Subcommittee Highlights Support For Data, Research to Improve Teaching And Learning

WASHINGTON – TODAY, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy.” Educational data serves as an invaluable research tool that is necessary to improve teaching and learning when it is collected, stored, and used responsibly. There is a need for greater investment in education research and Congress must incentivize state and local leaders to develop data systems that will help drive innovation in education, while also balancing student privacy rights.

"Our data privacy laws have to keep up with innovations in technology. Ed tech can and should be used as a force for good, opening doors for personalized learning that can help provide strategic supports and close achievement gaps,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Jared Polis (CO-02). "With smart privacy laws, students and teachers can realize the benefits of ed tech, and parents can have the confidence that companies won’t be using student data irresponsibly. I hope this committee can continue to work with teachers, parents, privacy advocates, and the tech community to reauthorize FERPA, SETRA, and pass a new law to provide smart privacy guardrails for ed tech.”

Dr. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, the Director of the Hamilton Project, served as the Democratic witness and highlighted the importance of investing in education research. 

“Investment in education research is a public good—it provides wide-ranging benefits to all Americans, and much of it would the not occur without support from government or philanthropy,” said Dr. Schanzenbach. “This is because individual states and school districts do not have adequate incentives to invest in research on their own. Without appropriate federal investments, the country would end up with less research than is needed.”

Dr. Schanzenbach also assured the Subcommittee that investing in education research and protecting student privacy are not mutually exclusive ideas. 

“We have seen significant improvements in education policy and practice spurred by rigorous, relevant research,” continued Dr. Schanzenbach. “To be economically competitive in a rapidly evolving world market, it is imperative that we continue to improve the U.S. education system and increase the system’s return on investment. Additional research will be key to driving these needed improvements. Along with the strong benefits of research, however, comes the need to protect student privacy and data confidentiality. Both goals can be achieved by helping states adopt best practices to protect confidentiality while still partnering with researchers.”

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the security of student education records, and the Educational Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which enhances the data collection efforts of the Department of Education, are both due for reauthorization.

Press Contact

Arika Trim (Scott), 202-226-0853
Michael Sparks (Polis), 202-225-2161