Skip to Content

Submissions :: Protocol review process :: Expedited/Exempt Review :: Exemption :: Archival Data :: Private records :: Student Data

Student Data: Classroom Data and Student Records

Schools and classrooms are special environments protected by particular rules and regulations. In many cases, you will be required to use de-identified data in order to protect student confidentiality. Student records and the collection of materials or exams from previous classes are typical archival data sources for education research.

Classroom data: The following refers to data that were collected in a previous semester or class as part of the normal classroom activity.  For example, if a researcher wanted to compare scores on a math test given to second graders at the end of the second grade year versus their scores on the same test take at the beginning of the third grade year, and the test was given as part of the school’s routine schedule prior to beginning the study, the tests are archival data. These materials are not considered public data, so in order to qualify for exemption, it is necessary that the data are collected in a way that does not identify the individual student. The Board typically asks that a neutral third party link the data to a random code and then strip the identifying information from the data.  The neutral third party should be someone who has access to the data outside of the research study.  For example, a teacher (who is not the researcher), teacher’s assistant, or school administrators are likely candidates. If the teacher and researcher are the same, the teacher has access to this information because of his professional position, but he or she does not have access to it as a researcher. A neutral third party must strip the data of identifiers and/or obtain consent from the students and parents (if the students are minors) to use the data if you are unable to create a de-identified data set.

Student Records: In addition to federal regulations regarding private records, state and federal regulations exist to specifically protect the privacy of student records. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Virginia State Code 22.1-287 place limitations on access to student educational records.  Researchers, who would not normally have reason or permission to access a student’s educational record, may not access that student’s educational record without prior parental permission.  Under certain circumstances, the researcher may request that the school provide de-identified data from student educational records as long as students cannot be identified or deduced from the data set.  In this case, the data are linked and stripped of identifying information by a third party who has normal access to the data (such as a school administrator).  Such data sets qualify for exemption under CFR 45 part 46.101.b(4). Please be advised that counties and school administrations also have authority to create policy for student record access, so you should check with a school administrator before submitting your protocol. If your study involves student records and is outside of Virginia, you should research the applicable state laws as well. For more information on this topic, please see Student Records in the Research in an Educational Setting section.

Previous :: Medical records and HIPAA
Next :: Return to Expedited/ Exempt Research