SIIA Supports FY15 Funding for ConnectEDucators

Our K-12 education system continues its embrace of technology and digital learning to improve school operations and student learning. According to SIIA’s Vision K-20 educator survey, 81% of responding K-12 educators report technology integration as highly important to them. While educator support is strong, teacher knowledge and skills continue to slow progress. The same SIIA survey found that only 20% say their institution currently has a high level of technology integration. To that end, SIIA supports President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal for ConnectEDucators, which would provide $200-$500 million in funding “to help educators leverage technology and data to provide high-quality college- and career-ready instruction that meets the needs of all students.”

Support for teachers, principals and other educators is critical to the effective use of technology in education, which in turn is necessary to ensure student success in the digital age and global economy. Educators need support not only in how to use the technology, but as importantly, in how to redesign their curriculum and instruction to a more engaging, student-centered model. This means using data systems to better understand the performance and needs of each student on a regular basis, and using the Internet, creativity and communication tools, and digital learning repositories to mix and match resources that best meet each student’s unique needs.

The budget proposal is one element of President Obama’s ConnectEd initiative announced last year, which centers around ensuring student highspeed broadband connectivity. The proposed ConnectEDucators program, would provide: (1) formula-based State Leadership Grants to help enhance state and local capacity to support the transition to digital learning; and (2) competitive, 3-year grants to school districts to support the implementation of comprehensive plans to ensure that educators have the skills and supports needed to dramatically improve student access to high-quality instruction through technology and digital learning.  Among the envisioned uses of funds are support for educators to: deliver high-quality digital learning resources and content, use a wide range of devices and digital tools, use real-time data to personalize learning, use technology to increase engagement with families and other teachers, and access online professional learning.

SIIA calls on the U.S. Congress to respond to the needs of our teachers and students and appropriate at least $200 million in FY15 funding for the ConnectEDucators program.

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.


SIIA Says New York State Budget will Help Promote Digital Learning

SIIA today issued a statement on the 2014-2015 New York State budget. The New York State legislature approved, and Governor Cuomo signed, the 2014-2015 state budget last night, which includes school funding and makes a number of related policy requirements. The budget includes a $2 billion general obligation bond to fund enhanced education technology in schools, including broadband infrastructure and student devices. The bill also places new regulations on schools and their contractors with regard to student data privacy.

SIIA congratulates Governor Cuomo and the New York state legislature for passage of a historic $2 billion school technology bond initiative that will help ensure all students have access to digital learning necessary for their educational success. Included in the 2014-2015 budget, these funds will support the broadband infrastructure and computer devices needed for students to access rich content, online learning and creativity tools.

Importantly for the advancement of education technology in New York, the bill’s new student privacy requirements are improved from earlier versions. SIIA calls on New York State education officials to work with schools and service providers to put in place the clarifications and transition period needed to implement the many new student data requirements.  Doing so will help avoid unintended consequences that may limit student learning opportunities, and will give schools and their contractors sufficient time to understand the new regulations, as well as to update policies, practices and technologies accordingly.

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.

Innovative Policies, Developer Content and Data Tools are Key, According to Education Officials at SIIA Mobile Learning Forum

SIIA this week hosted a successful meeting with education policy makers to enhance dialogue with developers of moble learning and other educational technologies. Discussions helped SIIA members better understand how public policies, funding and regulations are impacting their K-20 education customers, and provided education and government officials with an better understanding of the industry’s role, questions and concerns. Among the clear conclusions from SIIA’s Education Government Forum on Mobile Learning: Educators and students are looking increasingly to deveopers and service providers for adaptive, mobile content as well as data analytics as the engines of instruction and the platform for student learning.

The conference agenda included:

  • Keynote presentations from Rich Crandall (Chief, Wyoming Department of Education), Robbie Melton (Tennessee Board of Regents) and Kathleen Styles (CPO, U.S. Department of Education);
  • Review of federal and state K-20 policy trends from both analysts and officials;
  • Discussions about the migration to mobile learning; and
  • Updates on pending regulations and funding shaping the market, includingthe E-rate, student privacy and Common Core State Standards and assessments.

Among the takeaways:

  • Leading educators are turning increasingly to mobile devices to personalize learning and meet student needs anytime/everywere — They are looking to developers for interoperable, adapative and aligned content and tools; and they are looking for flexible public policies to support that innovation including the E-rate.
  • Safeguarding student data privacy and data security are critical — A regulatory framework is now in place, and policy must not get too far ahead of the problem and unintentionally restrict data-driven learning.
  • Common Core State Standards and assessments are moving forward — Implementation is hard work, but educator and public support remains strong as does their need for aligned instructional resources, assssments and data-driven professional development.
  • Costs and quality remain primary concerns in higher education — Public policies are pushing toward an outcomes-based model built around transparency and flexibility, while entrenched interests and undefined competency metrics stand as barriers to reform.


Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.

Georgia Student Privacy Act Would be a Barrier to Student Learning

Senate Bill 167 is receiving much debate in Georgia, centered largely on its primary task of pulling the state back off  of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But also included in the controversial bill is a Part II, the so-called “Student Right to Privacy Act.” The Georgia House Education Committee met yesterday to consider SB167, and heard from more than 60 passionate educators, parents and business leaders. While the focus was on the CCSS provisions, SIIA (see 2:16:50 of the March 5 video) and a chorus of eduction (e.g., at 1:27:25), social welfare and business leaders spoke up against the privacy regulations. None cited a problem that needed fixing, while all raised concern with the unintended consequences of restrictive regulations that undermine necessary decision making by local administrators and school boards.

SIIA agrees with the need to safeguard student privacy and data security. A strong network of laws and business practices now does so. SIIA agrees with those concerned that Senate Bill 167 may inappropriately and unnecessarily inhibit core educational functions necessary to serve Georgia’s students.

Schools and service providers have policies and procedures in place to limit the use student personal information to legitimate educational purposes, and safeguard student privacy. For example, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that: (1) personal student information shared with service providers be limited to uses otherwise performed by the school’s own employees; (2) the provider be under direct control of the school; and (3) the information can only be used for educational purposes. And FERPA and COPPA require parental consent if the service provider wants to use or disclose the information for its own commercial purposes. Responding to the calls for additional industry self-regulation, SIIA has released Industry Best Practices as another step to ensure safeguarding of student information.  This network of laws and practices is safeguarding student privacy and data security.

With regard to Senate Bill 167, the scope, scale, complexity and lack of clarity of the bill’s procedural and technical requirements are significant and challenging to address. The bill creates barriers and disincentives to local school systems to enhance their use of modern technologies and data systems for educational innovation and improvement, just at a time when the state is making continued investments in technology infrastructure and digital learning access.  The bill will have a chilling effect.

  1. While providers are working with schools to help them support the personalization of learning, the very broad restrictions on use of all student information for so-called commercial purposes may interfere with desired educational activities. SIIA does not defend the sale of personal student data, and such sale is already prohibited by federal law. But the bill would inhibit the use of student data to improve product efficacy, and to support recommendation engines and other analytics aimed at addressing the unique needs of each student.
  2. The bill is inconsistent in the types of student information regulated and includes narrow, one-size-fits all restrictions on the educational use and sharing of student information, whether personally identifiable or not, including duplicative requirements around testing and cloud computing. This will create barriers to use of information appropriate and necessary for educational purposes, including with subcontractors and school directed partners.
  3. Many breach notification requirements are inconsistent with standard best practices. For example, required notification of all ‘suspected’ breaches could create false-positive user fatigue, diminishing attention to actual breaches. The bill also excludes standard criteria around actual harm such as in the case of encrypted data or inadvertent exposure by educators. And, ironically, the bill would inappropriately require third parties to notify parents of a breach, thus giving them access to personal parental information to which they would/should not otherwise have access.
  4. The bill puts in place a series of escalating and potentially very large financial penalties for violations of sometimes vague requirements, not distinguishing based upon harm, negligence or intent. There appears no opportunity to first correct the violation, or for appeal. This all will provide a disincentive for outside parties to conduct business in Georgia.
  5. The prohibition on student biometric data will restrict appropriate and important educational activities, including for: (1) student identity verification for online learning or device security, and (2) embedded voice and visual diagnostics for language learning and reading comprehension. Some of these require personally identifiable information, while many do not. In all cases, broader practices and laws already ensure student privacy and data security.
  6. Lastly, while these concerns have focused on those directly impacting school service providers, SIIA notes that there are many burdensome requirements on local school systems and institutions.

In short, SIIA is concerned that SB167, while well-intentioned, is overly inclusive and restrictive. Transparency is critical, but one-size-fits-all requirements will detrimentally limit innovation, appropriate local school decisions, and appropriate educational services that benefit Georgia students. For service providers, there are significant risks and costs that may discourage doing business in Georgia.

While many of these issues are now best handled by existing federal law, state agency guidance, and local school boards, SIIA will continue to work with policy makers in Georgia and across the country on any identified needs to further ensure privacy protections for all Georgia students.

Safeguarding Student Privacy and Security: SIIA and the U.S. DoED’s Outlines for a Trust Framework

It’s been a busy month for student information privacy. Last week, SIIA’s Mark Schneiderman joined Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media on KQED public radio to talk about safeguarding students’ privacy online. Mark noted that student privacy is already protected by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Federal Education Privacy Act (FERPA). He also warned that policymakers should be careful not to unnecessarily and unintentionally stymie innovation in education that is necessary to prepare students for the evolving workforce:

“We certainly agree with the need to safeguard student privacy and security and there is a lot of joint responsibility among schools and providers and policymakers, and the trust issue is certainly critical,” Mark said. “We want to make sure to recognize the concerns. There are a lot of hypotheticals out there, there are certainly some cases that need to be addressed, but we need to make sure the solution doesn’t get ahead of the problem.”

On Monday, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a keynote address at the “School Privacy Zone” Summit, convened by  Common Sense Media. At the same time, SIIA released a series of five best practices for student data privacy and security  that were highlighted by Summit participants. The best practices address educational purpose, transparency, authorization, security, and data breach notification. Mark told The Higher Ed Journal:

“Education technology is increasingly vital to making certain our students get a world class education, and our nation can compete in the global economy. We are stepping forward with a series of best practices that will help protect student data and allow technology providers to continue to offer effective, leading-edge education solutions.”

SIIA also on Tuesday commended the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for its release of the guidance document, “Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices.” The guidance includes information related to school implementation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).

Our best practices and the DoED’s guidance are starting points for creating a trust framework between families, educational institutions and their service providers. We believe schools can give our students the best technology and tools out there, while still protecting their information privacy and security.

Laura Greenback is communications director at SIIA. Keep up with the SIIA policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.

Digital Policy Roundup

DOC Discussions on Copyright Policy in the Digital Economy

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Internet Policy Task Force (Task Force) recently announced that it will hold a series of multistakeholder discussions around key issues of copyright policy in the digital economy. The panels and discussions will be a follow-up to the Task Force’s 2013 Green Paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy that identified several key copyright topics worthy of more discussion. The first meeting, scheduled for March 20, will focus on what, if anything, needs to be changed about the current “notice and takedown” rules under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – this topic is also expected to be the subject of a House Judiciary hearing next week.

DOC follow-up meetings on additional topics are expected to be held by the Task Force every six weeks, covering issues such as the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment, issues around large-scale online infringement, how the government can facilitate the further development of a robust online licensing environment and the legal framework for the creation of remixes. The Task Force’s goal is to produce “an agreed outcome by the end of 2014,” which could mean recommendations for change in the law, or to leave it alone.

Administration Launches Privacy Workshop for “Big Data” Study

On Monday, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) formally announced that it will be hosting a series of public events to hear from technologists, business leaders, civil society, and the academic community to advance the “Big Data” study called for by President Obama in January. The first event is a public workshop organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), entitled “Big Data Privacy: Advancing the State of the Art in Technology and Practice,” held on March 3. This event will be followed by workshops at New York University on March 17, and Cal. Berkley. The President’s report on Privacy and Big Data is expected on April 17.

SIIA White Paper on Geographical Market Segmentation

Late last week SIIA released a white paper detailing the uses and benefits of geographical market segmentation and geolocation tools. Market segmentation – a strategy that divides a broad target market into subsets of customers with different characteristics – is a ubiquitous global business practice, which takes a variety of forms: geographical, behavioral, demographic, and psychographic. Market segmentation in general and geographical market segmentation in particular provide consumers with many advantages, including access to otherwise unavailable goods and services at a fair price.

The use of geolocation technology combined with a policy of conditioning access based on location – commonly referred to as ‘geoblocking’ – is the means thorough which different geographical markets for digital products are segmented. Some policy makers seem to think that this technique is intrinsically suspect and should be stringently restricted. Attempts to ban or restrict geolocation tools might be aimed at geographical market segmentation for digital goods, but they would make it impossible for websites and others to use this common technique for a variety of socially valuable purposes. For more info take a look at this blog.

Busy Week for Student Data Privacy, including SIIA and USDoED Best Practices

SIIA this week announced “Industry Best Practices to Safeguard Student Information Privacy and Data Security and Advance the Effective Use of Technology in Education.” These best practices build on a strong framework of existing laws and practices, which were further clarified today when the U.S. Department of Education Issued guidance, “Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices.” The Department of Education with Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will be hosting a webinar on March 13 to review the guidance and solicit input.

SIIA commended the guidance for affirming the vital role of technology in education, clarifying the effective safeguards in current law, and providing an important roadmap for continued safeguarding. These best practices come at a time when many states are considering related legislative restrictions, some of which raise concerns of unintended restricting the important use of technology and student information to improve learning. Many of these issues were discussed yesterday at Common Sense Media’s school privacy Summit in Washington, DC, attended by SIIA and featuring Secretary Duncan, U.S. Senator Markey (MA), FTC Commissioner Brill and SIIA members McGraw-Hill Education and Amplify. The Summit followed a recent radio talk show discussion between SIIA’s Mark Schneiderman and CSM’s CEO Jim Steyer.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPubPolicy.

SIIA Commends U.S. DoED Guidance for Protecting Student Privacy

SIIA commended the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for today’s release of the guidance document, “Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices.” The guidance includes information related to school implementation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).

The guidance is consistent with the commitment of SIIA and its member companies to advance the effective use of technology in education and to safeguard student information privacy and ensure data security.  Together with SIIA’s just-released “Best Practices for the Safeguarding of Student Information Privacy and Security for Providers of School Services,” the guidance makes clear that all parties – technology providers, schools, students and the government – are working toward the same important goals.

The Department of Education guidance both affirms and reinforces the strong safeguards in current law. It provides an important roadmap that will help make certain educational institutions and service providers continue to appropriately handle student information.

The federal guidance is very consistent with SIIA’s recently-released Best Practices for school service providers. Together, these efforts will ensure that we continue to protect student data and that a strong relationship of trust is built between providers, schools and families.  Importantly, the efforts will help make certain our students continue to have access to leading-edge digital services critical to providing the world class education needed for success in the global economy.

SIIA’s “Best Practices for the Safeguarding of Student Information Privacy and Security for Providers of School Services” are available here.

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation.