Data Collection, Use and Privacy

Arizona’s vision of data use is simple: accurate, actionable information for educators and policy makers to make informed decisions. However, the foundation required to support that vision is complex. Arizona is taking very measured steps to ensure that our ability to collect and use data does not exceed our ability to safeguard that data.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) takes all privacy matters seriously. As ADE continues to upgrade and enhance the state education data system, the state’s work on policies for collecting, protecting and utilizing data becomes more important.

 Arizona’s Education Data System:

Common Questions About Data Collection and Use and Student Data Privacy

Why does the ADE collect data about my student? ADE collects data from all public schools in Arizona to calculate funding for public schools, provide services, evaluate effectiveness of programs and policies and determine compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Without the data, schools will NOT receive all the funding due them to provide educational services for your student.

What data does/will the system collect? The system is designed to combine and simplify the collection and tracking of data that ADE and local schools already maintain. The department has no plans to add data elements at this time and in fact, is actively working to simplify its many different data collections into the minimum number necessary to accomplish its legally mandated role and responsibilities. ADE will make this list publicly available before the end of the calendar year. The department publishes its master list of data collections at www.azed.gov/data.

I heard the system will track my family’s political affiliations, voting history, or firearm ownership, etc. Is that true? Absolutely not. Federal law prohibits the collection of this type of data without parental consent. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) requires parental notification and consent to ask students questions of this nature about themselves or their families. Parents retain full control over data of this type.

What will ADE do to protect my student from unnecessary data collection? The Legislature has set up the Data Governance Commission for this purpose. Laws 2013, Ch. 251 (SB1447) §6 and §22 provides that no data element may be collected unless it is required by a state or federal law or regulation and approved by the commission, which is composed of individuals appointed by the governor, legislature, and superintendent. The basis for the elements approved is the Common Education Data Standards.

How do I “opt-out” of data collection and reporting about my student? ADE required data collections cannot be “opted out” of; they are necessary for state and federal funding. However schools routinely request data about students and families that are not collected by ADE (e.g. student and parent contact information for the PTO directory or health information for the school nurse). Please contact your student’s school if you have any questions about the data being collected.

What are the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS)?  The Common Education Data Standards are a method of managing data. Adopting CEDS reduces the effort required to transfer data between schools and ADE, leading to time savings for Arizona’s educators and a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars. The appearance of an element on the CEDS list does not mean that ADE will collect that information. Any newly collected element is subject to approval by Arizona’s Data Governance Commission as described above.

Will data on my student or my family be reported to the federal government? The department does not report data on individual students to the federal government. In fact, giving the federal government unrestricted access to student-level data is against federal law. Due to the large amount of federal funding ADE receives and disperses to Arizona schools, there are many reports required. These reports are of aggregated data (i.e. total number of students participating in a program) and individual students are not identifiable. A sample of ADE reporting to the federal government can be viewed at http://www.azed.gov/program-operations/files/2012/04/cspr-ii-040212.pdf.

How does ADE make certain my student’s data is protected? All access to student data is subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA states the strict conditions under which student data may be released. The department has a rigorous process for the control of student data that safeguard data according to state and federal law. For access via applications, the department has instituted ADE Connect, which makes certain a person accessing data only has the ability to see the data that they are legally allowed to see. The department also receives many requests for data by organizations and individuals conducting research. Each request for student-level-data is reviewed by ADE’s Data Request Review Board, which scrutinizes the proposal to evaluate the value of the research to the people of Arizona, qualifications of the research organization and to see if and what student-level data is actually required to respond to the specific research questions. Approved requestors must also sign an agreement with the department to maintain confidentiality of the data and to destroy it after a certain amount of time.

Who has access to my student’s stored data? Users who have access to the data system can be divided into three categories:

  • ADE IT Staff responsible for operating, developing, testing and managing the data system. This may include technology roles such as data architect and quality assurance or business roles such as the business analyst working with districts to design new dashboards and visualizations.
  • ADE Program Staff whose job requires interacting with student-level data. This includes individuals such as research and evaluation staff responsible for calculating Arizona’s A-F Letter Grading System, or staff in the audit division who verify student records.

It is important to note that all ADE staff do not have access to the data system by virtue of employment. As with all other applications and databases at the ADE, access is granted only with demonstrated need. 

  • Staff at districts and charters participating in the Arizona Education Data Driven Decision System (AzED3S) pilot project.  The ADE Connect system provides secure access to the data system to authorized users at local schools. Districts and charters are responsible for granting access, designated by role, for their authorized users, which include teachers, principals and the superintendent.  These users can only see the reports in the data system as authorized by role; e.g. teachers can see the students in their classes only, principals can see the classes in their school only, and the superintendent can see data for all of the schools in his/her district only.

Updated September 19, 2013