerful when used for continuous improvement and personalizing student learning.
  3. Student data should be used as a tool for informing, engaging, and empowering students, families, teachers, and school system leaders.
  4. Students, families, and educators should have timely access to information collected about the student.
  5. Student data should be used to inform and not replace the professional judgment of educators.

For more information on the principles, visit

About the author

Samantha Tankersley

Samantha is the Policy Coordinator for the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s new initiative, EdPolicy Leaders Online. Before joining ExcelinEd, Samantha served as an advocacy intern for the Foundation for Florida's Future while simultaneously pursuing her master's in Public Administration from Florida State University. Samantha has also served as a teaching assistant for international schools in England and Switzerland. She received her bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Central Florida in 2012.