Student Data Privacy 101

These days, information is shared more often and faster than ever. We live in a time when something is posted online and it goes viral in a matter of hours. Ensuring the privacy of student information is extremely important for many reasons. Companies should not be allowed to market to students using student performance or information. Students have to have the confidence that their performance isn’t being shared with the public, which ensures confidentiality of who they are as students.

Due to these reasons, student data privacy has jumped to the forefront in tech discussions. These discussions can make some people feel hesitant about using technology, which then can become restrictive to what we can accomplish as educators. Educating yourself about how to handle student data will help calm those fears and help you treat data as it should be treated. We at My Day Web App want to include our users in this discussion to help make them aware of the roles each of us plays in ensuring student privacy. Technology is a part of today’s classroom, and its uses will continue to grow. As educators, we need to grow with it.

What is FERPA?

FERPA is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (a federal law), and it protects the privacy of student records. The following information in this section is summarized from the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

First, FERPA ensures that schools must notify parents about FERPA and their rights under it every year. It also allows parents and guardians the right to inspect educational records of their children until their children turn 18. Then 18 year-olds receive this same right.

More About Student Educational Records

Educational records, according to the U.S. Department of Eduction, are:

“…records that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or a party acting for or on behalf of the agency or institution.  These records include but are not limited to grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), student financial information (at the postsecondary level), and student discipline files.  The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail.”
Source: 34 CFR § 99.2 “Education Records” and “Record.”

In other words, no matter how you record the information, once you start tying student names to performance, this information could fall under the definition of an educational record.

Schools must ask permission to give out student records and information, but schools can disclose student records without permission such as when subpoenaed by a court, for health and safety reasons, and to other school officials that have a legitimate educational interest.

What is Directory information?

Sometimes there is information that is personally identifiable but is not an educational record. This information might be considered directory information. FERPA defines directory information as “information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.”  34 CFR § 99.3. Schools must inform parents when they collect directory information, but they do not need consent to do so. One way schools do this is by listing directory information that they collect in a public document given to parents or guardians. FERPA gives parents time to opt out and deny the disclosure of directory information. It is important to know what the parents of your students requested. Some types of directory info include a student’s name (including initials), address, telephone number, date of birth, user ID or email address of a student (if not using a password or PIN), and attendance.

edrecordvsdirectoryinfo

The difference between educational records and directory information is important to know

How We At My Day Web App Keep Data Private

FERPA and student data privacy compliance are of utmost importance to us here at My Day Web App. We value each parent’s right to choose what information is shared about their student and the ability for students’ information to stay private.

We are very clear in our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy about what information we collect and how we use this information. My Day Web App is in compliance with our portion of FERPA. We do not share your personal information with anyone except to comply with the law, develop our products, or protect our rights, and we do not sell potentially personally identifiable or personally identifiable information to anyone.

What You Can Do To Keep Student Data Private

  • If you want to be extra cautious, instead of using a student’s name, you can choose to use a random pseudonym, code, or letter that does not reference anything in student directory information or personally identifiable information. This has two benefits:
    • If the parent or student has denied disclosure of directory information, this is an alternative.
    • Any educational records tied to the pseudonym or random code cannot be tied back to the actual student, so you are not disclosing their educational records to anyone, which complies with FERPA rules.
  • Before using any type of service that requires you to input student data or personally identifiable information, you should closely examine that service’s privacy policy and terms of service. No service should ever sell information that you give.
  • Understand what you are allowed to share and not share with web services. There are three ways that you may already be allowed to input student information, including names, without improperly disclosing information:
  1. Your district may define all web service providers as school officials with legitimate educational interest,
  2. OR the district can specifically name My Day Web App in a list of web service providers that are school officials with legitimate educational interest,
  3. OR you can obtain parent or student consent (if 18) to input data on My Day Web App.
infodistribution

Examples of with whom you can share educational records and directory information

infodistributionnot

Examples of people who do not have access to educational records (and even directory information if a parent opts out)

In Closing

Ultimately, student data privacy compliance with FERPA falls on both the service provider (see our terms of service and privacy policy) and the school representative (you) to make sure you are in compliance with this federal law. It’s important to stay informed on this topic, and we at My Day Web App take our part in compliance very seriously. We live in a digital age, and there are so many ways technology can help you improve your instruction. We hope you’ve learned more about FERPA and the ways to keep your students’ data private while still using technology such as My Day Web App to help you make more informed instructional decisions.

Happy Teaching,

Sara

For more information on FERPA, please reference the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Posted in Blog Entries, Data Privacy

New Feature: Customized Reporting

It’s that time of year when you gather with friends and family to think about and enjoy everything you have to be thankful for. Here at My Day Web App, we are thankful for many things, including our awesome users.

One of our users recently suggested we customize our Daily and Summary Reports to include only the time slots and goals you want to report on for each student. We thought this was a great idea! For example, if you are communicating about a student’s accuracy when reading, you don’t need to also report on other academic or behavior goals when you create your report. With our new update, you can customize which time slots and which goals for each individual student show up on the final report. Simply click on the Customize button near the top right corner of the student’s Daily or Summary Report and uncheck the time slots or goals you’d like to hide.

customize

 

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Any notes for time slots you choose to hide will also be hidden from the final Daily Report. Also, the data totals will be changed to only calculate the total percentages for all time slots and goals still visible. We are really excited to be able to bring you this helpful update, and we hope it makes your data reporting even easier!

***

We are so thankful we can help you streamline your data collection, reporting, and analysis every day. As a teacher, I know using data to inform instruction is essential, but it has to be easy and convenient. Thanks for choosing My Day Web App to help make that happen. You all are the best users with the greatest ideas. We take every suggestion seriously because we know that you know what you need and want. You all are your own best advocates, so keep those comments and suggestions coming.

Happy Teaching,

Sara

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Posted in Blog Entries

Weekly Tip: Making Your Data Visual

Sometimes we all need a visual. This week’s tip focuses on using the Trend Charts feature of My Day Web App, which allows you to instantly display your data in a chart. I find My Day Web App’s charts especially helpful during team meetings when I want to quickly show how a student is doing that is easy to interpret by staff and parents. Often plain numbers do not give the same powerful effect as a colorful line showing the improvements students made; therefore, I always attend meetings with a chart. I find that showing these charts conveys my data better than any number or any explanation I could give. I also find that using the Trend Charts feature helps me immediately see whether or not students are closing the achievement gap, maintaining, or regressing (the trend lines option really makes this apparent). This powerful trend information helps me make better instructional decisions sooner to help students continue to make progress on their goals.

 

single trend

An example of a chart with a single goal displayed and the trend line feature enabled. Remember, always give your students a pseudonym, letter, or code for student privacy reasons.

 

Using the charting feature also saves hours of time. When using the Trend Charts feature, you can customize the title of your chart, how many goals you want to appear on a single chart, and whether or not you show trend lines and data values, all with the click of a button. As a teacher, I used to spend hours graphing my data on a clunky program that took way too long to figure out how to get data to display the way I wanted it to display. Also, I was on a constant loop of data entry when moving information from paper to computer to program to program. It was our goal to make My Day Web App’s Trend Charts easy to use, easy to interpret, and fast. Let’s give a silent cheer for no longer spending hours manually creating charts in a different program to use at meetings that may only take 20 minutes. All the data you need to create beautiful and powerful charts is already entered into the program, which makes converting it into a chart showing trend lines instantaneous. These charts will help you make effective instructional decisions to benefit all of your learners, and that’s our ultimate goal.

 

double trend

An example of a chart with two goals displayed, trend lines, and data values.

 

Happy Teaching,

Sara
Side note: don’t forget to print your charts in a landscape orientation to best display all of your information.

Posted in Blog Entries, Tips and Tricks

Weekly Tip: Everyone Needs a Backup

Whether it be a substitute or another option for dinner, having a plan if something goes wrong is always a good thing. Backing up data is no exception. Hard drives can be fussy, which is why My Day Web App uses a secure cloud server to store all of the data you collect. However, no matter how secure the cloud server is, it cannot protect against human mistakes.

As someone who is prone to human mistakes (because I’m human and usually in a rush), I always appreciate having safety nets built into my programs or data storage. That is why we made sure My Day Web App has one built into it, too. Before you delete anything (which will result in data loss), a warning message pops up asking you if you really do want to delete the item.

 

delete warning

My Day Web App includes safety nets such as this warning message.

 

We’ve also made the language very clear on the warning message to avoid confusion about whether to click “yes” or “no”. That way, if your finger slips (or you are in a hurry like me), you can make sure you are deleting what you want to delete and nothing more. Your data is important to us; we want to make sure we can help you keep it safe.

Happy Teaching,

Sara
P.S. If you would also like an additional safety net, you can always print summary reports periodically for your records or save them to your computer as PDFs via the print screen.

Posted in Blog Entries, Tips and Tricks

Weekly Tip: Getting the Most Out of Your Data

Data analysis. I know it sounds terribly boring and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be (at least not if you use My Day Web App). Analyzing data is probably the most crucial part of ensuring student achievement. As teachers, we are often swimming in data; however, it is what we do with that data that matters most.

When you run a report using My Day Web App, you are given a total percentage of objective achievement based upon the amount of time you choose for the report (see my blog post on Choosing the Right Report for more information on which report type to choose). This percentage is found either in the middle (for a specific time slot and objective) along the right side (for how a student did overall on their objectives during a certain time slot), along the bottom (for how a student did overall on a specific objective during the entire day), or in the bottom right corner (for how a student did on all of their objectives over the entire day). It is great to have those percentages instantly at your fingertips, but our job as educators and school staff is not done.

data usage 1

data usage 2

An example of a Summary Report for a student working on behavior goals.

 

The great thing about My Day Web App is it allows you to look for data patterns with students. Some questions you might ask include: “Which parts of the day or with which objectives does a student do well?”, “Which parts of the day or with which objectives does a student struggle?”, “Why does a student do well or struggle during certain parts of the day or with certain objectives?”, “Is this happening over long periods of time or short ones?”, “Is the student showing growth or regression?”, or “How can I help?”. You should also make sure to analyze not only the percentages but the number of successes with the number of opportunities. For example, 67% may look lower than expected, but upon closer examination, you notice the student achieved that objective 2 out of 3 times (which is almost every time). Percentages can be deceiving. That’s why the longer you can collect data, the better the percentage will reflect the achievement.

 

data report chart

An example of a student’s graph for structuring numbers to ten.

 

A new feature of My Day Web App is the Trend Charts feature. This feature allows you to instantly create a graph of the data you collected, allowing you to visualize what is happening with students. Again, this helps you see when a student may need extra support and think about why the support is needed. The data also helps you think about whether or not you need to change your instruction.

I hope this helps give you ideas about how you can make powerful decisions with the powerful data you collect using My Day Web App. We encourage you to comment or email with questions about how you use data to help make powerful decisions in the classroom.

Happy Teaching,

Sara

Posted in Blog Entries, Tips and Tricks

Weekly Tip: How Can I Use Blank Reports?

This week’s post focuses on a useful feature of My Day Web App, the Blank Reports. We made sure to include Blank Reports as a feature in My Day Web App in case you’d ever want to print blank copies for use by a long-term substitute. Also, you can use blank forms with other teachers or team members so they can collect data during their time slots. Finally, connections to the Internet fail. Having a master copy of each student’s report ensures that you can still take data until the Internet connection is restored. As a teacher, I know having a backup plan is critical. That’s another reason including Blank Reports on My Day Web App was so important.

blankreport

Part of a student’s Blank Report. This student is focusing on behavioral goals.

Blank Reports are also useful to show students when discussing schedules, their objectives, or anything else you’d like to share with them. Students can also use Blank Reports if they need hard copies to take on field trips or just need hard copies to keep with them; some students need that tangible item with them at all times as a visual reminder of their goals. Discussing progress and self-monitoring is very motivating for students. My Day Web App can help facilitate these discussions.

These are just some of the ways Blank Reports can be used. I encourage you to email us or comment on how you use Blank Reports to fit your needs.

Happy Teaching,

Sara

Posted in Blog Entries, Tips and Tricks

Weekly Tip: Printing Reports

The last tip was about the difference between Daily and Summary Reports. What better tip to compliment that post than a tip about printing these reports. One could argue that posting a baking tip about donuts you can make and enjoy while you analyze and run reports would be a better compliment than a post about printing, but if I continue to talk about the topic of donuts, I might need to stop typing and start baking something delicious.

Back to printing. Sometimes you may need hard copies of reports. After you run a report, a print icon will appear in the top right corner of the report you are currently examining. When you click on this icon, it is important to change your printing orientation (or layout) to landscape. Otherwise, your beautifully summarized data may be cut off. This will require you to make another trip to the printer, which I know can take a lot longer than expected (i.e. “Why is the printer jammed?”, “Is that a line?”, “I need more ink. Where’s the ink?”). I want to help you avoid that experience as much as possible. Other than changing the layout/orientation, printing from My Day Web App is very easy. If you notice that too much of your objective or time slot titles are cut off, consider shortening them or use the trick discussed at the end of a previous blog post, Choosing Objectives.

I know that was a short post, but as teachers every minute of extra time is invaluable. Now, about those donuts…

Happy Baking Teaching,

Sara

Posted in Blog Entries, Tips and Tricks

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