Three remarkable Alpine School Board Members: Wendy Hart (front left) Brian Halladay (standing, middle) and Paula Hill (front, right) have written an open letter on student privacy, citing documented realities (contracts, documents and laws) that boldly stand for student privacy and parental rights, against Common Core SAGE/AIR testing. The letter stands tall against statements from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park and the Utah State Office of Education that claim all is well with student privacy in Utah schools.
Hats off to Hart, Halladay and Hill for speaking up despite pressure to go along in silence with the decisions or positions held at the state level.
Before I post the letter, here’s a little background:
Before Common Core testing even began, Utah officially dropped out of SBAC (a federally funded Common Core test maker) but then immediately picked up, as a replacement, test maker AIR (American Institutes for Research– also federally approved, but not federally funded; Common Core-aligned; a test maker that specializes in psychometrics and behavioral testing, prioritizes promoting the LGTB philosophy –and is officially partnered with SBAC!) Many Utah parents are opting their children out of these tests, and state level officials are desperately trying to persuade the population that there’s no reason to opt out.
Statements promoting and approving AIR and SAGE, by Assistant Superintendent Judy Park, have been rebutted and even publically debated before– but this new letter stands very, very tall, shedding much more light on the student privacy dangers of SAGE/AIR and highlighting the lack of Utah laws that protect an individuals’ ownership over his/her own data.
Here’s the letter:
September 18, 2014
Dr. Judy Park
Utah State Office of Education
Dear Dr. Park,
Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing. We especially appreciate your citations of the contract. In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.
To begin, a point of clarification. Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you. In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.” We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE. Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate. We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their consitutents simply remain silent.
So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.
We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14. It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied. We were hopeful that there would be additional insight. Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.
I-96 – I-98: This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items. However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.” FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds. Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard. Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor. If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations. Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.
I-61: Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords. Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.
I-72 – I-73: Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing. This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.
I-85 – I-86: Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates. This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc. Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.
While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting. Some of our concerns are as follows:
1) Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party. As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent. As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent. We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.
2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation. As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah. They would have access to many data sets from many entities. They also would have multiple on-going research projects. There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing. As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access. What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis? AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students. However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.
3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data. While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data. State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing. So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data. Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents. If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.
4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students. As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students? Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s dat with AIR and the SLDS. At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database? What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?
Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns. Based on his response, we have the following questions.
1) Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.
2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?
3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?
4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?
5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.
6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?
7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties. Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.
Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGe testing. We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.
1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)
2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability
3. Content description Validity
4. Differential Item Function Analysis
5. Criterion Prediction Validity
6. Construct Identification Validity
7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs
We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future. As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed. And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary. Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary. Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children. As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount. As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area. For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual. For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.
Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.
I wish every Utah parent, teacher, student and principal read this letter– and took action!
The time has long passed for blind trust in Dr. Park, in the State Office of Education and in the State School Board. Surely, power holders –in the legislature, in district administrative offices, and in the governor’s office who read this letter– will finally act.
Share this letter!
Below is the full text of the resolution that Utah County Republicans voted to pass, in opposition to Common Core this week.
It will be interesting to see what Governor Herbert does with the mounting evidence that Utahns oppose Common Core. Despite publically taking a second look at the academics, he has not taken any steps to get a second look at state and federal data mining done in Utah, nor has he taken a second look at the actual governance structure of Common Core which seems far, far more important than the academic snapshot. The governor’s still moving full steam on with the Common Core-promoting Prosperity 2020 and SLDS systems in this state, and has not resigned from his Common Core-promoting role in the National Governors Association (that unelected, private trade group which created and copyrighted the Common Core.)
Governor, is it time to start listening more closely to voters?
Utah County Republican Resolution
WHEREAS, The Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core”), adopted as part of the “Utah
Core,” is not a Utah state standards initiative, but rather a set of nationally-based standards and tests
developed through a collaboration between two NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and
unelected boards and consortia from outside the state of Utah; and,
WHEREAS, Common Core binds us to an established copyright over standards, limiting our ability to
create or improve education standards that we deem best for our own children; and,
WHEREAS, the General Educational Provisions Act prohibits federal authority over curriculum and
testing, yet the U.S. Department of Education’s “Cooperative Agreements” confirm Common Core’s test-
building and data collection is federally managed; and,
WHEREAS, “student behavior indicators” – which include testing for mental health, social and cultural
(i.e. religious) habits and attitudes and family status – are now being used for Common Core tests and
WHEREAS, Common Core promotes the storage and sharing of private student and family data without
consent; using a pre-school through post-graduate (P-20) tracking system and a federally-funded State
Longitudinal Database (SLDS), creating substantial opportunities for invasion of privacy; and,
WHEREAS, Common Core intrudes on the constitutional authority of the states over education by
pressuring states to adopt the standards with financial incentives tied to President Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’, and if not adopted, penalties include loss of funds and, just as Oklahoma experienced a loss of
their ESEA waiver; and
WHEREAS, the Republican National Committee and Utah State Republican Convention recently passed a
resolution opposing Common Core State Standards;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we call on the Governor and the Utah State School Board to withdraw
from, and we ask the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with, the
Common Core State Standards Initiative/Utah’s Core and any other similar alliance, and;
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution shall be delivered to the Governor
and the State legislature requesting executive and legislative action.
Today at 6:20 on KNRS on the Rod Arquette show, Oklahoma’s Jenni White will be interviewed about how Oklahoma successfully booted Common Core from the state. Listen free here.
Tomorrow at 2:00 on KTALK 630, she’ll be interviewed again.
And tomorrow night, at a free public event, she’ll speak telling the story of how a few Oklahoma parents influenced the governor and legislature to boot the entire Common Core out of Oklahoma, as well as explaining what we must do to stop the unauthorized data mining of students, and why parents should opt out of Common Core tests.
Thank you, Jenni White and friends from Restore Oklahoma Public Education.
Where and when: Thursday, September 11th at 7679 South Main Street in Midvale, Utah at 7:00 PM.
See you there!
California just passed a bill to protect student privacy. I want to know why Utah hasn’t done the same thing. Those few Utah legislators who tried to pass privacy-protecting bills (Jake Anderegg, Brian Greene) were not supported by the majority of Utah politicans.
Do we not care about student privacy?
Is privacy not a child’s fundamental, Constitutional right?
What happens when there is no guarantee of basic rights? Think about how much privacy there is in modern day North Korea, or in China.
Privacy goes hand in hand with liberty, always. Even in the fiction books and movies –over and over again, the theme is spot on: when government knowledge of every citizen trumps individual privacy, then comes hell. (See The Giver, Divergent, Anthem, The Hunger Games, 1984.)
The Fourth Amendment says that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”.
If the government is forbidden from coming into our homes to peruse our children’s coloring books, photo albums and diaries, why is it permitted to come into our schools to seize and read data gathered there? Do we even realize how much data is shared by schools with the state? Look here and here for starters.
Current tracking –without parental consent– of student academic, non-cognitive, behavioral, health, familial, attitudinal, and belief-data, is happening without restraint. Is this seizure of personal data not an unreasonable seizure of personal effects, forbidden Constitutionally?
It is clear that we must stand up for our children’s privacy rights. But how?
First, we must define in our Utah laws that student data belongs to the student. It does not belong to the state. Currently, the state has made the arrogant assumption that student data belongs to the state. That means tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and the picture the kindergartnener drew of her family which can easily be psychologically mined for student and family profiling. Since no student or student’s parent have given written consent to share any data generated by that student, the school has no right to hand it to the state database; the state has no right to hand it to corporate or university “research partners” nor to the federal EdFacts Data Exchange nor to the National Data Collection Model groups. That is data theft.
Knowledge is power. Learn, then contact your school board and legislature.
What to say? Ask them what they’ve done, what they know, what protective laws they can point you to.
Read the following brand new articles on this subject:
1. California Legislature Passes Stiffest Bill to Protect K-12 Students’ online data - San Jose Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/education/ci_26444107/online-privacy-california-passes-nations-stiffest-protections-k
2. States Collaborate to Keep Track of Students – Pew Charitable Trusts – http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/09/05/states-collaborate-to-keep-track-of-students
3. What Are Schools Doing With Your Kids’ Data - Yahoo Tech https://www.yahoo.com/tech/what-are-schools-doing-with-your-kids-data-95682103324.html
4. Nine Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Kids’ Privacy at School - Yahoo Tech – https://www.yahoo.com/tech/9-things-you-can-do-right-now-to-protect-your-kids-95681803099.html
If you didn’t read them, or if you didn’t email your local school board or legislature yet, asking what they are doing to protect student privacy, I ask you why not.
If you think that our Constitutional rights are secure and that the good folks you elected are out there successfully defending your constitutional rights– including the right to personal and child privacy — think again. All these rights are under fire. If we don’t have proper legal protections in place specifying how student data will be protected, then we and our children are fully un-protected.
The New York Times and Time Magazine have openly attacked and mocked the Constitution– and the rights we claim under it which include, of course, privacy and freedom from seizure of these personal effects.
Freedom and local control and individual rights, these “cool” articles say, are out of data and out of style.
Check them out for yourself:
1 Time Magazine: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2079445,00.html
2. New York Times: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/us/we-the-people-loses-appeal-with-people-around-the-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1
By the way, how I found those articles was when a parent emailed them to me, saying that her child was told to write about them for a school assignment. Thank you, education system, for yet one more corrupt dump into our kids’ minds.
What to do?
Ask yourself, first: is privacy a fundamental right, or not? Does the government (or corporations) have business knowing your business or your child’s business, without your consent? If the answer is no, then ask: Where can I find a law that protects my child’s school data? Ask your school board. Ask your legislator. If they say “FERPA” tell them to do their homework. Federal FERPA was shredded a few years back. Bottom line is: we need legal protections in place ASAP. And it won’t happen until the people pressure their representatives to make those protections reality.
Please, speak up.
Peter Greene, teacher, blogger and Huffington Post writer, has written another funny and fascinating ed reform article. In this one, he highlights the findings of University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black. Black’s soon-to-be-published findings include the following:
“Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB…. As a practical matter, he federalized education in just a few short months.”
Peter Greene divides the law journal article into four simple, easy-to-digest segments, and explains them. You will laugh as you learn.
For example, under “Part I: No Changing the Rules” Greene writes: “When the feds pass a law, they have to lay out all the rules that do and will apply to that law. You can’t pass a law, start folks working under it, and then years later announce, ‘Oh, yeah, and by the way, we’ve changed this law about making cheese sandwiches so that it also covers sloppy joes, and also, if you don’t go along with us on this, we get to take your car.”Also, you can’t suddenly say, ‘We’ve given my brother-in-law the power to judge your sloppy joes.’ Conditions for receiving federal fund must be “unambiguous” and non-coercive.”
Both the funny and easy-to-understand analysis of Duncan’s illegal waiver-waving, and the official law journal publication by Dr. Derek Black, as soon as it becomes available to the public, must be read and shared.
Let’s stop the Department of Education’s lawless disrespect for constitutional local control of education –and protect our children– by learning and then sharing these facts widely.
Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee is taking a powerful stand against Common Core. Lee has joined with FreedomWorks to try to eradicate the Common Core.
“The next generation of Americans doesn’t need to be force-fed big government propaganda in the classroom,” said Lee. “If they’re allowed to stay, Common Core standards will be the Obamacare of education.”
Sen. Lee stands with many on both the left and right sides of the political aisle against Common Core. It’s still uncertain whether Lee’s own Governor Herbert of Utah will ever take a clear and unmistakable stand against Common Core. (In other states we see many governors who do firmly oppose Common Core: Louisiana’s Gov. Jindahl, Texas Gov. Perry, Indiana Gov. Pence, South Carolina Gov. Haley, Oklahoma Gov. Fallin, Wisconsin Gov. Walker, Maine Gov. LePage, Indiana Gov. Pence, Alabama Gov. Bentley. This is interesting considering the fact that the National Governors’ Association is the group that co-founded and copyrighted the Common Core under the funding of Bill Gates.)
Read the Newmax report here. And read the email on which the Newsmax story is based, here:
|It’s time to end Common Core.As a U.S. Senator, I’ve seen the federal government make a mess of everything it touches. And if they’re allowed to stay, Common Core standards will be the ObamaCare of education.Common Core is the DC takeover of our school system. It will dumb down standards and cheapen the education our children receive. But my friends at FreedomWorks are fighting back – their activists are working around-the-clock to take back their local schools.Just this year, Common Core was repealed in Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Missouri thanks to the hard work of grassroots activists.
I stand with FreedomWorks and grassroots Americans against Common Core. And I’ve seen their plan to make this Common Core’s last school year. But if they’re going to kick it off, they need to raise $250k in the next 7 days. I stand with them. And I need YOU to join me.
As a father of three, the last thing I want for my kids is a one-size-fits-all education system created in Washington. My kids deserve better. Your kids deserve better. They deserve the best education in the world. And the only way we can make that happen is to repeal Common Core across America.
There’s nothing more powerful in America than dedicated parents coming together to create a better future for their children. That’s why moms and dads are getting active, speaking out at their local school boards, and kicking Common Core out of the classroom. FreedomWorks is mobilizing this incredible energy and they plan to defeat the education takeover.
I’m asking you to help FreedomWorks defeat Common Core with a donation of $5.
When it comes to education, the future of our country is on the line. The next generation of Americans doesn’t need to be force-fed big government propaganda in the classroom. They should be learning real American history, and why our sacred heritage makes this the greatest nation in the world.
Common Core does away with that. That’s why it must be stopped.
We are running out of time to make Common Core history. Activists need the tools to win this year. And you can play a big part in saving our children from another big government disaster.
Senator Mike Lee