David Wiley says:
Let me start by saying thanks to you as well. I think this conversation has been extra-ordinarily civil, despite our obvious differences of opinion. In today’s political realm, I can think of nothing more important than civility in discourse. So much of what could be productive dialog is reduced to worse than time-wasting shouting. I am genuinely grateful for your obvious passionate – yet polite – engagement around this topic.
I would disagree that my argument has been that ‘because research is supremely helpful in making improvements to education, anything that stands in the way of gathering research is reduced to optional/unimportant.’ I have argued for the importance of research in improving education, and I have argued for the importance of the exceptions to FERPA – which are clearly limited.
The study exemption FERPA governs schools initiating research and evaluation of their own programs – in other words, a school or district that wants to study itself. If a school district doesn’t have sophisticated research expertise in-house (and given today’s budgets – how could they afford to?), under the study exemption they are permitted to engage outside expertise in the process of conducting that research. Those outside experts may be contractors, consultants, or volunteers. And they can conduct this research without having to ask parents’ permission first. That seems wholly appropriate to me.
You suggest that “researchers should shoulder the inconvenience of getting parental/individual consent” before any research can be done. If the researcher has come to the school and proposed the work, this is exactly what would have to happen. And the research rarely occurs because too few parents engage in meaningful tasks like helping their child with homework, let alone signing a research consent form. And if these researchers can’t persuade enough parents to consent the research won’t happen, which is perhaps as it should be.
But when a school asks, “We want to understand how we can serve our students better – Ms. Research Expert, will you please help us?” Then under the exception a strict written contract is executed governing what data Ms. R. E. can and cannot see and what she can and cannot do with that data. Now that she is under contract, she is treated like other employees because she is subject to similar contractual obligations. And those obligations are what make “employees” in the first place.
I agree that must act ethically. And I ask, which is more ethical – prohibiting students from achieving more of their potential by prohibiting research that would facilitate that fulfillment? Or providing all individuals who are appropriately and contractually obligated to protect PII with access to PII for the reasons specified in their contracts?
The USOE has been holding public meetings about Common Core literally for years now, asking for community feedback and listening carefully to all opinions expressed. Some of that feedback has been critical, some of it has been supportive. Regardless of which path they choose to follow, they were certain to disappoint a large portion of their constituency. I’m genuinely sorry that you feel they have made the wrong choice. If they had rejected the Common Core, I’m sure I would have felt the same overwhelming sense of frustration and disappointment that I expect you feel because of their adoption of it.
While I can’t speak on behalf of the USOE, I would guess that if they seem unexcited by the idea of holding yet another hearing on these issues, it is because they have already held so many of them and have heard the arguments for and against repeated so many times in these meetings and other settings (op-eds, blog posts, Facebook comments, etc.) that they can recite – and explain – each of the pro and con arguments from memory. This does not mean that they are anti-transparency or anti-public input. But once you’ve heard all the arguments a dozen or more times, there is simply no “gaining the public’s input” function served by convening yet another meeting. The USOE has a clear obligation to obtain and consider public input, but that obligation does not mean that meetings must continue to be held quarterly as long as a portion of the constituency disagrees with their decision.
I believe the record of open public meetings (which was reviewed at length in the most recent public meeting on Common Core) provided ample opportunity for these decisions to be made with meaningful public vetting from 100% of schoolchildrens’ parents. The fact is that – even when you and I run around the state talking to everyone we can get our hands on – people don’t engage. I agree with you, that most parents in Utah still don’t even know what Common Core is nor what FERPA is about. But it is only partly up to people like me (and you!) to right this wrong. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You and I can cry from the rooftops about how important this issue is, but parents have the agency to choose to ignore us. And they have largely exercised that agency to choose apathy. If, as you say 99% of them won’t engage over something this important, what prayer do we have of them ever signing a research consent form? =)
Finally, please do mistakenly believe that my views represent those of the David O. McKay School of Education or BYU. I am not a spokesman for either, and there are people in both the MSE and broader BYU communities who agree with your point of view (perhaps more than would agree with me). I am simply a person who supports the Common Core, and finds great pleasure in constructive dialog with people with other opinions.