2018 Student Privacy Guidance


The U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) issued guidance related to student privacy associated with administering college admissions exams. The guidance addresses concerns that arise due to some State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs or school districts) that have begun paying for and registering students for college admissions exams (ACT and SAT) rather than students or their parents registering themselves directly. This trend is due to the use of these tests to meet the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) assessment requirements.

The specific concern is regarding the voluntary pre-test surveys administered by the testing companies. It is not always clear that these surveys are voluntary and questions asked include whether students would like to receive information from colleges and scholarship organizations. Testing companies then sell contact information of students that consent “to colleges, universities, scholarship services, and other organizations for college recruitment and scholarship solicitation.”

This has raised privacy and best practices concerns related to the provisions of several privacy laws. This includes the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), and the confidentiality of information provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The PTAC notes that its reason for issuing this guidance is to remind SEAs and LEAs of their obligations under these laws “to provide best practice recommendations for protecting student privacy when contracting to administer these examinations.”

ESSA includes requirements for informing parents of student privacy rights regarding a number of issues (see Section 8528). One of those issues is requests for access to student information by military or college recruiters.

TransACT’s ESSA Parent Notice Collection includes seven parent notices to help meet the requirements to provide information to parents associated with FERPA and the PPRA. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the parent notices available from TransACT, please contact us at 425.977.2100, Option 3 or email at support@transact.com.

Dr. David Holbrook

About The Author

Dr. David Holbrook is a nationally recognized leader in federal programs administration and monitoring with expertise in Title I, Title III, Native American Education, and Federal Programs. Dr. Holbrook has also worked as a consultant with Title III of the US Department of Education and now serves as Executive Director, Federal Compliance and State Relationships with TransAct.