According to Education Weekly, a collaboration between schools and afterschool programs facilitates extends and enhances student learning.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows schools and afterschool programs to access student records as long as it's in the best interests of the students. Data and metrics help determine the effectiveness of programming and afterschool's impacts on graduation rates, an essential metric for educational services.
Data sharing also maximizes learning and community success. Leaders can use shared information to make informed decisions about the direction and future of the school district and afterschool programs.
Gain Permission Before Sharing
Although FERPA allows data sharing under specific circumstances, ask parents for permission before sharing their child's educational data, even if it’s within the same organization. FERPA doesn't directly address data sharing and exchanges between schools and afterschool programs, but it outlines ways schools can share data, depending on circumstances.
Schools must do the following:
- Specify the education records that the school may disclose.
- State the purpose of the disclosure.
- Identify the party or parties to whom the school makes a disclosure.
The most common way schools share personally identifiable student data is through written parental consent and official school exceptions. You will likely have the best results by asking parents to opt out of data sharing. Many school systems find few parents utilize the option, and the practice allows you to share data until and unless the parent takes action to rescind the permission.
A FERPA exception can also be used to share data between schools and afterschool programs. A school official exception allows schools to outsource institutional services or functions involving educational record disclosure under specific circumstances. An afterschool program can be considered a school official in these cases, as long as it includes:
- Performing as an institutional service or function for which the school would otherwise use employees
- Direct control of the school concerning the use and maintenance of the records
- Agreements not to disclose data to another party
- Agreements to only use the information for the purposes specified by the reasons for disclosure
- Meeting the criteria for the school’s annual notification of FERPA rights for being a school official with a legitimate educational interest
Maintain total transparency about the type of data and the purpose for sharing. Present it to parents as a way to maximize student success. Consider offering a publicly available list of afterschool programs with which the school shares student information.
Streamline data sharing by ensuring the data systems integrate or share easily between the school district and the afterschool program. Use a software solution that quickly passes data between the organizations without human intervention. EZChildTrack, for example, seamlessly integrates with EZReports, allowing for painless information sharing.
With a high level of communication, you can reduce administration time and effort in data entry and reduce errors. A compatible system streamlines data use, providing results quickly and easily.
Establish a Policy for Data Sharing
Develop a written policy and process for sharing data between the school and afterschool programs. It should include the requirements for requesting and approving the afterschool program that can receive the information and identifying the appropriate FERPA exception.
A written agreement can help both parties understand their obligations and responsibilities, including liability and control.
Train Providers and Support Audits
As you implement data sharing and optimization, train providers and staff in best practices for data sharing and operating any data management solution to achieve optimal results.
By offering training, you can ensure everyone understands how to use the system and utilizes it the same way. Most importantly, you can show staff and teachers which data types should not be shared between the systems.
FERPA has audit/evaluation exceptions that let schools designate a third party as an authorized representative for an audit or evaluation of a federal or state-funded education program. As long as both organizations include a written agreement limiting what the afterschool program can do with the information, the afterschool program can assist with and use information from audits and evaluations of its services.
Personalize Student Assistance and Support
When a school and the afterschool program can share information about each student, you can personalize support services and tutoring assistance. One size fits all teaching is often the source of student difficulties. With more insight into how students are performing in school, afterschool program directors can adjust their services to meet each child's most pressing academic needs.
Personalization optimizes time management to provide the best experience for each student. FERPA allows data sharing for several purposes:
- Improving instruction
- Administering, validating, or developing predictive tests
- Administering student aid programs
As each of these points supports the overall educational initiative while maintaining data privacy, you can fulfill your data requirements while complying with federal and state regulations.
Data sharing supports school and afterschool collaboration but requires federal law compliance. Once you have satisfied regulatory compliance, remain transparent about the information you share and why you share it.
Train all providers on the data sharing system and support audits and policies for both school and afterschool programs. When you elect to share data, look for interoperable software solutions to make it fast and easy to serve all stakeholders.
For more information about school and afterschool management software solutions, and how data sharing could benefit your program, contact our team at EZChildTrack.