In states across the country and at the federal level, legislatures are considering bills that would limit the collection of student data.
We haven't waded into the issue of student privacy, nor is it our prerogative to take a side. However, an opinion piece on the topic in The New York Times this week came to our attention as it cited In Perspective, our recent effort to improve the conversation about charter schools.
Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, wrote the piece. In it, she argues that projects like In Perspective, which synthesizes charter school research, would not be possible if we permit the more rigid legislation limiting student data collection to pass:
Perhaps the most stringent of these proposals, sponsored by Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, would effectively end the analysis of student data by outside social scientists. This legislation would have banned recent prominent research documenting the benefits of smaller classes, the value of excellent teachers and the varied performance of charter schools.
Of course, resistance to data collection is understandable and data privacy is a very real concern for many Americans. However, Susan argues that student privacy legislation is so broadly written that it could defeat the original purpose of collecting the data: assessing and improving education.
Education researchers and other social scientists, we're curious: how do you view this debate? Do you worry about the cautions that Susan raises? Is there a politically viable way for us to balance the competing values of privacy and the need for assessing education in order to improve it? Let us know what you think, via Twitter or on our Facebook page.
PS: Diane Ravitch also mentioned In Perspective on her blog this week:
"Finally, a report from a completely non-political, non-ideological source about charter schools... Different sides may take heart from different aspects of the report."