Student Privacy

Why are data for some student groups not reported?

Certain data are not reported to protect student privacy. Care is taken to avoid disclosure of confidential information about small groups of students, either directly or indirectly. A group is considered small if the number of students in the group is five or less. Indirect disclosure occurs when data are reported both for all students in a group and for a large subset of this group leaving only a small subset not reported.

Data about groups larger than five are sometimes not reported to avoid possible indirect disclosure of confidential information about the smaller group.

For example, if we are reporting dropouts for Hispanic students in a school, then there would need to be more than 5 Hispanic students enrolled in that school.

We are concerned about both direct and indirect disclosure. Indirect disclosure occurs when data are reported both for all students in a group (e.g. students enrolled in grade 3) and for a large subset of this group (e.g. students without disabilities in grade 3) leaving only a small subset (e.g. students with disabilities in grade 3) not reported. A group is considered small if the number of students in the group is 1-5 students.

Two-Category Factors

Factors such as English proficiency, migrant, disability, and economic status each have two categories or student groups for reporting purposes. The rules applied to protect privacy are the same for these factors. To understand these rules consider, for example, that economic status has two categories: economically disadvantaged students and students who are not economically disadvantaged. If the number of students in grade 3 who are not economically disadvantaged is ten and the number of economically disadvantaged students in grade 3 is five, then we would not report data for either group, but we would report data for the total number of students enrolled in grade 3. If both the number of students who are not economically disadvantaged and the number of students who are economically disadvantaged include more than 5 students then we would report data for both groups and for the total. All two-category factors would be handled this way on school reports.

Factors with More than Two Categories

Factors with more than two categories are handled differently from two-category factors. Race/ethnicity, for example, is a six-category factor (A, B, H, I, W, and missing/invalid), and special rules apply.

For race/ethnicity, we would usually combine data for all categories where enrollment counts are small (5 or fewer) in a seventh category called "combined groups, small number." If the "combined groups, small number" category still does not include at least 6 students then we would throw in data for the "missing/invalid" category if the data for the "missing/invalid" category has not already been included in the "combined groups, small number" category. If the "combined groups, small number" category still does not include at least 6 students then throw in data for the next largest racial/ethnic group. If there is a tie, then we would throw in both of the tied groups.

FAY vs. Total Enrolled in School

For test scores, the highest priority is given to publicly reporting summaries for all students enrolled in a single school for the full prior academic year (FAY). This is because schools are held accountable for the performance of these FAY students. In some cases the difference between the number of "Students in This School" and number of "Students Enrolled FAY" will be five or fewer students. If data were reported for both groups then someone might be able to determine the performance of the small group of mobile students. In this case we report only the data for the "Students Enrolled FAY" and suppress the data for "Students in This School."

It will be rare that a school has fewer than 5 FAY students enrolled in a grade. But it does happen. In that case the total enrolled FAY data and all disaggregated FAY data would be suppressed.

Privacy and District-level Reporting

Privacy rules are relatively simple at the school compared to the district level because the only consideration at the school level is the number of students in each group at that school. Note that for district level reporting both the sizes of groups in the district and in each school of the district need to be considered.

In rare cases, district summary data might not include data for a school if the school data have been suppressed because the number of students enrolled is small (5 or fewer students). The most common "small school" example is the multi-district charter school created under 118.40(3)(c) where students are counted as part of the sending district.

In some cases, no results will be reported at the district level for a demographic group and in other cases results are reported but, to protect privacy, the results do not include data for all students in the group. The number of students included in results that are publicly reported will always equal all students in the group unless there are privacy concerns. Results should be interpreted with caution if the "number included in percents" is not equal or approximately equal to the number "enrolled" in the group.

For questions about this information, contact osamail@dpi.wi.gov