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Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy”

There is no denying the fact we live in a data-driven society. Information sharing is connecting and changing almost every industry, and our education system is no exception.

In 2002, the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) was enacted to update and improve how we could leverage education research to better serve our nation’s schools.

While ESRA was necessary to reform education research to better inform what is working in schools, the law may not be working as well as Congress wanted or intended.

In fact, a 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found weaknesses in the law, specifically significant delays in the distribution of research available to educators.

States and local school districts rely on timely education research to identify best practices from across the country in order to build a better learning environment, and we need to ensure this research is delivering the results our schools need.

The data collected by schools is essential for understanding what is working, and it allows for a more open conversation between schools and parents about strategies that work for our students.

While technology has allowed information to be at our fingertips, and has made our lives more connected, such a change comes with significant privacy concerns.

Americans are apprehensive, with good reason, that personal information such as personal finances and medical records are susceptible to hacking.

Our students’ educational information covers all of these areas and more, and it is vital that we do all that we can to keep this information safe.

When we think of educational information, we may only think of grades, test scores, and course lists, but there is so much more that is associated with a student’s personal record.

As a father of two young boys, I understand first hand the importance of keeping our children's records safe and secure.

When Congress passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 1974 to protect student privacy, the Internet didn’t exist.

As we continue to see technology play a key role in how we conduct educational research, it is time for Congress to have a serious discussion on whether or not FERPA is keeping all student information safe.

Our hearing today will focus on how we can strike the right balance between leveraging education research for our students, while ensuring their information is private and secure.

We have gathered a diverse group of witnesses who will give us their own perspectives on the effectiveness of both ESRA and FERPA, and we look forward to hearing their stories.

Education research can a powerful tool to help our students, but that information should not come at the cost of a student’s private and personal information. I look forward to our discussion of these issues today.

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