The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects students' privacy by prohibiting disclosure of education records without adult consent. FERPA also allows parents and students over age 18 to inspect and review education records and request that inaccuracies be corrected.
Schools may share basic "directory" information, such as student names and phone numbers, if they give parents the opportunity to opt out. However, advance written permission is required to release all other student-level information, such as student coursework, class discussions, recorded comments, and grades, if they are linked to any information that would enable a member of the school community to identify the student. Several exceptions in the law allow individuals such as teachers and administrators with a legitimate educational interest in the student's record to access personally identifiable student data without prior parent consent.
In 2008, FERPA was updated to provide better access to education data for research and accountability. These changes permit the release of student-level data that has been stripped of personally identifying information and allow states to share student information in consolidated education data systems designed to improve student achievement.
Clear guidance on how schools can collect and share data without compromising student safety and anonymity would empower educators and learners to take full advantage of emerging technologies and tools without fear of violating FERPA.
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