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Data privacy latest hot issue to hit Capitol inbox

Academic standards, high-stakes testing and student data privacy have become hot-button education issues over the last year in Colorado and the nation, and now all three have popped up in the Colorado legislature.

House Bill 14-1294, formally introduced Wednesday, would set student data privacy requirements for the state Department of Education to follow and also direct the department provide best practices for districts.

Legislation that proposed a one-year timeout in implementation of standards and new tests already has been proposed and disposed of (see story). And another bill that would have allowed districts (and parents) to opt out of state assessments has been turned into a study of testing and moved out of committee Wednesday (see story).

The data bill isn’t expected to be as controversial as those issues. Among other things, it would formalize existing practices, said prime sponsor Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, who has worked with CDE on the bill. She also will have the help of three Democratic cosponsors, Lois Court of Denver in the House and Pat Steadman of Denver and Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge in the Senate.

Data was a hot issue last year in Jefferson County, where parent opposition to the Gates Foundation-supported inBloom data system was a factor in the election of a new school board majority. The board subsequently cancelled the inBloom contract.

Activist parent groups that have popped up in Jeffco and other districts have raised worries about the security of student data and the possibility of it being shared with businesses and the federal government.

The State Board of Education also has taken note of the issue and held a briefing on the issue earlier this month. Board members indicated they were comfortable with how CDE handles and protects student data but have some concerns about district policies. (See this story for details on that hearing.)

Here are the key provisions of HB 14- 1294:

  • The SBE would have to create an inventory of student-level data currently collected under state and federal law, plus any data that might be collected in the future. (The department says it currently collects only data required by state law.)
  • The board would have to develop policies that ensure state policies comply with federal student privacy law and other laws.
  • The department would be barred from sharing individual student data with outside organizations or agencies, with certain exceptions. (CDE says it doesn’t do this now.)
  • Public reports by the department could include only aggregate data. (This also is something CDE does now.)
  • CDE would have to develop a “data security template” for local school districts to use.

Read the full bill here.