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Favors and FERPA

April 12, 2013

Several districts today received an odd request from the SDE. It seems somebody there wants to do a study on effective early reading strategies. Here is the message:

The State Department of Education (SDE) is undertaking a research project which will attempt to identify successful early literacy/reading strategies. To conduct this research the SDE needs student literacy/reading achievement data for grades K-3. Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS) and Literacy First are two of the most widely implemented literacy assessments in Oklahoma, and both maintain databases of student records. DIBELS requires the SDE to gain district level permission to access student records.

Attached is a letter granting the SDE access to student DIBEL data from your district. Student privacy is an utmost concern. Student names will not be used in any research processes such as collecting, sorting, analyzing, and reporting. Nor will individual schools be identified in the final research results and reports.

Prior to beginning the research project, the Project Level Account Permission Form must be downloaded and signed by a district representative and returned to … the Office of Accountability and Assessment at the SDE.

It’s an interesting study, since the SDE has been actively pushing Literacy First during the current administration. The timing is interesting too, given that the state is selecting a vendor to promote statewide for K-5 remediation.

Oh, did I mention that this message was sent to principals, rather than superintendents? No So the superintendent will need to sign the form to turn over all of your student data from grades K-3. Don’t worry though…the SDE will protect the data.

Oh wait – I’ve heard this one before.

Here’s the text of the form to be signed by districts:

__________ hereby grants permission to Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment to have access to data stored in this district’s account on the DIBELS Data System (http://dibels.uoregon.edu/). Access and reports will be provided to Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment on a project level, district level, school level, class level, and individual student level.

Access encompasses all information stored in the DIBELS Data System, including but not limited to student names and ID numbers, demographic information, DIBELS scores, IDEL scores, DIBELS Next scores, easyCBM Math scores, and outcome measure scores.

However, access will be password-protected and confidential.

Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment’s   access is provided on a district level for all schools in the district.

__________ hereby represents and warrants that it has complied with all applicable provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and 34 CFR Part 99 necessary for it to authorize Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment to be provided with the aforementioned information by the University of Oregon.

The undersigned represents that he or she is authorized to execute this instrument on behalf of    __________.

If I read that correctly, the school district is on the hook for assuring that the data will be protected. They’re giving the SDE permission to share it with researchers (I thought they didn’t like researchers), but the schools are accountable for protecting the data.

We’ve piloted TLE, Roster Verification, and just about everything else under the sun this year. This sounds like a bad idea on its face. I don’t know about you, but I’m out of favors to give.

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  1. Jennifer B.
    April 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Interesting. If a university were doing this, they’d have to go through a rigorous IRB process that detailed the efforts taken to protect confidentiality. A statement about access being password protected would not be adequate.
    Furthermore, what are the research questions they are seeking to find answers to? Who will be doing the research? How will data be recoded to protect identifies?

    This is reckless. I will am curious to see how many districts oblige.


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