Step 12 : Develop procedures for appropriate reporting of student data.
The final step focuses on other cautions related to the use of data from student record systems that must be addressed. When reporting aggregate information about student participation in a program (e.g., special education or Title I), safeguards must be in place to prevent individual student information from becoming known to anyone without proper authorization. The importance of such safeguards cannot be overstated since FERPA restricts the disclosure of individual student information.
One common error made by organizations that produce a variety of reports is to report specifics on groups of students so small that they can be identified individually from the data. Often these organizations produce specific reports with counts of students by type (such as by grade level by race/ethnicity by sex). If you look at school data, you may see that there is one Hispanic female in grade six. Later, when assessment results are available, the organization produces a school summary with percentages of students by type who have passed the test or average student scores by student types. While the latter (assessment) reports may mask the number of students in each category, it is possible to use the former (enrollment) reports to see that the Hispanic female in grade six made a specific grade and/or passed the test. Thus, it is important to establish procedures for identifying where information about the identity of specific students can be obtained. In this instance, assessment reports should not be released if the student grouping contains fewer than three persons.
It is a good idea to have someone "eyeball" the data before it is published. Compare the data to other sources, such as last year's data, to see if there are major differences that cannot be explained. If the data do not look correct, then the procedures used to run the report should be checked and the report rerun. It is far better to delay the publishing of correct data than to publish incorrect data in a timely fashion.