New FERPA Regulations Seek to Balance Privacy with Flexibility

Late last week the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). These long anticipated regulations seek to “safeguard student privacy while giving states the flexibility to share school data that can be helpful in judging the effectiveness of government investments in education.” The amended regulations will take effect on January 3, 2012.

The new FERPA regulations expand access to data in a variety of ways. First, they broaden the types of individuals or entities that can receive data for evaluation or audit purposes. This will allow states to link data across sectors, such as education and workforce, so that state departments of education can disclose data to state departments of labor or workforce to be used to evaluate education programs such as those supported by the Perkins Act.

Second, the regulations allow postsecondary institutions to disclose data to K-12 agencies with the purpose of evaluating how well the K-12 system has prepared students for postsecondary education. This is a change from the previous interpretation of FERPA which held that data could be disclosed only to evaluate or audit programs of the disclosing agency.

Finally, the new regulations broaden the definition of “education program” in the context of evaluation and auditing to mean any program that is principally engaged in the provision of education, including, career and technical education, adult education, and job training. Note that this definition includes not only programs administered by an education agency, but education programs administered by any entity. This reinforces the reality that not all education programs are administered by a state education agency, but may be overseen by a state labor or workforce agency.

For more information, there are two webinars scheduled for this week:

  • December 7th at 2:00 p.m. EST the U.S. Department of Education will host FERPA 101: Basic FERPA for Educational Entities. This webinar will provide a basic overview of the FERPA regulations. While it is primarily geared towards school officials at the local level, the information presented will be useful for SEA officials as well who need to better understand FERPA. Click link to register.
  • December 9th at noon EST the Data Quality Campaign will host Analysis of the New FERPA Regulations that will provide an in-depth analysis of the final FERPA regulations and discuss their implications for states’ efforts moving forward. Register now.


Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

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