Is your student data safe and secure?

Gary FalconProduct Features, School Management

An important question facing all schools is how to collect and store student information.

Many small or new schools start by using spreadsheets for student data, controlled and maintained by a staff member, and manually updated as needed. Although this is easily implemented, it can carry security risks, and become difficult to manage once the school has grown and there is more information to keep up with.

And strategically, what can you do with all of that information once you’ve collected it?

These concerns are why many schools turn to school administration software, such as a student information system or learning management systems, to assist in storing and protecting student information.

Regardless of the system you have in place, there are some things to consider when deciding how to manage student data:

Is your data secure against loss?

With a spreadsheet or other local document, there’s always the risk of some kind of technology failure, leaving you and your staff unable to access this information and, in some cases, unable to operate professionally and efficiently. Whatever method you use for storing student data should have several levels of back-ups, so that data can be restored if lost.

Is your data secure against theft?

Schools are responsible (both professionally and legally) for ensuring that student data is safe and secure and only used by authorized staff for specific purposes. With a spreadsheet or other document, there is risk of data being stolen or accessed by unauthorized users via the literally thousands of security holes, malware, phishing attacks and other security threats identified every year. Such vulnerability can result in potential privacy violations for students and families.

Can data be shared, and if so, with whom?

If your data is centralized, is there a permissions system that controls who can see what data? For example, are teachers permitted to see performance data for every student, or only those who they teach? Are your school administrators and counselors able to drill-down to get a comprehensive view of every student?  When parents connect, are they seeing the assignments, grades and calendar specific to their own students?  And when the front office gets a new parent phone number, is that new number shared automatically to the right teachers? The best school management software addresses questions like these, and more.

How is your vendor protecting your data?

If you’re using school management software, what is the vendor’s commitment to data protection and privacy? Are they compliant with the Student Privacy Pledge and other data management best practices? Is their data privacy policy easy to find and understand? If using free or consumer-level services, who is footing the bill for your services? Does your vendor have rights to use, mine and/or sell your student data in exchange for your ‘free’ access?

As trusted stewards of student data, a school’s responsibility goes beyond just collecting names and addresses for internal use. Securing data against loss, theft, or other unauthorized use should be an integral part of any data storage method.

Want to learn more about how school administration software can help in the day-to-day operations of your school? Please download your checklist.