[Susan notes: I recommend that you read the original article to which this letter responds. It's scary.]
To the editor
From David L. Warren
Published in Chronicle of Higher Education (12/17/2012)
Collect the Data You Need, Not All the Data You Can
Furthermore, as was reported by the media in February 2010, the Education Department’s head student-privacy official protested what he saw as the agency's "zeal to encourage the collection of data about students' academic performance” and argued that "the department's approach to prodding states to expand their longitudinal student-data systems violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act." By happenstance, the official was fired by the department.
We recognize there are instances in which it is appropriate to collect individual student data. For instance, such data must be provided by recipients of federal student financial aid. There also are several longitudinal studies conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in which individual student information is obtained to examine questions regarding college financing, student characteristics, program persistence and completion, and postbaccalaureate education and employment. However, these studies are based on a sample of students—not the entire college population.
The solution is not to collect whatever data that exists about an individual and then decide what to do with it, if anything. Policymakers need to specify what issue they want to address, what research questions help address those issues, what data inform those research questions, and what is the best way to collect that data within our culture of rights and laws. This has been woefully lacking in the current debate.
David L. Warren is President, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
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