Tag Archives: Student Records Disclosure

Data mining in education

19 Jul

Marc Parry has written a fascinating Chronicle of Higher Education article which was also published in the New York Times, Big Data on Campus:

With 72,000 students, A.S.U. is both the country’s largest public university and a hotbed of data-driven experiments. One core effort is a degree-monitoring system that keeps tabs on how students are doing in their majors. Stray off-course and a student may have to switch fields.

And while not exactly matchmaking, Arizona State takes an interest in students’ social lives, too. Its Facebook app mines profiles to suggest friends. One classmate shares eight things in common with Ms. Allisone, who “likes” education, photography and tattoos. Researchers are even trying to figure out social ties based on anonymized data culled from swipes of ID cards around the Tempe campus.

This is college life, quantified.

Data mining hinges on one reality about life on the Web: what you do there leaves behind a trail of digital breadcrumbs. Companies scoop those up to tailor services, like the matchmaking of eHarmony or the book recommendations of Amazon. Now colleges, eager to get students out the door more efficiently, are awakening to the opportunities of so-called Big Data.

The new breed of software can predict how well students will do before they even set foot in the classroom. It recommends courses, Netflix-style, based on students’ academic records.

Data diggers hope to improve an education system in which professors often fly blind. That’s a particular problem in introductory-level courses, says Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. “The typical class, the professor rattles on in front of the class,” she says. “They give a midterm exam. Half the kids fail. Half the kids drop out. And they have no idea what’s going on with their students.”

As more of this technology comes online, it raises new tensions. What role does a professor play when an algorithm recommends the next lesson? If colleges can predict failure, should they steer students away from challenges? When paths are so tailored, do campuses cease to be places of exploration? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/education/edlife/colleges-awakening-to-the-opportunities-of-data-mining.html?emc=eta1

For a really good explanation of “data mining” go to Alexander Furnas’ Atlantic article.

In Everything You Wanted to Know About Data Mining but Were Afraid to Ask, Furnas writes:

To most of us data mining goes something like this: tons of data is collected, then quant wizards work their arcane magic, and then they know all of this amazing stuff. But, how? And what types of things can they know? Here is the truth: despite the fact that the specific technical functioning of data mining algorithms is quite complex — they are a black box unless you are a professional statistician or computer scientist — the uses and capabilities of these approaches are, in fact, quite comprehensible and intuitive.

For the most part, data mining tells us about very large and complex data sets, the kinds of information that would be readily apparent about small and simple things. For example, it can tell us that “one of these things is not like the other” a la Sesame Street or it can show us categories and then sort things into pre-determined categories. But what’s simple with 5 datapoints is not so simple with 5 billion datapoints….

Discovering information from data takes two major forms: description and prediction. At the scale we are talking about, it is hard to know what the data shows. Data mining is used to simplify and summarize the data in a manner that we can understand, and then allow us to infer things about specific cases based on the patterns we have observed. Of course, specific applications of data mining methods are limited by the data and computing power available, and are tailored for specific needs and goals. However, there are several main types of pattern detection that are commonly used. These general forms illustrate what data mining can do. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-data-mining-but-were-afraid-to-ask/255388/

With the ability to collect vast amounts of information comes the question of what about privacy and what is the definition of privacy?

Ljiljana Brankovic and Vladimir Estivill-Castro discuss privacy issues in Privacy Issues in Knowledge Discovery:

Recent developments in information technology have enabled collection and processing of vast

amounts of personal data, such as criminal records, shopping habits, credit and medical history, and

driving records. This information is undoubtedly very useful in many areas, including medical

research, law enforcement and national security. However, there is an increasing public concern

about the individuals’ privacy. Privacy is commonly seen as the right of individuals to control

information about themselves. The appearance of technology for Knowledge Discovery and Data

Mining (KDDM) has revitalized concern about the following general privacy issues:

· secondary use of the personal information,

· handling misinformation, and

· granulated access to personal information.

They demonstrate that existing privacy laws and policies are well behind the developments in

technology, and no longer offer adequate protection.

We also discuss new privacy threats posed KDDM, which includes massive data collection, data

warehouses, statistical analysis and deductive learning techniques. KDDM uses vast amounts of

data to generate hypotheses and discover general patterns. KDDM poses the following new

challenges to privacy.

· stereotypes,

· guarding personal data from KDDM researchers,

· individuals from training sets, and

· combination of patterns.

http://www.ict.griffith.edu.au/~vlad/teaching/kdd.d/readings.d/aice99.pdf

In Who has access to student records? Moi said:

There is a complex intertwining of laws which often prevent school officials from disclosing much about students.

According to Fact Sheet 29: Privacy in Education: Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students,Revised September 2010 the major laws governing disclosure about student records are:

What are the major federal laws that govern the privacy of education records?

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 20 USC 1232g (1974)

  • Protection of Pupil’s Rights Amendments (PPRA) 20 USC 1232h (1978)

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-110, 115 STAT. 1425 (January 2002)

  • USA Patriot Act, P.L. 107-56 (October 26, 2001)

  • Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC Part I, Ch. 5, Subch. 11, Sec. 552

  • Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act (Pub. L. 106-386)

FERPA is the best known and most influential of the laws governing student privacy. Oversight and enforcement of FERPA rests with the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA has recently undergone some changes since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and the USA Patriot Act….https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs29-education.htm

https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/who-has-access-to-student-records/

See, The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act balancing act https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/the-federal-educational-rights-and-privacy-act-balancing-act/

Still, schools collect a lot of information about students.

Jason Koebler has written an interesting U.S. News article, Who Should Have Access to Student Records?

Since “No Child Left Behind” was passed 10 years ago, states have been required to ramp up the amount of data they collect about individual students, teachers, and schools. Personal information, including test scores, economic status, grades, and even disciplinary problems and student pregnancies, are tracked and stored in a kind of virtual “permanent record” for each student.

But parents and students have very little access to that data, according to a report released Wednesday by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that advocates for expanded data use.

All 50 states and Washington, D.C. collect long term, individualized data on students performance, but just eight states allow parents to access their child’s permanent record. Forty allow principals to access the data and 28 provide student-level info to teachers.

Education experts, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, argue that education officials can use student data to assess teachers—if many students’ test scores are jumping in a specific teacher’s class, odds are that teacher is doing a good job.

Likewise, teachers can use the data to see where a student may have struggled in the past and can tailor instruction to suit his needs.

At an event discussing the Data Quality Campaign report Wednesday, Rhee said students also used the information to try to out-achieve each other.

The data can be an absolute game changer,” she says. “If you have the data, and you can invest and engage children and their families in this data, it can change a culture quickly.”Privacy experts say the problem is that states collect far more information than parents expect, and it can be shared with more than just a student’s teacher or principal.“When you have a system that’s secret [from parents] and you can put whatever you want into it, you can have things going in that’ll be very damaging,” says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “When you put something into digital form, you can’t control where that’ll end up.”

According to a 2009 report by the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, some states store student’s social security numbers, family financial information, and student pregnancy data. Nearly half of states track students’ mental health issues, illnesses, and jail sentences.Without access to their child’s data, parents have no way of knowing what teachers and others are learning about them.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/01/19/who-should-have-access-to-student-records

The U.S. Department of Education enforces FERPA.

Resources:

Data Mining: How Companies Now Know Everything About You        : http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2058205,00.html#ixzz2172ZKahA

What is Data Mining? – YouTube
  ► 3:22► 3:22 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-sGvh6tI04

Defining Privacy for Data Mining                                                                      http://cimic.rutgers.edu/~jsvaidya/pub-papers/ngdm-privacy.pdf

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act balancing act

30 Oct

Schools all over the country are challenged by students who are violent, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times staff reporter reports in the Seattle Times article, Student-privacy laws complicate schools’ ability to prevent attacks which was about an unprovoked assault in a high school restroom which almost killed two students.

Five months before she allegedly attacked two schoolmates with a knife, nearly killing one, a Snohomish High School student underwent counseling after she threatened to kill another student’s boyfriend.

The 15-year-old Snohomish girl was allowed to return to school only after she presented proof she had attended counseling.

The earlier threats would have never been made public if the information wasn’t contained in court documents charging the girl with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault in last Monday’s attack.

Some Snohomish parents were surprised to learn of the earlier threat and have expressed concern that they weren’t notified.

But student information, including mental-health records, is tightly held by school districts because of federal privacy laws. The district says it cannot even discuss whether counselors or teachers were made aware of the earlier threats because of privacy laws.

The case underscores the delicate and complicated balancing act faced by schools in their efforts to meet the educational and privacy rights of individual students, as well as their need to ensure the safety of the larger student body.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016643796_schoolsafety30m.html

There is a complex intertwining of laws which often prevent school officials from disclosing much about students.

According to Fact Sheet 29: Privacy in Education: Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students,Revised September 2010 the major laws governing disclosure about student records are:

What are the major federal laws that govern the privacy of education records?

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 20 USC 1232g (1974)
  • Protection of Pupil’s Rights Amendments (PPRA) 20 USC 1232h (1978)
  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-110, 115 STAT. 1425 (January 2002)
  • USA Patriot Act, P.L. 107-56 (October 26, 2001)
  • Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC Part I, Ch. 5, Subch. 11, Sec. 552
  • Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act (Pub. L. 106-386)

FERPA is the best known and most influential of the laws governing student privacy. Oversight and enforcement of FERPA rests with the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA has recently undergone some changes since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and the USA Patriot Act….

https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs29-education.htm

The key provisions of FERPA are:

FERPA is the best known and most influential of the laws governing student privacy. Oversight and enforcement of FERPA rests with the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA has recently undergone some changes since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and the USA Patriot Act, discussed below.

What are the most important things to know about FERPA?

FERPA gives parents and adult-age students some rights to the privacy of the student education record. Under FERPA, adult-age students are those who have reached the age of 18 or who attend post-secondary school, even though not yet 18 years of age. For example, a 17-year-old who is enrolled in college would be considered “adult-age.”

The law provides:

  • The right of parents and adult-age students to inspect and receive a copy of student records.
  • The right to deny access to others, specifically those outside the school system, with some exceptions.
  • A process to correct errors, including a hearing.
  • The right to opt-out of military recruitment.
  • The right to opt-out of the disclosure of a student’s directory information.
  • A complaint process, handled by the Family Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA has some significant shortcomings:

  • It does not give individuals the right to sue the school. Only the U.S. Department of Education can sanction schools that have violated FERPA.
  • It puts the burden on students and parents to respond to opt-out opportunities, such as disclosure of directory information.
  • It does not dictate requirements for safeguarding education records.

The Family Compliance Office (FPCO) oversees FERPA. For more information about this law and the mission of this Office, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/index.html. As part of its oversight duties, FPCO has adopted regulations that supplement FERPA.

The agency’s core regulations as well as major amendments adopted in December 2008 can be found on the office’s Web site at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html. In addition, FPCO’s Web site provides guidance on various aspects of FERPA to students, parents, teachers and school administrators.

A key case describing the limitations of FERPA is The Chronicle of Higher Education vs. The United States, ELECTRONIC CITATION: 2002 FED App. 0213P (6th Cir.), UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT:

KARL S. FORESTER, District Judge. Intervening Defendant-Appellant The Chronicle of Higher Education (“The Chronicle“) contests the district court’s grant of summary judgment and subsequent permanent injunction in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee the United States. Specifically, the district court concluded that university disciplinary records were “educational records” as that term is defined in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, and that releasing such records and the personally identifiable information contained therein constitutes a violation of the FERPA. The district court permanently enjoined the Defendants-Appellees Miami University and The Ohio State University (“Miami,” “Ohio State,” or collectively “Universities”) from releasing student disciplinary records or any “personally identifiable information” contained therein, except as otherwise expressly permitted under the FERPA. For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM. [Emphasis Added]

School districts have to balance the rights of students to an education with the need to know of other parties.

School Policies and Legal Issues Supporting Safe Schools by Thomas Hutton and Kirk Bailey from the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence put the issue of violence in schools in context and reviews the impact of federal regulation.

The discretion school officials have to disclose information about a student among themselves and to others is limited by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).51 Generally speaking, under FERPA personal information that is contained in a student’s education records may not be disclosed without the parent’s consent. When the student reaches the age of 18, his or her consent is required instead, except for disclosures to the parent as long as the student remains a dependent of the parent under the Internal Revenue Code.52

Education records” is construed very broadly to cover most school records concerning a student, but several of the exceptions to the nondisclosure rule apply in safety-related situations and are described below. A private individual has no right to sue over an alleged FERPA violation; rather, the remedy is an enforcement action by the federal government. IDEA also includes privacy protections related to students with disabilities and special education that largely parallel those in FERPA….

gwired.gwu.edu/hamfish/merlin-cgi/p/downloadFile/d/…/legalpdf/

As the case in Snohomish County illustrates, sometimes the balance tips in favor of the troubled student to the detriment of everyone else.

Resources:

FERPA General Guidance for Students

http://ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html

No Child Left Behind A Parents Guide

http://ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.pdf

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©