Why School Districts Need a Centralized Survey Platform

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The sheer volume of educational technology (edtech) tools used in schools today presents a significant challenge for both K-12 IT teams and school administrators. According to K12Dive, school districts used an average of a staggering 2,591 different ed tech tools in the 2022-2023 school year. This number only reflects officially sanctioned platforms; the reality is likely much higher when considering the use of free or unauthorized tools for surveys, assessments, or other purposes.  

The proliferation of edtech tools presents a challenge to IT and administrators because all of the data is essentially decentralized — personal identifiable information (PII) stashed away in any number of tools without proper access or administration. 

This decentralized approach to data collection creates a hidden minefield of potential security risks and compliance headaches for school districts. 

Unsupervised Survey Platforms: A Pandora’s Box of PII Liability 

PII encompasses any information that can be used to identify an individual, such as a student’s name, address, date of birth, or even a unique identifier generated by a specific platform. The collection and storage of PII is heavily regulated by federal laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA grants parents certain rights regarding their child’s educational records, and school districts have a legal obligation to protect this sensitive information. 

Relying on unauthorized or free survey platforms introduces a whole new set of risks. These platforms may lack the robust security measures needed to protect sensitive student information, potentially exposing the district to data breaches and hefty fines. 

Centralization is the Key to Data Collection Control 

The solution to this ever-growing challenge lies in centralization. School districts need a secure, centralized survey platform that allows all staff members to collect, manage, and store feedback data (likely including PII) in a FERPA-compliant manner. When your surveys contain PII — as they often do — platforms like Alchemer help mitigate security and compliance risks. 

Here’s how centralized feedback management helps schools mitigate the risks associated with collecting PII: 

  • Enhanced Security: A single, secure feedback platform minimizes the risk of data breaches by consolidating PII into a controlled environment. This reduces the number of access points for potential attackers and allows the district to implement robust security protocols to safeguard student information. 
  • Simplified Compliance: FERPA compliance becomes significantly easier with a centralized system. The district can easily track data access, monitor usage, and ensure PII is deleted according to retention schedules. This reduces the risk of costly legal ramifications for non-compliance. 
  • Improved Visibility and Control: Centralized platforms provide school districts with a clear view of all PII collected within the system. This allows administrators to identify and locate specific data points when needed, making it easier to respond to parental requests or manage student records during staff transitions. 

Alchemer: A Secure Enterprise Feedback Platform for the Entire District 

Alchemer offers a secure and user-friendly platform that can be used by everyone in your school district, from teachers to administrators, to collect feedback from students, staff, or parents in a way that is always secure. Alchemer proactively protects customer accounts and data from threats and breaches at every level, while complying with internationally recognized security and privacy regulations. 

Here’s what sets Alchemer apart: 

  • End-to-End Data Encryption: By default, Alchemer encrypts data at rest and data in transit for all customers to protect data from unauthorized disclosure. 
  • FERPA Compliance: Built with compliance in mind, Alchemer ensures your student data is protected according to FERPA regulations. Our platform also offers robust security measures, including data encryption and user audit logs. 
  • Account Access Management: Alchemer administrators can set the account access level for any user, ensuring data is only seen by people authorized to see it. Plus, you can manage account access with features like Single Sign-On (SSO), using SAML 2.0, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and role base access control (RBAC).  
  • Compliance Certifications: Alchemer is fully compliant with international certifications like ISO 27001 and SOC2 Type 2, and we are GDPR-compliant. 

Data security and compliance should be paramount in your school district. By adopting a centralized feedback platform like Alchemer to safely collect PII, school districts gain control over sensitive student information, ensure FERPA compliance, and ultimately protect the privacy of their students.  

Read the other blog posts in this series: 

Read more about Alchemer’s security and compliance

Learn more about Alchemer’s work in education

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