Education Department Develops Strategy for Student-Record Databases

February 11, 2010

The Obama administration is stepping up its drive to compile detailed records on all students from preschool through adult employment, forming a panel of "national experts" to find ways of creating such databases while resolving political and legal concerns over privacy.

The Bush administration tried to form such a student-record database on the national level, believing schools and colleges would perform better if they had detailed lifetime feedback on the successes and failures of their students.

But Congress blocked the nationwide effort, in large part because of objections from private colleges, and instead allocated money to encourage states to build their own systems. Now the Obama administration is trying to coordinate those state efforts while complying with privacy laws on both the state and federal levels.

A panel of 20 to 30 experts convened by the Education Department is meeting this month and plans within two months to issue a set of specific recommendations for use by state officials in assembling databases that will include records of individual student performance throughout their educational and job careers. The department has asked the "task force of national experts to identify ways to share information with the public while protecting individual privacy," said a department spokesman, Justin Hamilton. --Paul Basken