My goal is a student data privacy bill passed in the Washington State Legislature. In a future thread, I will outline what SPS is doing versus what it should be doing but really, I don't have time to wait for the Board to wake up (and district leadership is a lost cause). We need a robust law to protect our public school children.
Data is a good thing - like standards and assessments. But it's all in the collection and implementation and uses and that's the devil in the details that needs attention.
You cannot stop an idea. And the idea today is that vast amounts of data are going to better our lives and, allegedly, the lives of our children and grandchildren. But we can use the force of law and especially our Constitution, to protect that data from going everywhere to nearly anyone and, worst of all, having it used to make decisions for our children that should be for parents to make.
With the advent of Race to the Top and Common Core, the Department of Education required states to all have longitudinal databases. (Washington State has its own - CEDARS - Comprehensive Education Data and Research System.)
The Common Core consortium that Washington State belongs to - Smarter Balanced - is obligated by its agreement with the DOE to give them "student-level data" from testing.
(To those who say CC has nothing to do with data collection, the very success of the standards rests on the increased collection of student data. The Data Quality Campaign said that the Common Core’s emphasis on evaluating teachers based on their students’ academic performance and tracking students’ college and career readiness requires broader data collection. DQC is yet another Gates-funded group.)
Mostly this push started thru ARRA - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Since it started in fiscal year 2005, the program has awarded grants worth $265 million to 41 states and the District of Columbia. The Recovery Act competition requires that the data systems have the capacity to link preschool, K-12, and postsecondary education as well as workforce data. To receive State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, a state must provide an assurance that it will establish a longitudinal data system that includes the 12 elements described in the America COMPETES Act, and any data system developed with Statewide longitudinal data system funds must include at least these 12 elements.
It keeps getting said that PII, personally identifiable information., will not be given out. One of ARRA's grant program requirements is this: An unique identifier for every student that does not permit a student to be individually identified (except as permitted by federal and state law). Note that "as permitted" that you can drive a Mack truck through that.
From the National Center for Educational Statistics:
Better decisions require better information. This principle lies at the heart of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program. Through grants and a growing range of services and resources, the program has helped propel the successful design, development, implementation, and expansion of K12 and P-20W (early learning through the workforce) longitudinal data systems. These systems are intended to enhance the ability of States to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including individual student records. The SLDSs should help states, districts, schools, educators, and other stakeholders to make data-informed decisions to improve student learning and outcomes; as well as to facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.
What is happening right now?
Here's a link to a report on states and their longitudinal data systems commissioned by the DOE called the NRS Guide to State Longitudinal Data Systems published in August of 2012. Lots of good reading here.
From a brief called, "P-20W Data Governance: Tips from the States - Best Practices Brief", May 2012
P-20W refers to data from prekindergarten (early childhood), K12, and postsecondary through post-graduate education, along with workforce and other outcomes data (e.g., public assistance and corrections data). The specific agencies and other organizations that participate in the P-20W initiative vary from state to state.
The "To-Do" list in this report?
When pursuing P-20W data governance, it is vital to fully engage state leadership (the Executive Leadership levels of Figures 1 and 2) early on in the process. Otherwise, both short-term effectiveness and long-term sustainability of the P-20W system may be in jeopardy.
- Pay attention to legislative activity in your state.
- Many states have legislation impacting how data can be collected, where they can be stored, and who has access to them. During the planning phase, research all possible legislation that could impact your work. If there are state laws that limit data sharing, there may be an opportunity to lobby for the change of said laws—particularly if the state already has legislative and executive support for P-20W. Additionally, demonstrating the capabilities of the P-20W system to the legislature can help to build momentum for a state’s data collection efforts.
- Once the executive leadership has determined the vision and direction for the P-20W system, data governance is needed to effectively implement this vision. Bring all involved stakeholders to the table and discuss why data governance is important, as well as what data are already being collected—and by whom—within the state.
Understand, that many people, including Diane Ravitch, believe these actions violate federal law.
Federal statute prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from maintaining a national student database, but by persuading/twisting the arm of states to build these databases, and then changing the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) after the fact, the Obama administration has evaded this prohibition and provided a pathway for student data to be shared across state lines and between federal government agencies.
We are talking about a compilation of sensitive information, from different federal agencies, being placed in your child’s P 20 database, to follow him or her into adulthood, possibly contributing to an influence on their job hunt with eventual prospective employers.
It used to be if your child had a behavioral issue or the family had challenges that impacted the student's school, that enough time would elapse between childhood and adulthood and the issue would be long dealt with and forgotten.
With the assistance of the P20 database, this type of information could follow your child well into adulthood and could be accessible by nearly any teacher or administrator in your district to view and may be used by employers make employment decisions based on this data. Or used by college admissions officers to make decisions about your child.
From USA Today:
What does prekindergarten background say about the likelihood of success in high school Advanced Placement classes? How did college students who fail science do in middle school? What are the links between applying for unemployment benefits as an adult and one's educational history?
"The only purpose of this work is to get information that can make our education programs better," said associate education commissioner Ken Wagner, who is leading the initiative. "We want to learn the types of courses that kids do well in that will predict success in college and the workforce."
"This throws up so many red flags for me as a parent, a tech guy and an educator," said Brian Wasson, a technology training specialist at St. Joseph's College on Long Island who has used his Twitter account to urge that attention be paid to P-20. "As this develops, will they decide to use this data for more than research? I don't buy the rationale for it."
I'm not buying it either. Why?
- there is too much tantalizing data out there that many more people and entities want
- with that much data available, there are more chances of a data breach
- child identify theft is the fastest growing type of identity theft in the country
Edward Snowden has opened the door to the debate of the century.
What is privacy?
- Are there privacy rights (and are they in our Constitution)?
- Is privacy a human right?
- Does technology trump those rights?
When did enrolling your child in public schools mean you (and your child) lose your privacy rights at the schoolhouse door?
Who's watching out for kids? It certainly doesn't look like it's our government and it's certainly not going to be business interests or "edu-philanthropists" who are fine with experimenting and documenting other people's children but not their own.
It's going to be up to you, as a parent, in determining the course of your child's education and their privacy interests.
Because if you don't, we will see an entirely different country within a generation.
Much, much more to come.