Turning the Principle of Participation into Practice: Empowering Parents to Engage on Data and Tech

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Laird at Responsible Data for Children: “Two years into the pandemic, questions about parental rights in school have taken center stage in public debates, particularly in school board meetings and state houses across the United States. Not surprisingly, this extends to the use of data and technology in schools.

CDT recently released research that found that parental concerns around student privacy and security protection have risen since the spring, growing from 60% in February 2021 to 69% in July 2021. Far from being ambivalent, we also found that parents and students expressed eagerness to play a role in decisions about technology and data but indicate these desires are going unmet. Most parents and students want to be consulted but few have been asked for input: 93% of surveyed parents feel that schools should engage them regarding how student data is collected and used, but only 44% say their school has asked for their input on these issues.

While much of this debate has focused on the United States and similar countries, these issues have global resonance as all families have a stake in how their children are educated. Engaging students and families has always been an important component of primary and secondary education, from involving parents in their children’s individual experiences to systemic decision-making; however, there is significant room for improvement, especially as it relates to the use of education data and technology. Done well, community engagement (aligned with the Participatory principle in the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative) is a two-way, mutually beneficial partnership between public agencies and community members in which questions and concerns are identified, discussed, and decided jointly. It benefits public agencies by building trust, helping them achieve their mission, and minimizing risks, including community pushback. It helps communities by assisting agencies to better meet community needs and increasing transparency and accountability.

To assist education practitioners in improving their community engagement efforts, CDT recently released guidance that focuses on four important steps…(More)”.