eScholar and the Student Privacy Pledge

By

December 4th, 2014

Recently, eScholar signed the Student Privacy Pledge, an initiative to increase educational technology transparency and detail ongoing education data industry practices. We’re pleased to be a signatory of this Pledge but we understand that we have to go beyond the Pledge to meet the unique needs of each of our customers.

Shawn Bay founded eScholar 17 years ago because he believed putting useful information in the hands of teachers would help students get a better education. To this day, every product that we design is grounded in this belief. We are a company of former educators, current parents, caring community members, and yes, technology geeks, who seek to improve our country’s education system. By doing this, we also have to make sure our solutions and practices ensure student and customer privacy.

FERPA is just one component of this governance. FERPA states that a vendor contracted for a specific purpose can only use data collected for that purpose. It cannot be sold for marketing or any other purposes.  Furthermore, FERPA is only a baseline for education data security and privacy policies. Each client we work with has the freedom to create policies that build on FERPA policies. For more information on FERPA, please see the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

Before using our solutions, clients create provisions to specify data handling policies and procedures. Our data handling is limited to these provisions. Clients that deploy our software on their own agency’s servers are in complete control of that data. Their data is not transported to or stored on our servers. Only a small fraction of agencies also contract with eScholar to host their data. Only in those cases do we host any education data.

When we do handle clients’ data, we respect that data. Though it is not required by law, we conduct training for all employees on the proper handling of customer data and FERPA regulations. All staff members must pass an annual test to make sure that they keep current with policies and procedures regarding the handling of customer data. We regularly review our policies and procedures to ensure compliance to federal and state laws and security best practices. For more information on our privacy and security policies, please see our website.

All of our data technologies are built upon the fundamental pillars of privacy, security, and improving educational outcomes. For example, our Complete Data Warehouse PK-12 (CDW-PK12) protects student privacy by making it simpler to establish uniform data privacy rules. If all a school’s data are in one place, they can only be accessed by individuals under agreed upon policies.

Our motive at eScholar is to improve educational outcomes. We understand that stakeholders are concerned about the growth of education data collection and aspire to be as transparent as possible in order to assuage those concerns. If you have questions, let us know and we’d love to talk with you.

 

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