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ALEC Ed. Agenda for 2014: Course Choice, Student Data 'Backpack Act'

My colleague Benjamin Herold has a must-read story online today about model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council that aims to protect the privacy of student data. The template being provided to state legislators includes the creation of a "chief privacy officer" and the publishing of an inventory of all student-level data collected by the state. 

That model bill is sure to draw attention in statehouses around the country, and in fact it's similar to data-privacy legislation that passed recently in Oklahoma. However, ALEC has other legislation in the hopper for states to consider as lawmakers prepare for their respective 2014 sessions. The group, which has both state legislators and representatives of the private sector as members, promotes school choice and other market-oriented solutions in schools, but has drawn flak from those suspicious of its ties to corporations and its influence with conservative lawmakers. 

According to the draft agenda for a meeting of ALEC's Education Task Force taking place this week in Washington, the organization also is considering model bills that would create "education savings accounts" that would allow parents to "use the funds that would have been allocated to their child at their resident school district for an education program of the parents' choosing." (That bill begins on page 29 of the document.) This legislation, you may not be surprised to learn, isn't a new effort from ALEC in its basic form, but the most-recent draft version includes a few revisions, including the requirement for states to administer a parent survey measuring their satisfaction with the program. 

There's also draft model legislation called the Student Achievement Backpack Act. It would allow access for parents or authorized district K-12 employees "to the learning profile of a student from kindergarten through grade 12 in an electronic format" (page 10). Designed to be transferable between schools and districts, the act would create a "student record store" that would include course grades, course history, and demographics of individual students, as well as their performance on state assessments. The data "backpack" would also include information on a student's prior teachers, including each teacher's years of experience and licensure. 

This draft model bill also touches on the issue of data privacy by requiring the "record store" to comply with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and that a district employee can only access student information that is "relevant to the user's LEA (local education authority) or school." You can read more in the document below. 

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