ED Revises FERPA Rules
December 15, 2011
On December 2, the Department of Education issued revised rules under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that will make it easier for researchers and evaluators to access information from educational records. According to ED, the need to protect the privacy of education records needs to be balanced with allowing for the effective use of data. The ability of states to build and use statewide longitudinal data systems to "evaluate education programs, to ensure limited resources are invested effectively, to build upon what works and discard what does not, to increase accountability and transparency, and to contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement in education" is cited as one of the primary drivers of the regulatory changes. Federal legislation such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 also necessitated increased information sharing for accountability purposes, according to ED.
The regulations establish procedures that state and local educational authorities, their authorized representatives, and organizations conducting studies must follow. The new rules expand who may be given access to personally identifiable information from education records, but also impose new requirements for written agreements and safeguarding of the information.
Of interest to colleges and universities, the rules also clarify that while students may opt out of the disclosure of directory information, institutions may still require a student to wear, display, or disclose a student ID card or badge that provides directory information. The rules also make it clear that institutions may develop policies allowing the disclosure of directory information to "specific parties, for specific purposes, or both." This is intended to permit institutions, for instance, to restrict disclosure to companies seeking to target students for marketing purposes.
The new rules take effect on January 3, 2012.
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