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Forsyth County Schools

Managing Student Data Privacy: How One District is Doing it Right

Every school district is faced with a choice about how to protect student data. As districts have implemented more technology to support digital learning, student privacy in schools has become a critical issue. It can be a huge undertaking to vet and manage the privacy policies of all of the online resources used in a district. Even with good intentions, most districts do not have adequate protection and are vulnerable to a data breach. These breaches are becoming more common as districts struggle to keep up with technology. Here is the story of one district that is doing it right. They are effectively supporting their student data privacy policy with a comprehensive privacy management tool.

Forsyth County Schools

District administrators and school board members in Forsyth County, Georgia were committed to protecting the data privacy of their nearly 50,000 students. They were actively searching for an enterprise data privacy solution that would allow their teachers and schools to be autonomous in finding and selecting safe applications for use in the classroom. They were specifically looking for a tool that would give local school personnel the ability to independently find online resources that are FERPA and COPPA compliant. The district team learned about EdPrivacy by Education Framework when it was featured as a 2018 NSBA Education Technology Innovation Showcase award winner at the National School Board Association annual conference.  

Like most districts, Forsyth County Schools does not have a large enough IT staff to conduct the labor intensive evaluation of every digital tool and learning resource used in classrooms throughout the district. District leaders and school board members were already searching for a comprehensive, cost-effective solution to automate this process when they learned about EdPrivacy. After watching a demo, Forsyth knew EdPrivacy was the solution they were looking for, but they needed it to integrate with their SSO solution—Classlink. 

Education Framework welcomed the opportunity to partner with Forsyth and developed the integration they needed for Classlink, which is now available to all districts that use Classlink as their SSO software. Forsyth educators now have access to more than 10,000 digital resources in the EdPrivacy database, and can order a privacy evaluation for new digital tools and programs at any time. New evaluations are provided within 24-48 weekday hours of each request.

Since the EdPrivacy database has such an extensive library of approved educational resources, the district has been able to give teachers guidelines and greater latitude in choosing tools and learning resources to support their curriculum. Also, the district’s professional development program has spurred adoption and implementation of EdPrivacy throughout the district.  

Highlights after EdPrivacy’s first year in Forsyth include:

  • 1,112 teachers are using the system
  • 8,356 searches have been completed in the EdPrivacy database
  • Users are advocates as they help teachers and administrators use the system
  • Vendor privacy policies are vetted and continuously monitored for changes 
  • Quick turnaround on new edtech privacy vetting requests 
  • 80% return on investment (ROI) on Forsyth’s student data privacy efforts 

Forsyth’s ROI for Protecting Student Data Privacy

The time spent on vetting the privacy of each online resource varies from 30 minutes for a trained person to multiple hours for an untrained individual. Using 30 minutes as a conservative calculation, Forsyth’s 8,356 searches in the EdPrivacy database saved them the equivalent of two FTE, or two full-time employees, using the district’s average salaries. If the vetting activity averaged an hour each, then the district has saved the equivalent of four full time employees. After one school year, Forsyth has experienced an 80% return on their investment in EdPrivacy.

In addition to this significant savings, Forsyth now has confidence that they have ensured the ongoing protection of their student’s personally identifiable information. Forsyth educators benefit from the expanding database of approved digital resources and the monitoring of privacy policies on an ongoing basis. And districts are notified via automatic updates of any changes in the privacy policies.

School data breaches are becoming more common, so there is an urgency for districts to do everything they can to safeguard student information. The protection that EdPrivacy provides educators in Forsyth County is unique. No other student data security platform uses machine learning-based artificial intelligence to vet vendor privacy policies and ensure that they are continually monitored for changes. This 24/7 protection assures districts and school boards that they are providing the most comprehensive protection available for their students’ personal data.