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!
Last week in Florida, citizens stood against the Florida’s acceptance of the RTTT bribe of the federal Department of Education which engaged the state in Common Core. In this video from a Florida radio program, Jason Hoyt explains the details of that Florida Grand Jury case.
At minute 3:20 you’ll hear that in a town meeting in North Florida, 25 lead jurors were elected for a Grand Jury who met at the courthouse last Thursday at 10:00 a.m. and the next day, Friday, filed two bills stamped by the clerk of the court, Dana Johnson at 4:31 p.m.
The first complaint was for obstruction of justice and jury tampering. The second is for the acceptance of bribery for the implementation of Common Core. (See minute 4:18.) Watch the video for more details.
If you are interested in attending the Glenn Beck “We Will Not Conform” event which will play live on the big screen at the Provo, Utah Cinemark 16 on 1200 Towne Center Boulevard, today’s a lucky day. I’ve been given four special event passes by a Glenn Beck producer to give away and they need your name on them.
Just send an email to email@example.com with one reason that you would like two free tickets to this show. Give me your mailing address and I’ll send out the four tickets, two tickets per winner, today. If you don’t win the free tickets, you may buy tickets at FathomEvents.com
About the event:
This Tuesday, July 22nd, liberty goes up against the Common Core. A live, interactive event will take place at about 700 local movie theaters across the nation simultaneously. It will be filmed at the Glenn Beck studios in Dallas, Texas, where a handful of Utah friends will join others in Dallas as part of Glenn Beck’s participant panel.
Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Jenni White, David Barton and many other Common Core fighters will interact with the nationwide audience, via social media, in a meeting of the minds to use “the brainpower, experience and passion of thousands of people from around the country…captured in a comprehensive, unified plan of action”.
You don’t want to miss this.
Another, non-interactive repeat showing of the evening will be rebroadcast in theaters on the evening of July 29th.
Renee Braddy, a Utah mother and a former elementary school teacher, has given permission to post this letter which she sent to the Utah Educator’s Association office.
As of this posting, she has still not heard back from the UEA.
Thank you, Renee.
To Whom it Concerns:
I am writing to you first and foremost as a parent and second as a former public school teacher in Utah. I faithfully belonged to and supported the UEA the entire time I taught.. Today, I was sent an email from a friend. [Read it here.] The letter was from the UEA and it was a request for its members to voice their support for the Common Core because of concerns being voiced by a “small vocal minority”.
I would likely fit into that category. It seems this emailwas an attempt to label, marginalize, and thus dismiss those who have voiced concerns or opposition. I feel that my concerns, both as a parent and educator, are valid and are based on legal documents and lengthy research. I am writing in hopes of working together.
My experience has been that the large majority of citizens (including parents, teachers and administrators) are unaware of the big picture that comes with the adoption of the Common Core agenda. It is so much more than a set of standards. So, I would say that my experience has been that a large majority are silent on their like or dislike for Common Core. Silence is not acceptance; it is most likely ignorance.
I believe that as American citizens, we have a responsibility and a right to voice our opinions and to have questions answered and concerns addressed. Unfortunately, this opportunity never happened with Utah’s adoption of common core. Due process didn’t occur and the parents and teachers feel like a trust was violated.
I believe that Utah has some of the finest educators in the nation and my hope is to return educational decisions to the hands of parents, teachers and local administrators. I don’t think the shift began with Common Core, but it is the current reform and parents and teachers aren’t happy now. The issues need to be addressed, not dismissed.
Teachers have been told that “it will not bode well professionally to speak against Common Core.” They have told me that they have been sent a clear message that they should not talk about their concerns –and definitely not while at school. Local school board members are also being told to not speak out, and that they need to support the state board.
I am happy to meet and listen to your concerns and attempt to work together for a solution that is right for our state.
Please let me know when is most convenient.
While we wait patiently together to see if the UEA has the inclination to respond to Renee, I have a few thoughts. I happen to be waiting patiently, too, for a response to my letter to Governor Herbert (see below). But visiting or writing letters to any member of the education establishment results in either: a) silence or: b) a ridiculous pat on the head. Anyone who’s tried, knows.
This happens over and over and over– not only at the Utah state level, but also at the local school board level, and at the federal (unconstitutional) Department of Education level.
It does not stop us from writing, calling, and going to as many of their meetings as we can stomach.
I believe in the squeaky wheel theory, and I believe in Jesus’ parable about the woman and the unrighteous judge from Luke 18. If everyone who wanted Common Core to go away would call, write, and pray repeatedly, weekly, persistently, patiently, unceasingly– Common Core could not stand. No legs.
Why not? Because Common Core has no legs –except expensive marketing networks and lies– to stand on. It has countless millions of dollars gambled on this takeover of American schools as a “uniform customer base” and more millions spent on marketing its unsupportable talking points.
And that is the simple, incredible truth. No legs.
It has no academic pilot testing, no written amendment process for states to retain local control, no privacy protections for its tests’ data collection processes, no actual international benchmarking, no chance of improving “global competitiveness,” no heart, no wisdom, no love for classical education, no state-led history, no hope of developing a real love of learning; no common sense.
Remember the parable of Jesus from Luke 18
: There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”
There are people at the State Office of Education and at the State School Board who likewise “fear not God, nor regard man” yet because we trouble them, they may choose to “avenge” our cause, since by our “continual coming” we weary them. And weary them we must because as a state, we are experiencing a huge Spiral of Silence.
Spiral of silence is the name of a well-studied communications theory by Dr. Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, a phenomenon which happens when people fear separation or isolation (or job loss or even death) but perceiving or believing that they are in the minority, they keep their concerns to themselves.
Spiral of Silence theory arose as an explanation for why so many Germans remained silent while their Jewish neighbors were being persecuted in the 1940s. Parents, teachers and legislators who do not know enough about Common Core and the Common Data Standards, and who are told to “support” them, do not feel comfortable arguing that we should be free of them. The pressure is even more intense for state school board members and the UEA, which explains, in part, the repeated official stonewalling that we experience and the relatively low number of teachers and education officials who fight against the whole suffocating Common Core and Common Data Standards agenda.
But I will admit that I laughed out loud when I saw the “official” silencing response sent to me by a clerk from the governor’s office, in response to my letter last week to our governor. I would have received the same email had I sent the governor my favorite potato salad recipe.
Following my letter to the governor
, I received this from firstname.lastname@example.org
July 9, 2014
Thank you for your email to the Office of the Governor regarding Education (Common Core). I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Governor.
Our office appreciates hearing from constituents and your comments and opinion regarding this issue have been noted.
Thank you for taking time to contact us regarding this matter.
I wrote back.
That was not a response to my letter. Please contact your supervisor.. I feel that an honest and important letter deserves and honest and important response.
Constituent services wrote back:
Thank you for your follow up email. I regret that my response was not satisfactory. We receive hundreds of email, letters, and calls daily and aim to make sure every constituent gets confirmation that their correspondence was received and that their opinion is taken under consideration.
Common Core is a very important issue and the Governor is paying close attention to the feedback, opinions, and concerns he is receiving from constituents all over the state. Having said that, our office is appreciative of the initiative you took to thoughtfully email us with your experience related to Common Core and your concerns for the Common Education Data Standards.
I wrote back.
While I appreciate the fact that you are responding, I still request a substantive response from someone at the Governors’ office. Noting that the Governor “is paying close attention” is not a response to the issues I raised but merely an acknowledgement that I wrote at all.
Please, forward my email, and the other emails you have been receiving, to those in office who are responsible to the people for these decisions. Perhaps the lieutenant governor has more time to answer specifics than the governor?
Constituents deserve real answers, not pats on the head and thank yous for simply writing at all.
I am patiently waiting to see if anyone at the Governor’s office or anyone who I copied the letter to at the office of education has the time to respond with substance.
Meanwhile, I sent a form of the same letter to the Daily Herald
. My state school board representative, Dixie Allen, decided to respond. Dixie Allen’s response at the Daily Herald
did not address my concerns although it was long. It said that she was one those responsible for bringing Common Core to Utah, and she defended that decision. I remain unanswered, by deafening silence by both the Governor’s office and my state school board representative, on these issues:
- 1) Why are parents denied the right to opt children out of the state longitudinal database system (SLDS) which tracks them almost for their entire lives without parental consent?
- 2) Why has there been no freedom of conscience, no open debate among educators when it comes to Common Core?
- 3) How can we maintain the reins of local control of education when we are attached like siamese twins to the will of the D.C. groups that control Common Core?
- 4) Why doesn’t Utah have her own standards, instead of copyrighted standards coming out of unelected D.C. groups?
- 5) Why has Utah agreed to Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) which align our private data with federal data standards?
- 6) Why doesn’t Utah look to the example of South Carolina’s and Oklahoma’s governors, who have decried the Common Education Agenda, and get Utah out of it, as those states have so wisely, so importantly, done?
Please make some time and join me and other teachers and parents this Thursday in Salt Lake City as we simply show up to show that we are aware of what is going on in education today. We will attend the open state school board meeting. Some of us will speak at the 2 minute public comment segment. Most of us won’t say a word. Please, just show up. That day, they are to decide whether or not to renew the federal NCLB waiver which Utah received in part as a reward for agreeing to do Common Core instead of NCLB.
If you can’t be there, please DO SOMETHING ELSE. There is so much we can do. Here is the Utah State School Board’s address: email@example.com. We can write or call the board, the newspapers and t.v. stations. We can politely and persistently pester our governor: 801-538-1000 or 800-705-2464 (Utah’s Governor Herbert’s number). We can politely and persistently pester the principals and state and local school board members, who are supposed to REPRESENT US, not
Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, or Sir Michael Barber of Pearson Ed. (If you want to get 2 minutes to testify about these things any month, at the monthly state school board meeting
, contact secretary Lorraine at: Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov)