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Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kansas House passes student data privacy bill

March 26, 2014

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— A bill aimed at tightening security on the data that schools collect about students sailed through the Kansas House on Wednesday, despite efforts by one legislator to require collecting more data about the children of illegal immigrants.

Rep. Amanda Grosserode, R-Lenexa, who serves on the House Education Committee, said it mainly puts into statute many policies already in place at the Kansas State Department of Education.

But it also contains language aimed at satisfying some conservatives who have been critical of what they see as national efforts to create a national database of student data — a project they claim is an outgrowth of the Common Core standards — including information about their families' political and religious affiliations.

Although KSDE officials have said adamantly that they will not take part in any such program, Senate Bill 367 contains language that specifically prohibits schools or the state from collecting information about students' or their families' "personal beliefs or practices on issues such as sex, family life, morality and religion."

It would also prohibit schools from collecting "biometric" data about students, or assessing a student's emotional state without written consent from the student's parents or guardians.

"I think the initial concerns about the data issue were probably brought forth within the Common Core debate," Grosserode said. "However, the issue of data security and some of the parameters contained within that were agreed upon by a wide plethora of individuals. You can run the gambit about political ideologies, and they were all concerned about the data security piece, and to a certain extent about the data collection piece."

The bill passed, 119-4, but not before Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R-Grandview Plaza, tried to add two amendments that would have dramatically altered the bill.

The first would have required students to show proof of lawful presence in the United States the first time they enroll in a district, and for the district to report each year to KSDE the number of students who could not show documentation. KSDE then would have been required to post an annual report on its website showing the cost incurred by the state of educating children of undocumented residents.

That amendment was ruled out of order for not being germane to the underlying bill.

His second amendment would have prohibited KSDE from spending any money to create or maintain a "longitudinal database" of student data — or data about individual students collected over multiple years to keep track of their progress over time.

Rothlisberg said he thinks it's dangerous to allow the government to compile "dossiers" about citizens. But KSDE officials said the longitudinal database is important to measure student progress and to identify areas where instruction should be improved.

"For instance, if the data show a significant portion of a district’s graduates who are pursuing post-secondary education are enrolling in remedial courses freshman year, then districts may use that information to determine if a change in instructional focus is needed," said KSDE spokeswoman Denise Kahler.

That amendment was turned down on a voice vote.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, which may request a conference committee.

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