Without Authority: The Federal Access of Private Data Using Common Core   5 comments

Data Baby


On Wednesday, I gave this talk at the Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta, Maine. I spoke alongside Erin Tuttle, Indiana mother against Common Core; Jamie Gass, of Pioneer Institute; Heidi Sampson, board member of the Maine State School Board, and Erika Russell, Maine mother against Common Core. I hope to publish the other speakers’ speeches here soon.

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Speaking with legislators in Utah, I’ve learned that the number one concern that Utah constituents repeatedly bring up to representatives is the Common Core and its related data mining.

Utah has not yet followed the lead of Indiana, Michigan and other states in pausing and/or defunding the Common Core, but I believe Utah legislators will soon take a stand. They have to; the state school board and governor won’t, even though the Utah GOP voted on and passed an anti-common core resolution this year, and even though thousands of Utahns are persistently bringing up documented facts to their leaders showing that Common Core damages local liberties and damages the legitimate, classical education tradition that Utahns have treasured.

My talk today will explain how federal data mining is taking place with the assistance of the Common Core initiative.

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The Declaration of Independence states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

So, I ask: Have voters given consent to be governed in matters of education, by the federal government? Nope.

Does the federal government hold any authority to set educational standards and tests, or to collect private student data?

Absolutely not.

The Constitution reserves all educational authority to the states; the General Educational Provisions Act expressly prohibits the federal government from controlling, supervising or directing school systems; and the Fourth Amendment claims “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”.

Clearly, the federal government lacks authority to search private data, to produce common tests, or to promote common standards, yet using private institutions, secretive regulatory changes to privacy laws, long-winded grantmaking contracts, and a well-intentioned governors’ club and superintedents’ club as smokescreens, it is overstepping its bounds and is falsely assuming these powers.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is fully aware of these limitations placed upon his agency.

This summer Duncan made another speech, saying critics of Common Core were making outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, we are not allowed to, and we won’t.”</strong>

I need to get that quote cross-stitched and framed.

For years, Duncan has been saying that, “Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy… The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more…”

Translation: Duncan and Obama won’t let pesky laws nor the U.S. Constitution stop them from their control grab even though they’re fully aware of the laws of the land.

Are they really collecting student data without parental knowledge or consent?

How are the Common Core standards and tests involved?
There are at least six answers.

The U.S. Department of Education is:

1. STUNTING STANDARDS WITH A PRIVATE COPYRIGHT AND A 15% CAP FOR THE PURPOSE OF TRACKING STUDENTS:

Why would the federal government want to stunt education? Why would they say to any state, “Don’t add more than 15% to these common standards.” ? Simple: they can’t track and control the people without a one-size-measures-all measuring stick. It is irrelevant to them that many students will be dumbed down by this policy; they just want that measure to match so they can track and compare their “human capital.”

The federal Department of Education works intimately with the Superintendents’ club known as the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). After the CCSSO wrote and copyrighted the Common Core standards –in partnership with the governors’ club (NGA)– the federal government put a cap over that copyright, saying that all states who adopted Common Core must adhere to it exactly, not adding any more than 15% to those standards, regardless of the needs, goals or abilities of local students. This stunting is embarrassing and most state boards of education try to deny it. But it’s published in many places, both federal and private: That 15% cap is reiterated in the federal Race to the Top Grant, the federal NCLB Waiver, the federal Race to the top for Assessments grant, the SBAC testing consortia criteria, the PARCC eligibility requirement, the Achieve, Inc rules (Achieve Inc. is the contractor who was paid by CCSSO/NGA/Bill Gates to write the standards).

2. CREATING MULTIPLE NATIONAL DATA COLLECTION MECHANISMS

a) Cooperative Agreement with Common Core Testers

In its Cooperative Agreement with the testing group known as Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) the federal government mandated that tests “Comply with… requirements… including, but not limited to working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis… subject to applicable privacy laws.” Making student-level data available means that personally identifiable student information, such as name, academic scores, contact information, parental information, behavioral information, or any information gathered by common core tests, will be available to the federal government when common core tests begin.

b) Edfacts Data Exchange

Another federal data collection mechanism is the federal EDFACTS data exchange, where state databases submit information about students and teachers so that the federal government can “centralize performance data” and “provide data for planning, policy and management at the federal, state and local levels”. Now, they state that this is just aggregated data, such as grouped data by race, ethnicity or by special population subgroups; not personally identifiable student information. But the federal agency asks states to share the intimate, personally identifiable information at the NCES National Data Collection Model

c) National Data Collection Model

It asks for hundreds and hundreds of data points, including:

your child’s name
nickname
religious affiliation
birthdate
ability grouping
GPA
physical characteristics
IEP
attendance
telephone number
bus stop times
allergies
diseases
languages and dialects spoken
number of attempts at a given assignment
delinquent status
referral date
nonschool activity involvement
meal type
screen name
maternal last name
voting status
martial status
– and even cause of death.

People may say that this is not mandatory federal data collection. True; yet it’s a federal data model and many are following it.

d) CCSSO and EIMAC’s DATA QUALITY CAMPAIGN and Common Educational Data Statistics

The Dept. of Education is partnered with the national superintendents’ club, the CCSSO in a common data collection push: common data standards are asked for at the website called Common Education Data Standards, which is “a joint effort by the CCSSO and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in partnership with the United States Department of Education.

Also at the same CCSSO site (remember, this is a private Common Core-creators’ website, and not a voter-accountable group) CCSSO we learn that the CCSSO runs a program called the Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) with this purpose: “improve the overall quality of the data collected at the NATIONAL level.” – See more at: http://www.ccsso.org/What_We_Do/Education_Data_and_Information_Systems.html#sthash.L2t0sFCm.dpuf

The CCSSO’s Data Quality Campaign has said that
“as states build and enhance K12 longitudinal data systems they continue building linkages to exchange and use information across early childhood, postsecondary and the workforce and with other critical agencies such as health, social services and criminal justice systems.”

Let that sink in: linking data from schools, medical clinics, and criminal justice systems is the goal of the USDOE-CCSSO partnership.

And it’s already begun.

There are state data alliances that connect data in state agencies, and there are federal data alliances, too. In Utah, the Utah Data Alliance uses the state database to link six agencies that enables examination of citizens from preschool through the workforce. On the federal level, the Department of Defense has partnered with the Department of Education.

3. PROMOTING CORPORATE DATA COLLECTION

Data-mashing across federal agencies and is not the only way in which data is becoming accessible by greater numbers of eyes. It’s also across corporate entities that data sharing is becoming more and more of a push.

At a recent White House event called “Datapalooza,” the CEO of Escholar stated that Common Core is the “glue that actually ties everything together.” Without the aligned common standards, corporate-aligned curriculum, and federally-structured common tests, there would be no common measurement to compare and control children and adults.

4. BUILDING A CONCEALED NATIONAL DATABASE BY FUNDING 50 STATE DATABASES THAT ARE INTEROPERABLE

Every state now has a state longitudinal database system (SLDS) that was paid for by the federal government. Although it might appear not to be a national database, I ask myself why one of the conditions of getting the ARRA funds for the SLDS database was that states had to build their SLDS to be interoperable from school to district to state to inter-state systems. I ask myself why the federal government was so intent upon making sure every state had this same, interoperable system. I ask myself why the grant competition that was offered to states (Race to the Top) gave out more points to those states who had adopted Common Core AND who had built an SLDS. It appears that we have a national database parading as fifty individual SLDS systems.

5. SHREDDING FEDERAL PRIVACY LAW AND CRUSHED PARENTAL CONSENT REQUIREMENT

There was, up until recently, an old, good federal law called FERPA: Family Educational Rights Privacy Act. It stated, among other things, that no one could view private student data without getting written parental consent.

That was then. This is now.

Without getting permission from Congress to alter the privacy law, the Department of Education made so many regulatory changes to FERPA that it’s virtually meaningless now. The Department of Ed loosened terms and redefined words such as “educational agency,” “authorized representative,” and “personally identifiable information.” They even reduced “parental consent” from a requirement to a “best practice.”

The Department of Ed formally defined the term “biometric” on a list of ways a student would be personally identified: “Biometric record,” as used in the definition of “personally identifiable information,” means a record of one or
more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be
used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include
fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.

For all of this, the Department has been sued.

6. RELEASING A REPORT PROMOTING BIOLOGICAL AND BEHAVIORAL DATAMINING TECHNIQUES

In his speech to the American Society of News Editors this year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that there is no federal collection of student data, and then he said, “Let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping. This work is interesting, but frankly, not that interesting.”

This was another attempt to mock those who are doing their homework, and to further deceive the American people. Because biometric data mining (biometric is defined by the Dept. of Ed as biological and behavioral characteristics of students –see above–) is exactly what Duncan is advocating. In the 2013 Department of Education report entitled “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” the federal government recommends the use of data-mining techniques that use physical responses from biofeedback devices to measure mood, blood volume, pulses and galvanic skin responses, to examine student frustration and to gather “smile intensity scores.” Using posture analysis seats, a pressure mouse, wireless skin conductors, schools are encouraged to learn which students might lack “grit, tenacity and perserverance” in engaging with, or in believing, what is being taught.

Grit sensors

We can call the bluff on the Department of Education and on the Council of Chief State School Officers. They have no authority to gather private student data without parental knowledge or consent. We can help state leaders understand and fight against what is going on, and help them to say no to what the CCSSO terms their “coordinated data ask.” Strong legislation can be written and SLDS systems can be reworked to end privacy threatening interoperability frameworks.

Here’s a To-Do list for state representatives:

— We can stop the 50 states’ SLDS interoperability.

— We can make it possible for parents and students to opt out of the Common Core tests without penalizing the student academically.

— We can make it possible for parents and students to opt out of the SLDS tracking and surveillance databases.

— We can stop the educational and data mining malpractice that is clearly happening under the Common Core Initiative, remembering what Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University said: “When school administrators implement programs and policies built on faulty arguments, they commit education malpractice.”

We, the People, have to call them on it.

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