rich source of longitudinal data, researchers’ access to the individually identifiable data they contain, as well as to student record data maintained at the local level by individual schools and school districts, is limited by the privacy protections of FERPA. Researchers’ limited access to individual student data slows research not only in education but also in related fields, such as child welfare and health.

To explore possibilities for data access and confidentiality in compliance with FERPA and with the Common Rule for the Protection of Human Subjects, the National Academies and the American Educational Research Association convened the Workshop on Protecting Student Records and Facilitating Education Research in April 2008 (see Appendix A for the workshop agenda). The workshop was supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation.

To carry out the workshop, the National Academies’ Committee on National Statistics and Center for Education appointed an expert planning committee chaired by Felice J. Levine, researcher and executive director of the American Educational Research Association. The planning committee was charged to

Plan for a workshop at the National Academies on providing research access to administrative records (including test scores) pertaining to elementary, secondary, and higher education students and their schools while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the information. The planning committee will be charged with commissioning papers for presentation, and convening and serving as moderators for the workshop.


Felice Levine opened the workshop by welcoming all participants and providing an overview of the key issues to be discussed. Over the past five years, researchers have become increasingly interested in accessing the state education databases that compile student records, particularly because the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires that “scientifically based [education] research” drive state and local use of federal education funds. These concerns informed the central question of the workshop—how to reconcile FERPA protections with current educational needs and goals. Levine explained that the workshop would address this central question in a broader context, examining approaches to reconciling privacy protections with research access not only in education, but also in other fields, such as health care.

Levine observed that the workshop was timely, because the Department of Education was seeking comments on proposed changes to its FERPA regulations. The proposed new rules address not only when

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