I’m Regan Grandy, and I’ve worked as an evaluator for Spectrum Research Evaluation and Development for six years. My work is primarily evaluating U.S. Department of Education-funded grant projects with school districts across the nation.
Lessons Learned – Like some of you, I’ve found it difficult, at times, gaining access to extant data from school districts. Administrators often cite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as the reason for not providing access to such data. While FERPA requires written consent be obtained before personally identifiable educational records can be released, I have learned that FERPA was recently amended to include exceptions that speak directly to educational evaluators of State or local education agencies.
Hot Tip – In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Education amended regulations governing FERPA. The changes include “several exceptions that permit the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records without consent.” One exception is the audit or evaluation exception (34 CFR Part 99.35). Regarding this exception, the U.S. Department of Education states:
“The audit or evaluation exception allows for the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records without consent to authorized representatives … of the State or local educational authorities (FERPA-permitted entities). Under this exception, personally identifiable information from education records must be used to audit or evaluate a Federal- or State-supported education program, or to enforce or comply with Federal legal requirements that relate to those education programs.” (FERPA Guidance for Reasonable Methods and Written Agreements)
The rationale for this FERPA amendment was provided as follows: “…State or local educational agencies must have the ability to disclose student data to evaluate the effectiveness of publicly-funded education programs … to ensure that our limited public resources are invested wisely.” (Dec 2011 – Revised FERPA Regulations: An Overview For SEAs and LEAs)
Hot Tip – If you are an educational evaluator, be sure to:
- know and follow the FERPA regulations (see 34 CFR Part 99).
- secure a quality agreement with the education agency, specific to FERPA (see Guidance).
- have a legitimate reason to access data.
- agree to not redisclose.
- access only data that is needed for the evaluation.
- have stewardship for the data you receive.
- secure data.
- properly destroy personally identifiable information when no longer needed.
Rad Resource – The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the U.S. Department of Education is responsible for implementing the FERPA regulations, and they have a wealth of resources about it on their website. Also, you can view the entire FERPA law here. The statutes of most interest to educational evaluators will be 34 CFR Part 99.31 and 99.35.
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