STATS-DC – session – Best Practices and Public Data

Date: July 28, 2011 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on STATS-DC – session – Best Practices and Public Data

This blog post is designed to pull some of the different themes from two different sessions.  The first “Best Practices in Linking PK-12 ad Higher Education Data” was a more technology based discussion and the second was a session on NCES data that are available.

The first session focused on the best practice winners from the annual PESC best practices competition.  Lately there has been a strong trend toward best practices that are submitted which focus on linking the work of K-12 with the needs and work of postsecondary researchers. 

This session primarily focused on the underlying data architecture that is required to “link” the data.  By migrating away from EDI and replacing with XML but still retaining a common architecture the data are able to be used more broadly while ensuring greater quality.

Data interoperability is a significant issue.  As a primary research company, IQS Research is fortunate to be able to gather the vast majority of the information we need for our studies.  However, when working with education research there are huge opportunities when we can link our primary research findings, on the individual respondent level, to performance data within the education system.  Furthermore, if those educational performance data are interlinked such that we can trace a student across state lines, across universities, etc, we are able to heighten the data we provide.

These data are currently being analyzed and compared at the aggregate and strata level, but further interoperability ensures that we can drill down to the student level in most cases. That will allow us the ability to identify attitudes and behaviors at the individual level and compare those to the self-reported information for purposes of building regression models and defining predictors for success.

Even though we cannot directly link our data to this information there is still a lot of great secondary research data available to the public at  Under their data tools tab and their surveys and programs tab there are a myriad of studies and data that can be accessed.  Many of these are longitudinal in nature and track students from elementary into their careers (different studies).

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STATS-DC – session – Privacy Considerations in Educational Databases

Date: July 27, 2011 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on STATS-DC – session – Privacy Considerations in Educational Databases

Privacy Considerations in Educational Databases: What’s the Big Deal?

As states continue to build and develop State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) the issue of privacy continues to grow.  Managing the privacy and confidentiality of these data will be crucial to ensuring that we researchers can continue to perform our jobs effectively.

Kathleen Styles, Chief Privacy Office, Department of Education is giving the opening keynote session.

Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) governs the control of the identifiers for much of the data we researchers use when working with education data. In looking at the comments around the new changes coming to FERPA it surprises me how much is misunderstood about privacy by those who are not in the world of research.

Privacy is also different from confidentiality.  Privacy deals with what is known about a person and confidentiality deals with restricting that information once it is known.  Oddly enough, politically speaking, the far right and far left seem to have similarly conservative opinions about privacy.

Not surprisingly, the ability to identify people has evolved significantly over the years. Currently there is a system that will identify a person when they are on the web, based on their behavior (keystroking, tabbing, entering, etc).  This is said to be about 75% accurate.  However, the identification still lacks a key piece of information – the specific name of the person identified.

Interesting note, the American Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)  is a system that has the fingerprints of – get this – criminals and federal employees.  Okay…I’ll let you insert your own jokes as you see fit.

Some of the biggest issues around data privacy and confidentiality deal with “data repurposing”.  That is when data used for one purpose may be completely ethical but the same data used for another purpose is completely unethical.  Think about medical data that could be used to understand a particular illness (probably good) but the same data could also be repurposed to deny employment (not necessarily good).

Interesting comment from the speaker – most statistical agencies and organizations have a culture of confidentiality.  At the same time, every data breach has a human element.

Great work taking place at the National Center for Education Statistics to help ensure the confidentiality and privacy of data being collected on students.  As the technology continues to change the challenge will continue to grow.  Glad to know Ms. Styles is heading the charge to protect these data.

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Date: July 27, 2011 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on STATS-DC 2011

STATS-DC 2011 starts in a few hours and runs through Friday.  I am up here with Dr. Bob Rodosky, Executive Director of Research and Planning for JCPS to present a session called 55,000 More Degrees – Assessing the Barriers to Postsecondary Education to Close the Gap on Educational Attainment.

Loving the feel of this conference and it hasn’t even officially started.  Already engaged in multiple conversations about statistics about data analysis.  This place is like Candyland for data geeks!

While I am here I will be blogging about a few of the sessions.  In addition, I will post the handouts from mine and Bob’s session when it is complete.  Feel free to comment and check back often during the 2 days to see the updates.

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