Jan 18 2019

Providers Rise to Meet the Challenge of K–12 Data Security

Network security tools are essential for K–12 schools as districts embrace data sharing and analysis.

As data becomes integral to K–12 education, administrators face new challenges to ensure they keep students’ information safe. 

Analysis of student data allows educators to identify at-risk students and implement further research into what does and does not work in the classroom. This data can also be used to create student profiles, which educators can use to enhance their personalized learning programs. 

“We’re creating individual learning profiles through which students will be able to see how they’re doing and performing against standards,” said Cameron Berube, executive director for teaching and learning for the Providence (R.I.) Public School District. “They and their teachers will have data that shows their strengths and their struggles and gives them more control of their own education.”

Despite these benefits, many districts’ infrastructures do not meet the standards of the Federal Trade Commission’s Principles of Fair Information Practice, which outline best practices to ensure student privacy and protection. The principles highlight five key points:

  1. Notice and Awareness: Parents, students and other users must be notified that district systems are collecting their data. 

  2. Choice and Consent: Students and parents must be made aware of why data is being collected and have the right to opt out. 

  3. Access and Participation: Users have the right to access their data and, if necessary, edit the information.

  4. Integrity and Security: All data must be properly secured through access controls, encryption and safe storage. 

  5. Enforcement and Redress: Compliance needs to be enforced so that the misuse of data has consequences.

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how K–12 IT leaders can mitigate cybersecurity risk.

3 Security Tools to Keep K–12 Student Data Safe

Ensuring top-quality data security has become a growing challenge over the years. In 2018, the education sector had 101 reported data breaches and 292 additional incidents, according to Verizon’s “2018 Data Breach Investigations Report.”

While the FTC’s principles provide guidelines for keeping student data safe, they can also create obstacles for schools. Keeping parents informed and verifying ownership of all data collected by third-party vendors is not impossible, but it can be very complex. Currently, several companies lead the way with offerings that address the diverse infrastructure challenges of data collection through enhanced interoperability.

  1. G Suite for Education: Google has confronted these issues head-on by signing on to the Future of Privacy Forum pledge, committing “to safeguard student personal information in services designed for use in schools.” Additionally, G Suite offers a privacy notice to help parents understand how data is being used. The platform is used by over 70 million teachers and students

  2. Cisco and Pure Storage FlashStack: With the FlashStack converged infrastructure data center from Cisco and Pure Storage, schools can utilize desktop virtualization to increase their data protection. In addition, the system offers compatibility with secure cloud platforms, including those from Cisco, VMware and OpenStack. The Colorado Department of Education, responsible for more than 900,000 students, saw faster service without performance concerns, reduced data center occupancy and stronger storage capabilities after implementing FlashStack. Steve Berryman, infrastructure manager for CDE, noted the impressive effectiveness of the system, which he says demonstrated top performance and reliability.

  3. Symantec Endpoint Protection Cloud: The Symantec Endpoint Protection Academic edition package includes SEP 14, an enterprise-grade threat protection program that can keep faculty and students safe, no matter what device they are using. On top of core offerings, such as firewall protection and application control, the package lets students safely enroll their personal devices without an IT administrator.


gradyreese/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT