Reading Between the Lines on Student Data Policies

By Tony Wan

Tech gossip blog Valleywag raised a fuss over some of the terms in Code.org's contract for districts looking to participate in its K-12 computer science programs, first noted by Slashdot. In return for receiving free curriculum, teacher training, and a stipend, districts will be required to provide:

"longitudinal student achievement data for the current year, the preceding four (4) to six (6) academic years, until the end of the student's academic history in the district, after which the data is destroyed, or, at the request of the Entity, will be returned to the Entity."

Four to six years of students' assessment data seems looong. But Code.org reps assert that their demands are fairly standard for vendor contracts for school software since long-term data is required to evaluate the effectiveness of a program. In response to concerns over the collection of sensitive data, Code.org co-founder and CEO Hadi Partovi said in an email to EdSurge:

The student data we receive from school districts will be de-identified and anonymized. We need enough data to allow an independent third party evaluator to evaluate the quality of our work as an education organization. This is a standard practice in the education field...

...our explicit policy is not to share student data with donors (even Mark Zuckerberg). Our donors do not manage any of our day-to-day operations, we are a public 501c3 and beholden to the typical regulatory restrictions on public 501c3s. We generally do not share personally identifiable information with any third parties unless required by law.

So word to the wise: read before you sign. Seems like knowing where our (students') data winds up will be a theme for countless years to come.

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