Common Questions about Privacy in TSDS

What information does TSDS collect about students? 


Under the Texas Education Code (TEC), section 42.006, originally passed in 1995, the Texas Legislature requires TEA to collect a range of student data via the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) program that is used as the basis for education policy decisions, for accountability and determining school funding, and--on a strictly FERPA-compliant basis--for education research.

The data includes staff, student, budget, and organization data. For the complete list of the data collected under PEIMS, see the Texas Education Data Standards, especially Section 8.3.

Other Collections

In addition to the state's main data collection, PEIMS, some smaller collections, like the Early Childhood Data System are being folded into TSDS. These other collections exist in response to state or federal mandates, often to provide accountability for grants or other funding.

Why does TSDS collect this information? 

The Texas Legislature requires the collection of PEIMS and other data to determine school accountability ratings, to provide an empirical foundation for education policy decisions, and as the basis for many aspects of school funding (in combination with data from TEA's Foundation School Program).  For example, school attendance, special education populations, and percent of economically disadvantaged students all affect the rate at which an LEA is funded.  

In addition, researchers use aggregated, FERPA-compliant slices of the data to identify education factors that help students achieve more.

TEC §42.006 requires that PEIMS:

  1. Provides useful, accurate, and timely information on student demographics and academic performance, personnel, and school district finances;
  2. Contains only the data necessary for the legislature and the agency to perform their legally authorized functions in overseeing the public education system; and
  3. Does not contain any information related to instructional methods, except as provided by Section 29.066 or required by federal law.

How is the information in TSDS protected?

The protection of student and staff privacy is a top priority for TEA, and TSDS data is protected in a number of ways.

  1. FERPA and HIPAA compliance - TEA is legally required to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1992 (HIPPA), which prohibit the exposure of personally identifiable student information and medical data. This means that data that is made available to legislators, researchers, and the general public is aggregated or combined so that no individual's data can be discerned. 
  2. No data is ever sold to or shared with other organizations or entities, unless mandated. Only data that is required for reporting purposes is ever sent to federal agencies. TSDS data will never be sold to or shared with third-party vendors.
  3. Support access - Staff and private companies that provide LEAs with support for TSDS are required to sign data use agreements limiting how, when, and why they can access data. LEAs must provide explicit, logged authorization through our issue management system when they need technical help that requires data access from TEA, ESC, or vendor staff. This access is then granted on a temporary basis until the issue is resolved.  All access to the system is logged for audit purposes.
  4. TEA's security system is designed to ensure that users only ever have access to the data that is appropriate to them.  For example, a teacher can only see studentGPS® Dashboard data for the students in his or her class; TEA program areas can only see PEIMS data when it has been certified by the LEAs and has been aggregated for FERPA compliance; and superintendents can control which categories and subcategories of data individual PEIMS admins at their LEAs can load and validate.
  5. TEA's Data Governance policies mandate external oversight of what data is collected and how. Representatives from the LEAs and ESCs review proposed changes to the data collections as well as performing regular sunset reviews of data currently being collected to ensure that TSDS only includes necessary data.

Do you share any personal information from TSDS with third parties? 

No data is ever sold to or shared with third parties, unless mandated. TEA is subject to state and federal mandates that require sending data to state and federal organizations for compliance purposes.

As discussed above, support staff also have limited access to the data for support purposes only, and they are bound by legal agreements that are backed by extensive logging and audit capabilities.

TEA does share anonymous, aggregated data with the public in support of each citizen's right to understand how state money is being spent and how the education system is performing. This data is available in report form to the public via the Texas Public Education Information Resource (TPEIR) website; individuals may also request custom queries for specific research purposes, although this custom data is also subject to FERPA and HIPAA.

Federal Reporting

At a high level, the following types of information are required to be reported to the federal government:

  • Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status on reading/language arts, math, and graduation rate or attendance
  • Student enrollment data and PEIMS financial data for federal title funding allocations
  • Free and reduced price lunch
  • Special education data, including graduation rate, leavers, disability, ethnicity, and discipline data
  • Immigrants and migrant data
  • Career and technical education graduates and leavers
  • High school graduation, leavers, dropouts
  • Students disciplined, discipline incidents, suspensions and expulsions, incidents with firearms
  • Limited English Proficiency enrollment
  • Grades offered
  • Staff FTEs
  • Charter schools