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The Forum Guide to Data Ethics
NCES 2010-801
March 2010

Purpose of this Guide

A February 2010 web search of the phrase "data ethics" yielded 103,000 results—clearly too many choices for anyone seeking practical guidance about behavior in the education data community. Education organizations need a simple, comprehensive set of standards for establishing plans that encourage the ethical use and management of data.

In response to this need, this document presents a code of ethics for data management and use in education settings. All core principles (called "canons"), examples, descriptions, and recommendations in this document reflect situations that arise in real schools, school districts, and state education agencies. The best practices presented in part II are intended to supplement existing policies in education organizations, or serve as a template when organizations create new policies.

The Forum Guide to Data Ethics is written for a broad range of stakeholders in the education data community. It addresses ethical issues related to the management and use of education data. The Code of Ethics is presented in a format that encourages discussion and, hopefully, adoption by schools, school districts, and state education agencies. While formal and systematic training is necessary to fully implement the recommendations in this guide, the goal of this document is to make ethical principles understandable and actionable to education staff as they work with data in their organizations.

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