Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Data Access Page for Researchers

This page describes the criteria by which qualified researchers can request access to student-level data from the California Department of Education (CDE).

Data Requests - Access to Education Data

The California Department of Education (CDE) collects and publicly reports information about California students at the school, district, county, and state levels. This information can be accessed through the Data Reports by Topic webpage. For data that is not publicly available, this portal provides guidance for qualified researchers to make data requests to the CDE that are aligned with our research priorities and compliant with data privacy laws, as well as to other state agencies who are able to act as CDE’s authorized representative to conduct an audit or evaluation of a state or federal education program).

Access to Student-level Data | Law and Regulations | Personally Identifiable Information and Non- Personally Identifiable Information | Resources |

Access to Student-level Data

Qualified Researchers

The CDE is authorized to make education records available for selected research projects that meet the restrictions, limitations and conditions imposed by both California and federal law. In accordance with California Education Code section 49079.5, longitudinal education data may be disclosed to qualified researchers from nonprofit organizations (including other state agencies), in order to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional materials, strategies and approaches for educating different types of pupils while appropriately protecting the privacy of individual pupils. In addition, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires the researcher to conduct such research for or on behalf of the CDE and to enter into an agreement specifying details of the study collaboration, limiting the use and disclosure of the data, and requiring the destruction of the data when no longer needed for the research.

Individuals and organizations meeting these requirements may fill out a research application for CDE’s review and approval. Organizations will need to identify a principal investigator with satisfactory credentials to be responsible for the research. If an application is approved, the research organization must execute an Authorized Representative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) governing the conduct of the research and data protection measures to be taken before the data may be disclosed to the requestor. This process may take several months to complete. The CDE is required by law to charge the research organization fees for the CDE’s costs of responding to time-intensive requests. Such fees are further detailed below.

Access for All Others

An individual, organization or research project that does not meet the foregoing research requirements is generally ineligible to receive student-level education data from the CDE under the state and federal data privacy laws (see below). However, the CDE has prepared research-quality, de-identified Downloadable Data Files that anyone may review, in addition to de-identified, publicly available data reports on DataQuest (CA Dept of Education). For information about publicly available data resources, please see Accessing Publicy Available Data web page.

Definitions and Guidance
  1. Family Education Rights and Privacy Act External link opens in new window or tab. (FERPA), (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, allowing disclosure only in certain circumstances.
  2. Authorized Representative means an individual or organization that is authorized in writing to represent the CDE. Qualified researchers must sign an Authorized Representative MOU with the CDE acknowledging that the research is conducted “for, or on behalf of,” the CDE and agreeing to conduct the research in collaboration with the CDE, rather than independently, before student data may be disclosed for such research.
  3. Nonprofit has the meaning established by the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and set forth in FTB 927 Publication External link opens in new window or tab. | FTB website External link opens in new window or tab. , summarized as follows:

An entity that both:

  • meets the criteria for nonprofit status as described by the State of California Franchise Tax Board in FTA 927 Publication; and
  • has received a determination of tax-exempt or an acknowledgment of tax-exempt from the Franchise Tax Board.

For the avoidance of doubt, tax-exempt for-profit entities do not meet the definition of non-profit. Requestors may be asked to provide a copy of their FTB documentation so that CDE program staff will verify the nonprofit status of each applicant on the FTB web site and may require articles of incorporation, bylaws or other documentation to establish eligibility.

Minimum Qualifications for Qualified Researchers

The CDE makes case-by-case determinations regarding each research request, but, as general guidance, the following minimum qualifications should be exceeded:

  • The research is conducted by employees of:
    • Universities and non-profit institutions; or
    • Other California state agencies or other qualified governmental entities.
  • The Principal Investigator (PI) for the research team:
    • has obtained a doctoral level degree (i.e., PhD, EdD.)
    • has experience conducting education research and has published findings in scholarly journals or other professional venues.
    • has experience and capacity to analyze aggregate and unitary level student and/or teacher level data.
    • provides a professional resume or curriculum vitae to be attached to the project proposal in order to appropriately document the above criteria.

NOTE: In certain circumstances, such as a doctoral candidate dissertation, the PI qualifications may be waived at CDE’s discretion provided that the work is supervised by a Professor having such qualifications.

  • The proposed project:
    • Must have a purpose “to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional materials, strategies and approaches for educating different types of pupils while appropriately protecting the privacy of individual pupils,” as required by California Education Code Section 49079.5, and to either develop, validate or administer predictive tests, to administer student aid programs or to improve instruction, as required by FERPA.
    • Must be fully conceptualized and described in detail with all required information included in the Concept Paper Guidelines web page.
    • Must be designed to address one or more of the CDE Research Priorities web page.
    • Must be sponsored or otherwise supported by the CDE program office or division expected to be most impacted and informed by the proposed research.
    • Must not duplicate another research project that has been conducted in the last five years, with the exception of approved replication studies. A list of research projects can be found at Archived Data Requests web page.
    • Must store, maintain and use all data in systems with security protocols in place to safely and securely store personally identifiable information (PII).
    • Must not to be conducted with individuals or organizations associated with a data security breach in the past five years.
    • Must use data currently available at the CDE which may be disclosed to qualified researchers under all federal and state laws.
    • Must not comingle data from other sources, unless approved by the CDE under a formal data sharing agreement. If the source of comingled data is another Cradle To Career (C2C) participating agency, all agencies whose data is to be comingled with CDE data would also have to approve the project in writing and the CDE could require access to comingled data be made through the managing entity of the C2C system.
    • Must address research questions that are explicit, clear, well-articulated, and are designed to yield valid and reliable results.
    • Must request data that aligns to the research questions and the methodology will use the data in a manner approved by CDE that results in a valid, reliable measurement of the proposed research project.
    • Must address important research questions that cannot be answered and/or addressed with publicly available data.
    • Must be conducted by an organization with in-house legal counsel familiar with data privacy laws, including FERPA.

Please note that the CDE is a public state agency and as such, the approval status of all data requests (i.e., PII and non-PII), once fulfilled or denied, will be publicly posted on the Archived Data Requests web page. All communications with the department from requestors may be considered public records.

Laws and Regulations

All data requestors seeking to use CDE data must be familiar with, and comply with, state and federal laws pertaining to data security and confidentiality. Data requests must be managed in accordance with all applicable federal and state privacy laws detailed below.
Federal Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Data Privacy and Access
Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA ) (20 U.S.C. Section 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1758; 7 CFR Section 245.6) is a federal law that limits the use or disclosure of a family's or child's name and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) information.
California Education Code
Besides federal laws and regulations, California law stipulates additional restrictions around student data privacy and access.
California Information Practices Act, Civil Code Section 1798.24 requires government agencies to protect the privacy of personal information maintained by state agencies.
EC Section 49079.5 states the intent of the Legislature regarding accessibility of statewide longitudinal education data.
EC Section 49079.7 requires the CDE to impose reasonable fees upon researchers applying for access to individually personally identifiable information in order to cover costs of responding to time-intensive request.
EC Section 49558 limits the use and disclosure of NSLP information.
EC Section 60641(a)(2) prohibits the comparison of scores and results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments and the scores and results from assessments that measured previously adopted content standards.

Personally Identifiable Information and Non- Personally Identifiable Information

The CDE is authorized to enter into select agreements with qualified researchers at nonprofit organizations, universities, colleges, and community colleges to conduct studies for or on behalf of the CDE using CDE supplied Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Non-PII that is not publicly available. PII includes a student's name and/or other direct personal identifiers, such as the student's identification number as well as indirect identifiers, such as the name of the student's parents, guardians or other family members; the student's or family's address; and personal characteristics or other information that alone or in combination with other information can be used to distinguish or trace the identity of an individual.


Data Privacy: Additional information about data privacy is available on the CDE Data Privacy web page.

Data Reports by topic: Additional information about California educational data, state and federal accountability, and statewide assessments can be found on the CDE Data Reports By Topic - Accessing Educational Data (CA Dept of Education) webpage.

Questions: CDE Data Request Team | | 916-319-0869 
Last Reviewed: Friday, October 13, 2023
Trending in Data Requests
Recently Posted in Data Requests
No items posted in the last 60 days.