Letter from Rosie Bahr: Longitudinal databases track students and families from preschool through career   1 comment

Ms. Swasey,

I recently received a forwarded copy of your email regarding common core and couldn’t agree more. Thank you for speaking out and for raising awareness about the issue. I sent letters to State School Board, Governor Herbert, PTA president, Congressmen and Senators a couple of months ago. The responses I have received, and they have been few, have not been comforting.

One additional issue that has been in the works by the DOE for several years and was finished off by common core is the creation of a longitudinal database designed to track students and their families from preschool through career. This database collects information that no one should collect, let alone be kept in a government database and is readily available to just about anyone due to changes made in January by the Department of Education. Common core was the  pathway used to justify linking and increasing accessibility of this information.

According to the American Recovery and Reinvestment, states had to agree to build database systems according to federally dictated standards to qualify for stimulus money. All 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. Utah was recently praised for having a database that met all ten essential components for the database as outlined by the federal government. The information contained in this database is much more than name, address, and test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income, family voting status, gestational age of students at birth, student ID number, and bus stoptimes among other pieces of information on the student and their families.  You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

As of January 3, 2012 the Department of Education implemented changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and basically overrode the privacy protections Congress included in FERPA, the Competes Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act where privacy protection of student information was specifically addressed and reiterated. The changes allow access to any of the information in the databases by any “authorized representative” without any notificationrequirement. The Fordham Law School Center for Law and Information Policy included the following explanation as part of comments they submitted during the comment period prior to implementation of the changes.

The Department [redefined] the term “authorized representative” to allow disclosure of educational records to individuals or entities who are not under the direct control of control of state, local or federal educational agencies and who are not performing educational audits or evaluations on behalf of state, local or federal education agencies. This new overbroad definition, in connection with the Department’s proposed definition for “education program” (which is discussed below), will expand the disclosures under the audit and evaluation exceptionfar beyond the intent and mandate of Congress and allow promiscuous datasharing that undermines accountability for privacy violations…

The Department’s new interpretation of “authorized representative” stretches the meaning of the term “representative” beyond its standard use. The re-interpretation alongside the Department’s new definition of the term “education program,” demonstrates that authorized representatives will now be external agencies or institutions conducting independent reviews and evaluations of programs unrelated to the Department and school based education. This construction of a “representative” is a significant departure from the ordinary usage of the term. A representative is typically considered one who stands in the shoes of another or operates on behalf of another. The new representatives that the Department proposes will not be acting on behalf of or under the direction of anyone. They will be independent actors with independent concerns and interests. If Congress had intended to permit disclosures to independent entities, it would have selected a term other than “representative” to reflect that intent…

The broad expansion of “education program” would undermine the Congressional goal of limiting access to educational records to those programs directly supervised by state and federal educational agencies. FERPA was very carefully crafted to preserve confidentiality of student records and allow through exceptions the use of students’ personal information for the provision and improvement of the educational programsprovided by traditional local education agencies…

The Department states as a goal the desire to have a broad definition in order to permit local educational agencies to share personally identifiable education records with non-educational agencies and entities. The Department would, in effect, be including private college test tutoring services, workforce training programs such as courses on bartending and flooring installation, and adventure playground programs within the definition of “educational program” and thus make them eligible to receive detailed educational records from kindergarten onward without student or parental consent. This redefinition of “educational program” contradicts the Department’s enabling mandate in FERPA and would indeed result in the sharing of educational records to organizations not covered by FERPA at all…

The Department now seeks to expand the exception to allow broad sharing of personally identifiable information with unlimited third parties so long as those parties can identify some type of educational services they provide.

The complete comments submitted by The Fordham Law School Center for Law and Information Policy during the open comment period last year are available at http://law.fordham.edu/assets/CLIP/CLIP_Comments_on_FERPA_NPRM.pdf

The Fordham comments are very substantive. Here is an opinion and blog related to the issue as well.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_the_feds_are_tracking_your_kid_xC6wecT8ZidCAzfqegB6hL#ixzz1htUXiCRd http://pjmedia.com/blog/arne-duncans-brave-new-world-dept-of-education-wants-your-kids-blood-type/

Thank you for your willingness to step forward on behalf of all Utah students.


Rosie Bahr

Posted April 16, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

One response to “Letter from Rosie Bahr: Longitudinal databases track students and families from preschool through career

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