CDT Expands Student Privacy Focus

Written by Elizabeth Laird

Boston Public Schools has recently been thrown into turmoil when its superintendent resigned following a lawsuit alleging the school district disclosed student information to ICE that contributed to the deportation of a student. Moreover, it was reported this week that an algorithm used to assign students to schools in Boston exacerbated racial segregation and limited access to high-quality schools, despite four decades of mandated busing and its intent to do the exact opposite.

Boston is not unique in its struggle to balance the promise of data and technology with the privacy rights of students and families. The education sector has embraced the power of education data and technology to improve student outcomes, but its efforts to fulfill legal and ethical responsibilities have not always kept pace with this progress. In addition to the personal risk to individuals whose privacy has been violated, educators, administrators, and education technology companies jeopardize public trust when they fail to meet their responsibilities to protect students’ privacy and appropriately use data about them.

We believe it is possible to preserve privacy rights while supporting effective data and technology use that improves outcomes for all students.

To more fully address these issues, CDT is expanding our focus on student privacy. Our goal is to provide a balanced voice and solutions-oriented resources around core issues to help educators and policymakers navigate the complex digital world. We’ll be leveraging our existing expertise on privacy & data in other sectors, including how to address bias in digital decision-making up front to prevent unintended consequences.

CDT will also utilize our technical expertise to provide secure, technical solutions that respond to the growing demands on schools and districts to collect and integrate data while tackling ongoing challenges like data portability and deletion.

I am excited lead this project and work closely with our Privacy & Data team. Joining me on the project is Adarsh Mahesh and a staff technologist who will join the team in August. Recognizing the sensitivity of student data and its increasing role in creating opportunity, we know we have a lot of important work ahead. We’re committed to advancing the privacy rights of children and their families, while developing a workable policy framework that allows for innovation in schools. We believe it is possible to preserve privacy rights while supporting effective data and technology use that improves outcomes for all students.

There is much more to come!

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