Friday, December 06, 2013

Education News Roundup (Student Data Privacy Edition)

I know that many of you do not read these Ed News Roundups.  I get it; there's a lot to do and read in a day.

But understand this is to let you know what the REST of the country is experiencing so that (1) we don't have these things happening to our state and our district and (2) we can learn what works and doesn't work.

My biggest fear is really two-fold.  One, that too many entities for not-so-good reasons will want access to more data.  The district has confirmed to me that MORE entities ARE asking for MORE data so this is not a "what if."   Every single provider and group does not need vast amounts of data in order to verify their work.  It is very troubling that this is already happening.

My other concern is a data mistake or breech. 

The story out of Chula Vista, California is one I hadn't even thought might happen and yet it did.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was to visit a middle school in that district.  The district wanted to spruce things up for his visit but where to find the money?  Selling off student data.

From the San Diego Reader:
Data-gathering has recently emerged as a primary concern for opponents of Common Core Standards and Common Core assessments. Federal laws governing privacy for student data were weakened in 2011. Across the nation, parents have expressed concern that student data will be shared with third parties.
Castle Park Middle School is a Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood school. Promise Neighborhoods are funded by the Department of Education and claim to offer “cradle to career” services. South Bay Community Services is the organization that oversees and distributes the $60 million government investment in Chula Vista.
On August 2 Principal Bleisch wrote to Alt: “By the way, FYI-SBCS [Promise Neighborhood/South Bay Community Services] is prepared to give my school a good chunk of change (over $100K of PN money allocated last year for staff that was not used.) The catch is that they are kinda using the data-sharing agreement as leverage.) They promised to expedite this money transfer as soon as we deliver on the data agreement."
“We sent Dr Brand the revised [data] agreement yesterday. He said it looked good. If there is any way you can help me get that signed I then can put the pressure on them to get me the money. I plan to use this money for the stage and other things needed for the 9/13 visit.”
On August 5, Bleisch wrote Alt a reminder. The subject of the email is “Data-Sharing.”
“Just a kind reminder if you can help us get this data-sharing agreement signed.” FYI-They’re [reference to South Bay Community Services] holding up money until I deliver on this [smiley face] need this PN money to pay $17k for a new stage and $3000 Flags, $5000 cafeteria college banners for Arne’s visit. (The revised agreement is signed and forwarded.)”
It's a terrible thing for parents in that school and district to know their children's data is for sale.  And really, for what?  A photo and tv op. 

 I'd like to think that Seattle Schools would never do this but really, I don't know.  If they had a project and needed the money, I just don't know. 

On my other concern about data breeches and errors, on happened recently in Chicago School District.  From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Data collected about some 2,000 student who participate in a free vision examination program provided by the city was “incorrectly configured” and was available on the Internet, said Shannon Breymaier, a city spokeswoman. Only 14 people viewed the information online and that includes official investigators, according to the city. 

The data — that included the student’s name, date of birth, gender, identification number, vision exam date, diagnosis and school name — was uploaded to the city’s computer system between June 18 and July 31. On Oct. 7 a city resident alerted officials that the information was online, Breymaier said. 

But the 14 people who saw it certainly had plenty of time - months -  to see the information as it was a citizen - not an employee - who saw this and told the school district. 

 "Glitches" as CPS is calling this do happen but the more data that is out there - in multiple places - the more worry. For example, recently a local mental health professional went to visit a prostitute who then stole his laptop that was full of patient info.  He lost his license and those patients lost some piece of mind and privacy. 

Any group that has student data can have the same thing happen if a district doesn't have strict measures.  At one SPS Ops meeting I attended there was a lot of verbal hand-patting of Board directors on this safety issue but not a lot of evidence.  For example, one district lawyer said they could do spot checks to make sure providers were securing student data according to district rules.  Do they?  That question never got answered. 


mirmac1 said...

Based on the current state of things with respect to data sharing in SPS, I say double the Internal Auditor staff and have those FTEs police the use of our kids' private information.

Interestingly, the district feels it's "informing" parents by adding to webpage that is hard to find. One must got to the Community Partnership page and click Accessign Student Data. What you will find is very interesting.

I hope Melissa and Dora will provide more information for families.

Anonymous said...

I am concerned about this. But I feel like most parents at our school have no idea that this is a potential issue and that engagement is necessary.

Thank you mirmac for the link to Accessing Student Data above.

The page notes that:

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has a process in place to determine when a program or service can be considered an “institutional service” under FERPA. This determination is made on a case by case basis by an SPS cross- departmental committee that reviews submitted questionnaires on a monthly basis. The review team is comprised of: Teaching and Learning, Legal, Department of Technology Services, and School and Community Partnerships."

Is the work of this cross-deparemental committee ever day lighted for parents? How do we know who is asking for access to data, who is given access, and who is denied, and the rationale for it?


Anonymous said...

Ed News ... from NYC "City Journal"
Sol Stern writes
December 6 2013
Sol Stern:
The Redemption of E. D. Hirsch

How my kids’ progressive school helped teach me the value of a content-rich curriculum

Many of the school’s teachers were trained at such citadels of progressive education as Columbia University’s Teachers College and the Bank Street College of Education, where they learned to repeat pleasant-sounding slogans like “teach the child, not the text” and were told that all children are “natural learners.” PS 87 had no coherent, grade-by-grade curriculum. Thus, my son’s third-grade teacher decided on his own to devote months of classroom time to a project on Japanese culture, which included building a Japanese garden.

More disturbing was what PS 87’s principal said when I informed him of my conversation with my son and his classmates. “It’s important to learn about the Civil War,” he granted, “but it’s more important to learn how to learn about the Civil War. The state of knowledge is constantly changing, so we have to give children the tools to be able to research these things and, of course, to think critically.”
By now, tired of the self-serving rationalizations offered by the school principal, I was desperate for an independent explanation of what was happening in PS 87’s classrooms.
....[Hirsch's] Cultural Literacy became a surprise bestseller because many other parents were also asking questions about who was responsible for the lack of academic substance in their children’s schools. Hirsch addressed these concerns near the beginning of the book: “The unacceptable failure of our schools has occurred not because our teachers are inept but chiefly because they are compelled to teach a fragmented curriculum based on faulty education theories.” This didn’t happen by chance or because of professional incompetence, according to Hirsch. Rather it was intended, quite deliberately, by the schools of education.

The NSF spent at least $100 million funding the production of reform math programs and millions more supporting those programs, which were based on faulty educational theories.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data..... unfortunately most Ed Schools make decisions based on Ideology rather than relevant data.

The full article is very informative as to the reasons why "academic content" was and is not emphasized.

Sol Stern recently wrote several interesting pieces in the City

-- Dan Dempsey

mirmac1 said...

No. I asked for that information some months ago and got nuttin' about the committee. There was this incomplete documentation for CBOs accessing the source. As you can note by the info of a "pilot program" of institutional servicers, some of the same CBOs now no longer need to send a FERPA form home for parental notice and consent.

In fact, I see my child's info is getting fed to the Y without my permission. What recourse do I have? Not allow her to participate in FEL activities? She will suffer for the inanities of grown-ups.