House Education Committee Holds Hearing on Education Research and Privacy Protections

March 2016

On March 22 the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students” to examine federal policies affecting education research and student privacy.

Lawmakers heard from witnesses on a range of issues, including how education research is used to improve education outcomes, how states protect student privacy, and what updates could strengthen federal policies in these areas.

“Education research has long played an important role in our nation’s classrooms,” said Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “States and school districts use research to identify teaching and learning strategies that improve classroom instruction and those that don’t.” Fellow representatives appeared to share this sentiment while recognizing parents’ concerns about the security of student data.

Jane Hannaway, a professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and an AERA member, represented the perspective of education researchers. She spoke of the privacy protections currently in place and agreed that the balance between education research and student privacy is achievable.

“With appropriate safeguards, I see no necessarily inherent conflict between research … and protection of student privacy,” said Hannaway. “Indeed, I would argue that appropriate safeguards foster a healthy environment for research productivity.”

Other witnesses included a parent advocate for student privacy, the policy director for Next Generation Reforms at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and the deputy superintendent for the Georgia Department of Education, who discussed how his state works closely with local districts to enable teachers and parents to easily access the information needed to improve education outcomes while still ensuring student privacy is protected.< /p>

Student data privacy has long been an area of focus for AERA. In 2008, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine chaired a workshop on “Protecting Student Records and Facilitating Education Research,” convened by the National Research Council, that led to a 2009 report on FERPA.

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