Predictions for 2016 and Education Data Privacy

Predictions for 2016 and Education Data Privacy

It has been a busy year for student data privacy with many laws passed and federal bills introduced. So no one better than super privacy geek friend, Amelia Vance to sum it up for us and give us her predictions for next year. No predictions of when the apocalypse will hit, but certainly excellent information of what happened and what to expect for 2016. Thanks Amelia!!!!

As ordinary Americans listen to an endless loop of Christmas carols, buy last-minute presents, and look forward to a couple days (or weeks) off, student data privacy geeks like me are gearing up for the new year. 2015 was an incredibly exciting year: 28 student data privacy laws passed in 15 states, which added to a total score of 30-plus states that passed at least one law on this topic since 2013. The action was not confined to state legislatures: eight federal bills were introduced in 2015. As with the state legislation, these bills varied in approach, with some focused on regulating the ed tech industry and some on putting new rules in place for schools. A few states included provisions for both: Georgia, Virginia, Delaware, and Nevada.

What is next? After two years, is it time for this topic to move off the front page of the newspaper?

I predict that public consciousness on this topic will grow even larger in 2016. Here are some things to look out for:

Jingle Bills, Jingle Bills: In 2015, 186 bills were introduced in 47 states. While we likely will not have quite so many when legislative sessions start in 2016, I still think almost every state legislature will introduce legislation on student data privacy. Few will pass. Why? Because…

Congress Is Coming to Town: By passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) –the new version of No Child Left Behind –Congress proved it can still pass significant laws that affect every American (learn about ESSA here). Both the House and Senate introduced student data privacy bills this year, giving education organizations, privacy advocates, and the ed tech industry time to weigh in on what the federal role should be. The bills most likely to move in Congress are a school-focused bill that rewrites the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (introduced by Representatives Rokita, Fudge, Kline, and Scott) and two industry-focused bills (introduced by Representatives Polis and Messer on the House side and Senators Blumenthal and Daines on the Senate side).

I predict that many state legislatures will wait to pass new laws until they see whether the feds weigh in. However, this doesn’t mean states won’t be busy.…

All I Want for Christmas Is Implementation: Several states – most prominently California in January and Georgia in July – will begin implementing their muchvaunted student privacy laws in 2016, and we likely will see those states struggling with how to avoid accidental consequences and ensure these laws are followed at the classroom level. As I’ve said before, training (both teachers and administrators) and capacity building are essential to any student data privacy law being effective, and few state laws passed this year mentioned training or provided funds for capacity building. Some great groups are trying to support this work in many different ways, including publications highlighting best practices, badges on ed tech products so teachers can identify which have adequate privacy protections, and free online courses. However, there are 3.1 million teachers and 804,000 administrators in the country, so it’s safe to say much more support is needed. Look out for attempts to fix this problem in 2016.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Some new topics will hit front pages and be inserted into state bills in 2016. In October, the American Civil Liberties Union released model student data privacy legislation that called on states to address the amount of data schools hold as they monitor student devices. Look for privacy bills regarding 1:1 devices in 2016! Other topics that may come up are teacher data privacy, the privacy of student medical data in school records, and questions about how algorithms are used to make decisions in education.

In sum, this topic isn’t fading away. No matter what happens, there will be plenty to keep student data privacy geeks busy.


Amelia Vance is the Director of Education Data & Technology at the National Association of State Boards of Education. You can reach her with any questions or comments at



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