Kathleen Colburn

Prioritizing Student Data

One of the main priorities of schools today is keeping students safe. Teachers and administrators know how to protect a student’s physical presence and keep them safe in the classroom, but protecting a student’s online, digital presence may be something they’re still trying to figure out. Luckily, this is a challenge that many educational technology providers, including us here at Texthelp, have already risen to.

Continue reading to learn how…

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Many key educational technology organizations and stakeholders have joined forces to create the Student Privacy Pledge. Endorsed by President Obama, the Student Privacy Pledge all started with two groups – The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). They recognized that with the explosion of software and apps out there, it would be critical to ensure that schools and teachers felt safe and secure using them. So they worked with various edtech leaders to establish the Student Privacy Pledge.

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The Pledge was first introduced back in October of 2014, starting with 14 companies on board. The number of signatories has since increased to 174 companies, and will undoubtedly continue to grow. The importance of this Pledge and what it represents remains relevant, despite being around for almost a year.

The Pledge describes best practices for educational service providers to follow to keep student data safe, and keep schools and parents in the loop on how their students’ data is being protected. It lays out the Do’s and Don’ts of protecting student privacy and is presented in clear, straightforward language, with the overall goal of building a real trust between service providers, educators and parents. You can check out the full text of the pledge for yourself (don’t worry, you won’t need a law degree to make sense of it), but here’s what it really boils down to:

  1. Companies will protect student data so it is only used for educational purposes with permission from the school or parent.
  2. Schools and parents will always be kept informed of how companies use or don’t use student data, and it will be presented to them in clear terms they can understand.

Texthelp is proud to have been one of the early adopters of the Pledge, having signed up to it back in October of 2014, and we remain wholly committed to keeping student data secure and protected. We’d also encourage our peers and partners in the educational technology industry to play their part to help schools, families and students protect student data by signing the Student Privacy Pledge.

There are also many federal laws that dictate how schools and companies use student data, and it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with these as well. For example, there’s COPPA which stands for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This law specifically protects student data of those students under the age of 13. Many edtech companies, including Texthelp, are letting schools know that they adhere to COPPA by specifically saying so in their privacy policies.

In addition to adhering to COPPA and the Student Privacy Pledge, we at Texthelp go one step further. When using our software you can rest assured that we never retain any students’ ID or data:

  • We do not store passwords – Google looks after that.
  • If information is passed to us that could potentially be personally identifiable, we de-identify it. For example, if our staff are running analytics reports, they can observe patterns of use within a district, but they cannot tell which student is using the software.
  • When we are conducting efficacy studies to prove effectiveness, we always partner with an approved 3rd party to handle personal information.

The Student Privacy Pledge is not meant to take the place of all privacy policy documents, and certainly organizations can’t just say they are COPPA compliant and then sit back and think they have done their part. There is still work to be done to ensure student data is kept safe. But those who have adopted these practices are showing schools and parents that they care about protecting students and that they take the subject very seriously. Be sure to ask your edtech provider what they do to keep students’ information safe.


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