SBAC: Student Privacy
States use student data to provide parents, teachers, policymakers, and other stakeholders with the information they need to make informed decisions. Data help determine what’s working, or if students need extra help. It’s common to collect information like student attendance, demographic information, assessment results, and English language learner or special education status.
When states talk publicly about student achievement, they group – or “aggregate” – the results. Individual student results are not publicly reported or shared with the U.S. Department of Education.
Protecting the privacy of students is a both a legal and moral responsibility. The data privacy agreement ensures that data security policies will not change.
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) collects a minimum amount of student information in order to maintain the assessment system. For example, SBAC will analyze assessment results to ensure that test questions are sound and that the assessments accurately predict college and career readiness. This work is necessary to ensure that the assessments are accurate and fair for all students.
What type of information is collected?
- An identification number (SBAC recommends that this be different from the state’s official unique student identifier so that only the state can link back to a student’s official education record)
- Race/ethnicity, gender, grade level, school attended
- Student eligibility for English language development services, or special education services provided to the student
- Student eligibility for Title I compensatory programs
- Test scores, achievement levels, and responses to test questions
If a state elects to have Smarter Balanced generate reports of student assessment results, the Consortium also will collect student name and date of birth. States may choose to manage that function through another organization. In either case, states can impose guidelines to safeguard those data.
What information is NOT collected?
Smarter Balanced never collects identifying information, such as student name and date of birth, unless specifically directed to do so by a member state. Information unnecessary to the assessment system is not collected. Types of information that is NOT collected include:
- Names of parents
- Student or parent email address
- Telephone numbers
- Student or parent Social Security numbers
- Parent or student addresses
- Parent or student medical information
Student-level information is NOT shared with the federal government
Smarter Balanced does not share student-level information with the U.S. Department of Education and California does not change the type of data reported to the U.S. Department of Education. California only shares aggregate student data – the same information required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Smarter Balanced adheres to all federal and state privacy laws, including, but not limited to, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The Consortium does not share identifiable student-level data with the federal government. The following legislation prohibits the creation of a federal database with students’ personally identifiable information:
- Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)
- No Child Left Behind
- Education Reform Sciences Act of 2002 (pdf)
- IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (pdf)
Identifiable student information is NOT released
SBAC’s student data privacy agreement ensures that California retains control of student data generated by the assessment system. The agreement requires that our state approve all requests for access to student data.
Smarter Balanced does not release personally identifiable information. Under limited circumstances, such as for research studies deemed important by states in the Consortium, they may provide access to student data that have been altered so that students’ identities cannot be recognized. Requests for this type of information will be reviewed by member states and each state must individually approve any release of data.
Smarter Balanced, member states, and districts cannot – and will not – sell student information as prohibited by federal laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Smarter Balanced follows industry best practices for securing the storage and transmission of student records.
- All student data are encrypted when in transit and when stored in an accessible data system
- Data backups are encrypted and physically secured
- Audit logs are kept of user activity including management of accounts, granting of permissions, proctoring of exams, and generation of reports
- Smarter Balanced never accepts Social Security numbers for any individual
- Data centers are physically secured against unauthorized access