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ERIC Number: EJ795531
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-May-9
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Huge Databases Offer a Research Gold Mine and Privacy Worries
Glenn, David
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n35 pA10 May 2008
Last month several news organizations reported on the emergence of "fusion centers"--vast data clearinghouses, operated by state law-enforcement agencies, that can instantly call up key personal information on anyone: telephone numbers, insurance records, family ties, and much more. Architects of the fusion centers say they are a long-overdue tool for combating crime and terrorism. Critics warn, however, that the centers are a menace to privacy and say they have been constructed at the state level to avoid the scrutiny that a single federal data system would attract. The fusion-center debate has an echo in the world of education research. Now that Congress has rejected the idea of a national "unit-record tracking" system for student data, scholars and policy analysts are tantalized by the possibility that states will beef up their own education-data centers. The most celebrated example is Florida, which began in 2001 to assemble a "data warehouse" that allows officials to track a person's progress from kindergarten through graduate school and beyond, including post-college wages and employment, military service, incarceration, and receipt of public assistance. Many researchers say that Florida's system, along with somewhat less ambitious education databases in Texas, Washington, and roughly a dozen other states, is a vital tool for assessing schools and colleges and helping them to improve. Researchers have used the new databases to study many issues, including which high-school math courses are most important for college success and how exposure to adjunct instructors affects student retention. The new education databases, however, create obvious challenges for protecting student privacy--which is one reason most states have been slow to build them. In March, the U.S. Department of Education proposed new Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations that might clarify the ground rules for the use of such databases, but it is far from certain that these new rules will make states more comfortable with the projects.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Higher Education
Audience: Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Florida
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act 1974