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About PTAC

PTAC Purpose
The U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Institute of Education Sciences' National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has established a Privacy Technical Assistance (TA) Center. The Privacy TA Center is a “one-stop” resource for education stakeholders to learn about data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices related to student-level longitudinal data systems
PTAC Background
NCES's State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) program has awarded grants to supplement the development, building and use of statewide K-12 student-level longitudinal data systems since 2006. Since then, 74 SLDS grants have been provided to 42 State Education Agencies. The increased use of these student-level data systems for education decision-making and reporting has led to questions about how best to protect student privacy. Additionally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund program and the fiscal year 2009 ARRA SLDS grants, increased the scope of SLDS from K-12 student data to include linkages to teacher, postsecondary, early childhood, and labor data. This expanded collection of student-level data across the entire spectrum of education sectors to workforce data has created potential issues relating to student privacy protection.
PTAC Mission
The Privacy TA Center is designed to provide states with:
  • A set of tools, resources, and other opportunities for states to receive assistance with privacy, security, and confidentiality of student-level longitudinal data systems.
  • A means for states to share their best practices, documents, and other relevant resources in the areas of privacy, security, and confidentiality.
  • A focal point for queries and responses to the privacy-related needs of State Education Agencies (SEAs), Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) in a confidential, safe environment.
  • A set of resources to promote compliance with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other best practices for ensuring the confidentiality and security of personally identifiable information.
The Privacy TA Center, supported through a government contract, provides technical assistance to education stakeholders through a range of materials and activities. The Department's contractor is working with various individuals at ED, including NCES' chief statistician, a SLDS program officer, and representatives from the Office of General Counsel (OGC), the Performance Information Management Service (PIMS), and the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), among others, to produce and review privacy TA products.
PTAC Approach
The Privacy TA Center engages national experts from a variety of industries and federal agencies to bring their experience on technological issues regarding data security; legal issues regarding data sharing, access and use; policy issues regarding data governance processes; and statistical issues regarding the reporting and publishing of aggregate performance data.
PTAC Resources and Services
The Center provides timely information and updated guidance on privacy, confidentiality, and security practices through a variety of resources, including training materials and opportunities to receive direct assistance with privacy, security, and confidentiality of longitudinal data systems. The following set of resources is presented as best practices for ensuring the confidentiality and security of personally identifiable information and to help promote compliance with FERPA:
  • "Privacy Toolkit” that serves as a centralized depository for the most up-to-date information available to guide stakeholders looking to improve the security, confidentiality, and privacy of education data. Toolkit materials include:
    • Issue Briefs, White papers, Security Checklists, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and an annotated List of the Commonly Used Sources;
    • Training Materials for data administrators and data users, including Webinars and Presentations given at Regional Meetings and Conferences; and
    • Links to other relevant Sources outside of PTAC.
  • Technical Assistance Site Visits to state and local education agencies to provide hands-on support for establishing and reviewing security policy, data governance, FERPA compliance, staff training, and related topics.
  • Regional meetings and lessons learned forums for education stakeholders.
  • Support Center, including an interactive Help Desk, offering assistance via phone or email.