How Safe Is Student Data? If This Commission Gets Their Way, Not Very Safe At All

Yesterday, the Commission on Evidence-Based Practices heard testimony from many organizations about how the federal government uses data to create policy. Many of these organizations were education companies, as seen in the below list. The Commission came out of Public Law #114-140. The hearing was put on Youtube. The video appears after the agenda which shows who testified. A few things to take note of while watching the video: this is a federal hearing, so they record recess time as well. The video doesn’t actually begin until the 17:00 mark. A gentleman from the American Principles Project gives his testimony at the 2:45:50 mark. His testimony is the only one from the side of those concerned with how student data can be used and disseminated. Note the participants behind him and their reactions to what he says.

There are many fighting for the protection of personally identifiable data.  But we aren’t enough.  As Emmett McGroarty explained in his testimony, those who fight to protect student data don’t have the corporate muscle behind it with tons of money to lobby legislators.  But we do our own research on what these companies are doing and what they want to do.  They want to lift the final legal barriers for the sharing of ALL data among government agencies.  And as FERPA law states, student data can be disseminated for educational purposes.  The companies that spoke at this hearing which give me reason for concern are American Institutes for Research, Education Trust, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, New America, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy.  If you look at these agencies alone, they represent companies who would benefit from student data from pre-school to college and/or career readiness.

When I watch hearings like this, and I only see a few Commission members in attendance, it always leads me to a conclusion that this will become policy and all this is just for show.  The summary of the law appears below the video.  To read or submit public comments for this commission, please go here.

Public Hearing

Rayburn House Office

Building, Room B-318

October 21, 2016

9:00 AM

Opening Remarks

Katharine G. Abraham, CEP Chair

Ron Haskins, CEP Co-Chair

9:10 AM

Panel #1

George Grob, American Evaluation Association

Clyde Tucker, American Statistical Association

9:40AM

Panel #2

Amanda Janice Roberson, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Rachel Zinn, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Carrie Wofford, Veterans Education Success

Mark Schneider, American Institutes for Research

10:20AM

Panel #3

Rachel Fishman, New America

Tiffany Jones, The Education Trust

Christine Keller, Association of Public & Land-grant Universities

Tom Allison, Young Invincibles

11:10AM

Break

11:20AM

Panel #4

Erin Knowles, United States Parents Involved in Education

Emmett McGroarty, American Principles Project

11:50 AM

Panel #5

Daniel Crowley, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

RK Paleru, Booz Allen Hamilton

Quentin Wilson, Public Performance Improvement Researcher

12:30PM

Panel #6

David Medina, Results for America

Kelleen Kaye, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

Sara Dube, Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative

1:10 PM

Adjourn

Public Law No: 114-140 (03/30/2016)

Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016

(Sec. 2) This bill establishes in the executive branch a Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.

(Sec. 3) The bill provides for a 15 member Commission appointed by the President and congressional leaders with consideration given to individuals with expertise in economics, statistics, program evaluation, data security, confidentiality, or database management.

(Sec. 4) The Commission must conduct a comprehensive study of the data inventory, data infrastructure, database security, and statistical protocols related to federal policymaking and the agencies responsible for maintaining that data to:
•determine the optimal arrangement for which administrative data on federal programs and tax expenditures, survey data, and related statistical data series may be integrated and made available to facilitate program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses;
•make recommendations on how data infrastructure, database security, and statistical protocols should be modified to best fulfill those objectives; and
•make recommendations on how best to incorporate outcomes measurement, institutionalize randomized controlled trials, and rigorous impact analysis into program design.

The Commission shall consider whether a clearinghouse for program and survey data should be established and how to create such clearinghouse.

The Commission shall evaluate:
•what administrative data and survey data are relevant for program evaluation and federal policy-making and should be included in a clearinghouse;
•which survey data such administrative data may be linked to, in addition to linkages across administrative data series;
•what are the legal and administrative barriers to including or linking these data series;
•what data-sharing infrastructure should be used to facilitate data merging and access for research purposes;
•how a clearinghouse could be self-funded;
•which researchers, officials, and institutions should have access to data;
•what limitations should be placed on the use of data;
•how to protect information and ensure individual privacy and confidentiality;
•how data and results of research can be used to inform program administrators and policymakers to improve program design;
•what incentives may facilitate interagency sharing of information to improve programmatic effectiveness and enhance data accuracy and comprehensiveness; and
•how individuals whose data are used should be notified of its usages.

The Commission shall, upon the affirmative vote of at least three-quarters of its members, submit to the President and Congress a detailed statement of its findings and conclusions, together with its recommendations for appropriate legislation or administrative actions.

(Sec. 5) The following agencies shall advise and consult with the Commission on matters within their respective areas of responsibility:
•the Bureau of the Census;
•the Internal Revenue Service;
•the Social Security Administration;
•the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Justice;
•the Office of Management and Budget;
•the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and
•the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(Sec. 6) The agencies identified as Principal Statistical Agencies in the report entitled “Statistical Programs of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2015,” published by the Office of Management and Budget, shall transfer up to $3 million to the Bureau of the Census, upon request, for carrying out the activities of the Commission.

The Bureau of the Census shall provide administrative support to the Commission.

No additional funds may be authorized to carry out this Act.

(Sec. 8) The Commission shall terminate not later than 18 months after enactment of this Act.

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