FERPA Information for use of Educational Records in Research

Those who wish to obtain data from educational records beyond directory information, for the purposes of research, are generally limited to three options:

1. The researcher may contact and obtain written consent for each individual (or their parents) whose records will be accessed for research purposes;

2. A school official with legitimate access (other than the researcher) may strip the records of any identifying information and provide the data to the researcher; or

3. The holder of the record may invoke an exception to FERPA in order to release the records to the researcher.

When planning to conduct research involving educational records, the FERPA exception letter should be submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) along with the IRB application.

  • In most cases involving educational records held by elementary and secondary schools, this letter should come from the school district’s superintendent.
  • The University Registrar is usually the official from whom this letter should come for research involving educational records held by a university.

The use of personal, identifiable data for research purposes must always be approved by the IRB prior to the researcher obtaining access to such data.