Promising Principles for Safeguarding Student Information

As performance assessment of teacher candidates becomes more widespread and as more video evidence is collected in classrooms, we have to make sure that everyone involved with these videos—and other artifacts assembled for assessment purposes—understands how they may and may not be used. I’m pleased to report that a broad base of educators, convened by AACTE to bring various stakeholders’ perspectives to the discussion, is making promising strides to help safeguard the personal information of both teacher candidates and the students in their classes.

I wrote about the importance of this topic last year (see “Safeguarding Student Data Is Everyone’s Business”), celebrating the White House’s call for heightened attention to protecting students’ digital privacy. The whole education field must engage in this campaign, and AACTE takes its role seriously. Since last fall, we have been convening an Information Privacy Task Force to develop principles regarding the secure and ethical use of classroom video and associated materials collected in performance assessments of newly prepared teachers.

Task force members reflect the breadth of stakeholders in the issue—from teachers and district leaders to higher education groups, state departments of education, accrediting agencies, and assessment organizations. We have benefited from the valuable perspectives of the Data Quality Campaign, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and experts in matters of law and licensure. The widespread participation in the task force recognizes the importance of using rigorous performance assessments for teacher candidates—and of reassuring stakeholders that students’ privacy rights are being upheld.

As a foundation for their work, task force members agreed on the following mutual commitments:

  • Performance assessment must adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other applicable federal laws and regulations.
  • Understanding and responding to varying state policies and concerns by state legislatures about protecting student and teacher candidate privacy is a priority. This will remain a priority as more states require video as part of next-generation assessments.
  • District and school policies must be understood and adhered to throughout the preparation and assessment process. Signatories commit to understanding and abiding by these policies, adapting practices to local contexts as necessary.
  • Preparation programs, assessment providers, and scorers must proactively set and share clear expectations about how performance assessment will be used. This includes making sure that practitioners require agreements from candidates stating they will not share the video or related materials beyond their faculty members or assessment scorers or post their videos electronically unless they have obtained permission to do so.

After several in-person and videoconference meetings, the group is now in the final stages of producing a privacy guide and one-page summary documents to distribute to specific audiences (parents, classroom teachers, school and district administrators, university faculty, and teacher candidates). The guide will feature nine principles that align with and expand on the Student Data Principles developed in 2014 by the Data Quality Campaign and the Consortium for School Networking (on whose working group I was honored to serve). AACTE’s task force has agreed on the following principles to guide the use of classroom video and instructional artifacts in assessing the performance of teacher candidates:

  1. Classroom video and associated materials and artifacts used for performance assessments should be used first and foremost to further and support student learning and success.
  2. Classroom video and associated materials and artifacts used for performance assessments are most powerful when used for continuous improvement and to enhance student learning.
  3. Classroom video and associated materials and artifacts used for performance assessments should only be shared, under terms or agreement, with service providers for legitimate educational purposes and consistent with federal, state, and local requirements. Consent to share must be given by a parent or guardian, or a student (if the student is at least 18). All parties involved in the authorization and use of classroom video should consider these principles and ensure that their own policies are consistent with them.
  4. Everyone with access to classroom video, including educational institutions, assessment providers, state testing agencies, scorers, student teachers, and researchers, should have clear, publicly available rules and guidelines for how they collect, use, protect, and destroy those videos and associated materials and artifacts. Rules and guidelines should be consistent with existing industry standards, to the extent possible, and appropriate training in use of these rules and guidelines should be available to everyone with access to classroom video.
  5. Those with access to classroom video should only have access to the videos and associated materials needed for scoring, assessment, and reflection.
  6. Parents have the right to make informed decisions about the use of their students’ information, and programs, districts, and others have a responsibility to provide them with the appropriate information.
  7. Video of teacher candidates working in PK-12 classrooms should be exclusively used as part of performance assessments to promote candidate learning, preparation program success, and appropriate licensing or program completion decisions. Examples include use of video by faculty and candidates as part of in-class learning activities, by teacher candidates and PK-12 educators as part of the candidates’ clinical experience, and in the context of scorer training.
  8. Any educational institution with the authority to collect and maintain classroom video and associated materials and artifacts should have:
    1. A decision-making body that establishes rules and procedures regarding video collection, use, access, sharing, and security and use of online educational programs;
    2. A policy for notifying families of any misuse or breach of information related to classroom videos and associated materials and artifacts, and steps the institution will take to remedy the breach;
    3. A point of contact where students and families can go to learn of their rights and have their questions about classroom video collection, use, and security answered.
  9. Educator preparation programs and PK-12 institutions and leaders should collaborate with state and local officials to develop clear and coherent policy guidance on the use of video in performance assessment, and to review such policy guidance on a regular basis.

Achieving consensus among diverse parties takes time and effort, but the investment is well worth the outcome when parties share interest in a common goal—and when the need for clear guidance is growing. As we celebrate the upward trajectory of the use of performance assessment for teacher candidates, we have to make sure its components do not impede other facets of our education system. I congratulate the participants in the Information Privacy Task Force on their important effort and commend their new principles to all who work with video and associated classroom artifacts.

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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE