requirement from a state or local education agency presents an opportunity to forge a research partnership.
Thomas Plewes (National Research Council) observed that federal agencies have developed innovative approaches to providing access to data for research purposes, including research data centers, data enclaves, and the data licensing agreements pioneered by the National Center for Education Statistics. However, these innovations at the federal level have not yet been tried by state or local education agencies. He noted that the No Child Left Behind Act generates the need to gather data on student performance and also drives the need for more education research. Constance Citro (National Research Council) agreed that the workshop had highlighted the value of different models of access tailored to different types of data, such as the Census Bureau’s research data centers, which severely limit access, as is appropriate for the sensitive data they maintain. Noting that state and local education agencies are most affected by FERPA, Citro asked which of the federal models would be most effective in helping these agencies provide data access while protecting confidentiality.
Martin Orland said he had learned that “federalism is alive and well” through the workshop discussions, highlighting the question of what the federal role should be. He noted that Congress had not anticipated the possibility that education records might be used for research purposes when it wrote FERPA. He called for changes in the law that would recognize the value of using school records to benefit research and improve education policies and practices. He cautioned against concluding that “all is well,” simply because presenters had described a few successful models of research access. In addition to changing FERPA, he said, success in using education record data for research purposes requires four critical conditions:
There is researchable data.
There is a confluence of interest between a researcher and an education agency.
Time and commitment are available to build trust between the researcher and the agency.
The education agency has the technical capacity to share data while protecting confidentiality of individual information.
Helen Ladd said that the critical issues of research access and confidentiality protection revolve around the use of state education data, reflecting the reality that education is a state function under the U.S. Constitution. She called for increased clarity in the Department of Education’s guidance about FERPA, noting that state and local education agen-