Common Sense Education Teams with over 40 School Districts Nationwide to Evaluate Edtech Privacy in K-12 Market

Information Security Primer Marks Beginning of Major Initiative to Ensure Student Data Privacy and Simplify Standards

Common Sense Media
Monday, March 7, 2016

SXSWedu™ (Austin, Texas) - In collaboration with 40 school districts around the country, Common Sense Education today announced the launch of the Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative to help schools evaluate the privacy and information security practices of educational technology used in K-12 classrooms. In the first phase of a multi-year commitment, Common Sense will release the "Information Security Primer for Evaluating Educational Software" to help districts review and apply a common set of privacy standards to the applications they use. By establishing a uniform set of practices and testing steps, this primer simplifies the process of evaluating basic information security practices in educational software applications. The Primer will be available April 1st on Common Sense Graphite at

The Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative began in 2014 when a group of school districts, including Fairfax County Public Schools and Houston Independent School District, approached Common Sense to address the complex and varied privacy policies of technology used in K-12 classrooms. Now, in partnership with a larger consortium of districts, Common Sense is developing a sustainable approach to evaluating thousands of educational applications. By unifying the efforts of geographically separate school districts, this initiative will help the K-12 educational software industry simplify and standardize privacy policies according to legal statute and FTC guidelines, as well as data handling best practices.

"We are thrilled to align with some of the most forward-looking school districts in the country to establish strong and transparent privacy standards that protect students, and at the same time, enable edtech companies to do what they do best—innovate programs that inspire students to create and learn," said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense.

Common Sense Education undertook this privacy initiative with the funding support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2015, Common Sense hired an experienced team to spearhead the project and has been working steadily to create a robust system that can be accessed by schools and vendors alike.

"The expertise of our partner districts, and their day-to-day experience evaluating software and working with vendors, grounds this work in the realities faced by students and teachers using technology," says Bill Fitzgerald, Director of the Privacy Evaluation Initiative. "We are working together to create accessible and straightforward criteria that district leaders, teachers, students, parents, and vendors can readily understand."

The Information Security Primer will be the first component released by the Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative. The Primer will be freely available under a Creative Commons (CC) license.

"Vetting the online services that teachers and students use is very important, but also complex and time consuming. There's no simple 'nutrition label' for the security, privacy and safety of edtech services. In coming together with Common Sense Education on evaluation tools, like the Information Security Primer and checklist, schools can adopt common good practices and share information," said Jim Siegl, Technology Architect for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

"This privacy initiative has been a tremendous opportunity to collaborate with district colleagues from across the country and will set the stage to support the integration of technology into our classrooms," stated Beatriz Arnillas of Houston Independent School District. Houston represents 283 schools, which use over a million digital learning objects to provide differentiated education to 215,000 students.

For more information on student data privacy and related issues, check out

About Common Sense Education
Common Sense Education provides teachers and schools with free research-based classroom tools to help students harness technology for learning and life. Our K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum and interactive games teach students how to make safe, smart, and ethical decisions in the digital world. Our educational rating platform, Common Sense Graphite™, helps educators discover, use, and share high-quality digital products that propel student learning. Common Sense Education works with more than 300,000 teacher members in nearly 100,000 schools to help ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive in the 21st Century. To see all of Common Sense Media's education resources, visit


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