Education Researchers Get Easier Access to Data
UT Dallas Center Establishes Remote Access System for Policy Studies
April 24, 2009
The UT Dallas’ Education Research Center (UTD-ERC) houses a wealth of data used for education policy research, and the center is now making this data more accessible through remote access.
Previously, approved research partners were required to travel to the UTD-ERC facility or work with an on-site research assistant to access data.
Two researchers with the Ray Marshall Center (RMC) have been the first researchers to use the remote system. Christopher King and Deanna Schexnayder are using the data as part of two research projects, “College Readiness, Transition, and Performance” and “An Analysis of Early Education Factors Associated with School Success in the Elementary Years.”
"This new remote access enables us to conduct research using these data at our own office without having to travel, thus reducing our costs,” Schexnayder said. “It also allows more than one member of our research team to work together on the project based on near-realtime quantitative results. While we would prefer to have the data files located in our office, this arrangement is the next best option for promoting efficiency in conducting our research."
The RMC is one of five UTD-ERC research partners approved by the Joint Advisory Board, the entity that oversees Texas’ designated ERCs, to access ERC data.
The UTD-ERC is one of three education research centers designated by the State of Texas in 2006 to conduct research that benefits education in Texas. It is administered by the staff at Texas Schools Project, an independent education research center founded in 1992, which is part of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas.
In developing the process for remote access, it was vital that it comply with Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations and even more stringent Texas ERC contractual regulations, which protect the privacy of students in Texas. “To ensure FERPA and ERC contractual compliance, individuals who have been granted remote access are not allowed to remove data from the server and must have their output reviewed before it leaves the site,” said Leigh Hausman, computer systems technologist for the UTD-ERC. “While the requirements are rigorous, they are important in protecting the privacy of the individuals represented in the data and the confidentiality of their educational records.”
In its review of the Texas ERCs in April 2008, the United States Department of Education said, “The Texas Education Agency and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board appear to have developed a model approach for the conduct of independent education research in accordance with FERPA requirements. . . . As such, we anticipate that the ERC approach will become the preferred method for conducting longitudinal educational research with State education data.”