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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

House Ed Considers Student Privacy Bill

Lawmakers in South Dakota’s House of Representatives are considering a bill that aims to protect student privacy. Education committee members are hearing conflicting testimony about data protection in testing. 

This week, the House Education committee revisits a bill focused on protecting privacy of students who take education assessments. Senate Bill 63 includes a short-list of information tests can’t require students provide.

Cindy Flakoll is a lobbyist for Concerned Women for America. The group’s mission is to bring Biblical principals into public policy. Flakoll says she supports the move to restrict identifiable data from the federal government, but she questions its impact.

"The testing consortium that South Dakota has contracted with is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for the new standards in South Dakota. There’s one other consortium in the United States, and that’s called PARCC: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers," Flakoll says. "These testing consortia are bound by contract to give the US Department of Education student-level data, so this is a concern for us."

In September, the Smarter Balanced Consortium released a vote that stated states retain control of student data generated by the assessment system.

Melody Schopp is South Dakota’s Secretary of Education. She and more than 30 other education leaders from around the country sent a letter to federal education Secretary Arne Duncan. Schopp says the letter states that the state cannot and does not link private, identifiable information to test scores.

"We are prohibited to share any personally identifiable information with the federal government. So, regardless of his response, we are prohibited to do that, as well. So there is no concern about whether the funding – and that’s the reason, number one, for this bill, I believe, and also that we know that current language prohibits us from doing that," Schopp says. "All the more reason how we are using data to make sure that it’s not violating personally identifiable information our kids in South Dakota."

Schopp says the education department is in favor of the privacy policy. She says the state isn’t collecting the prohibited information now, and she supports clarifying that in law.

The House Education committee resumes discussion and action on Senate Bill 63 Wednesday.