House Panel Holds Hearing on Education Research and Student Data Privacy
House Panel Holds Hearing on Education Research and Student Data Privacy

June 2017

On June 28, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy.” The hearing referenced specific pieces of legislation poised to be considered this session, including updates to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the reauthorization of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). In March 2016 the full House Committee held a similar hearing that focused on the two pieces of legislation.

Witnesses in the subcommittee’s hearing included Rachael Stickland, co-founder and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy; Nathaniel Schwartz, chief research and strategy officer for the Tennessee Department of Education; Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution; and Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, senior fellow in economic studies at the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution and the first director of IES.

The hearing provided an opportunity for subcommittee members to hear about the valuable contributions of education research and discuss current protections to student data privacy. In her opening statement, Shanzenbach described her own experience as a mother with children in the public school system and the documents she signs to allow for sharing of data. She discussed some of the benefits of using data but also recognized the potential risks, noting the agreements researchers must accept before data are shared with them.

Schwartz and Schanzenbach discussed some of the work they are involved with that has received funding support from IES and the positive impact on student outcomes. As part of the recommendations for reauthorizing IES, Whitehurst called for an IES budget specifically for staff and expenses in order to strengthen the independence of IES from political control, moving funding from the Department of Education. He further recommended a budget outlay that would enable IES to generate independent quick turn‐around reports on high impact federal and state policy issues.