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Student data privacy is not at risk in New Hampshire’s new Smarter Balanced assessment

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Maintaining the privacy of our personal data, especially student data, requires constant vigilance.  However, the fears fanned by Common Core opponents are not justified. In the context of implementing the Common Core State Standards and the accompanying assessments, privacy need not be at risk.

Student data privacy is well protected in New Hampshire.  Here is a detailed treatment of the issue prepared by the New Hampshire Department of Education.  It answers most every possible question.

In summary, though, start with the Cooperative Agreement under which the federal education department funded the development of the Smarter Balanced assessment we will be using in New Hampshire.  There are sentences in the agreement that, taken separately, could serve as fodder for the agreement that a student’s personal data could find its way into national databases.  Here is one, item 3. on page 11, for instance:

Work with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that result from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies;1

But footnote 1., referred to in the document, reads:

1 Eligible applicants awarded a grant under this program must comply with the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act (FERPA) and 34 CFR Part 99, as well as State and local requirements regarding privacy


So the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium must comply with state and local requirements regarding privacy.  What are our requirements here in New Hampshire?

RSA Section 193-E:5 governs student data privacy.  It says, in part:

I (a) No personally identifiable information about a pupil including name and social security number, shall be collected or maintained by the state in such a manner as to allow such information to be connected with the unique pupil identifier. Under no circumstances shall the department of education obtain or use a social security number as an identifier for any pupil. The department shall not use unique pupil identifiers except in connection with the data warehouse and such use shall not be accessible to the public.

…..

(c) The unique pupil identifier shall be requested and maintained by the early childhood program, district, or postsecondary institution. The unique pupil identifier shall remain in the pupil’s file throughout his or her academic career in New Hampshire.

….

(g) No person, including an individual, business, government, or governmental entity, shall require an individual to provide a unique pupil identifier as a condition of doing business, providing a service, or receiving a benefit of any kind, except as provided in RSA 193-E:5, I(c). Any person or entity who knowingly violates the provisions of this subparagraph shall be liable for actual damages or $25,000, whichever is greater, for each violation. Each denial of services or benefits shall constitute a separate offense under this subparagraph.

….

(l) The department of education shall provide no personally identifiable information collected pursuant to this chapter, including but not limited to name, date of birth, or social security number to any person or entity, other than an early childhood program, district, or postsecondary institution authorized to access this data, absent a court order. Under no circumstances shall personally identifiable information or the unique pupil identifier be provided to any person or entity outside of New Hampshire. Any person who knowingly violates this provision is guilty of a class B felony and may be subject to involuntary termination of employment.

….

In current New Hampshire law, then, it would be a felony to send personally identifiable student data out of the State.  In addition, SBAC will issue a binding privacy policy confirming that “Each member state retains control of its student-level data and there may be further student data privacy legislation before the next session of the New Hampshire Legislature.

It’s hard to see how there will be a serious threat to student data privacy in New Hampshire.  Here’s an analysis of that issue on a national basis.  Here is the Data Quality Campaign’s very authoritative Myths and Facts sheet on the issue, also from a national perspective.  And here is a great Portsmouth Herald article that gives a full airing to opponents’ concerns and addresses them.


2 Comments

  1. Christina Hamilton says:

    …which is why HB1587, a bill strengthening privacy protections for student test scores stored in the DOE database, got a 19-0 OTP/AM recommendation from the House Education Committee, a 5-0 OTP recommendation from the Senate Education Committee, passed both houses on the consent calendar, and was signed by the governor.

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