Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Federal Guidance on Student Data Sharing Regulations, FERPA

In early December, the Department of Education released new Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. These changes became effective January 3, 2012, and are a significant step forward in embodying the spirit of collaboration that many community partnerships are taking on to improve educational outcomes for children. The purpose of FERPA is to protect the privacy of students’ education records and afford parents and students the right to inspect and review education records and consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) from the records. Generally, PII cannot be disclosed without consent; except for the audit, evaluation or enforcement of federal legal requirements of federal or state supported education programs.

The Forum for Youth Investment offers an analysis of the data sharing revisions to FERPA. As the Forum notes, two significant changes are the revised definitions of “authorized representative” and “education program.” Before, an “authorized representative” (allowed to share PII) was interpreted to only be those under the direct control of a state or local educational authority; however, the new regulations allow state and local education authorities to share PII with other government agencies as long those agencies are involved in a federal- or state- supported education program. Further, “education program” is not just those programs that principally provide education (e.g. schools), but now also include early childhood education, post-secondary education, special education, job training and adult education.

These changes can have a significant impact moving forward, particularly as many local communities and states are working to create interagency longitudinal databases to better track and evaluate the success of students and the programs that are created to support them.

The revised regulations can be found here.

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