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Equity in Civic Technology, Privacy & Data

Report: Balancing the Scale of Student Data Deletion and Retention in Education

Schools collect a lot of data about students, which can be valuable for improving student outcomes. For example, this information can assist with identifying students who are at risk of dropping out, allowing teachers to intervene early on. However, that same information can pose a substantial risk to students and their families if it is not managed well. Deleting data is much more complicated than one might think, with a number of important policy, legal, and technical considerations. This issue brief offers three recommendations and related best practices to assist the education sector in achieving the right balance of retaining useful data that can serve students with deleting information that is no longer needed. They are:

  • Conduct comprehensive inventory of student data;
  • Create an organizational student data retention policy; and
  • Implement technical best practices when deleting student data.

To assist education leaders and the companies with which they work, the brief provides practical resources that can be adapted to implement these recommendations, including samples of a student retention policy, a student data inventory template, a deletion certificate, and an initiative kick-off letter.  Striking the right balance between data retention and deletion is not an easy task and is never finished; however, the goal of this issue brief is to empower education practitioners and the companies they work with to adopt a student-centered approach that maximizes the value of data and technology while protecting privacy rights.