School Data Collection Facts Summary   46 comments

  • Does every state have a federally funded, interoperable State Longitudinal Database System that tracks people throughout their lives?  Yes.
Every state has accepted 100% federally funded data collection (SLDS). The Data Quality Campaign  states:  “every governor and chief state school officer has agreed to build statewide longitudinal data systems that can follow individual students from early childhood through K-12 and postsecondary ed and into the workforce as a condition for receiving State Fiscal Stabilization Funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  A condition of getting the funding (ARRA money) was that the system would be interoperable.
  • Is the SLDS accessible by the federal government?  Yes.
The SLDS grant explains that the SIF (state interoperability framework) must provide interoperability from LEA to LEA, from LEA to Postsecondary, from LEA to USOE, and from USOE to the EdFacts Data Exchange.  The EdFacts Data Initiative is a “centralized portal through which states submit data to the Department of Education.”

The P-20 workforce council exists inside states to track citizens starting in preschool, and to “forge organizational and technical bonds and to build the data system needed to make informed decisions” for stakeholders both in and outside Utah. —

Is personally identifiable student information gathered, or only aggregate group data?  Personal, identifiable, individual data is collected.
  • Many of us in Utah were present last summer when UT technology director John Brandt stood up in the senate education committee and testified that there are roughly twelve people in the state of Utah who have access to the personally identifiable information of students which is available in the Utah Data Alliances inter-agency network of student data.  So it is not true that we are talking about only aggregate data, which leaders often insist.  The Utah School Board confirmed to me in writing, also, that it is not allowed for any student to opt out of the P-20/ SLDS/ UDA tracking system, (which we know is K-workforce (soon to include preschool) citizen surveillance.)
  • Is the collected private student data accessible to agencies beyond than state education agency?  Yes:
There are state data alliances that connect agencies.  The Data Quality Campaign states:states must ensure that as they build and enhance state K–12 longitudinal data systems, they also continue building linkages to exchange and use information across early childhood, postsecondary and the workforce (P–20/workforce) and with other critical agencies, such as health, social services and criminal justice systems.”
  • What data will be collected?  According to the new FERPA regulations, pretty much anything.  Social security numbers, psychometric and biometric information (see pg. 4 and 6) are not off the table.   According to the National Data Collection model, over 400  points.  Jenni White mentioned another federal model that asks for thousands of data points.
The types of information that the Department will collect includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. See page 4 at and see
  • How does this affect parents?
Data linking changes being made in regulations and policies make former privacy protection policies meaningless. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the Dept. of Education, under the Administrative Procedure Act, arguing that the Dept. of Ed’s regulations that changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in Dec. 2011 exceeded the Department of Education’s authority and are contrary to law.
The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is not now a necessity for a school to get student or parental consent any longer before sharing personally identifiable information; that has been reduced to the level of optional.

It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”

Dec. 2011 regulations, which the Dept. of Education made without Congressional approval and for which they are now being sued by EPIC, literally loosen, rather than strengthen, parental consent rules and other rules.

The Federal Register of December 2011 outlines the Dept. of Education’s new, Congressionally un-approved regulations, that decrease parental involvement and increase the number of agencies that have access to private student data: (See page 52-57)

Although the Federal Register describes countless agencies, programs and “authorities” that may access personally identifiable student information, it uses permissive rather than mandatory language.  The obligatory language comes up in the case of the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the states’ testing consortium

Effectively, there is no privacy regulation governing schools anymore, on the federal level.  Khalia Barnes, a lawyer at EPIC disclosed that these privacy intrusions affect not only children, but anyone who ever attended any college or university (that archives records, unless it is a privately funded university.)

  • Why did the Dept. of Ed need to alter FERPA regulations?

To match their data collection goals (stated in the Dept. of Ed cooperative agreement with testing consortia) which contracts with testing consortia to mandate triangulation of tests and collected data. This federal supervision is illegal under G.E.P.A. law and the 10th Amendment).

  • Who can access collected data?
The National Data Collection Model (the federal request for what states ought to be collecting) represents 400 data points schools should collect and “it is a comprehensive, non-proprietary inventory… that can be used by schools, LEAs, states, vendors, and researchers”.  Vendors are already using this.
  • How can we get free of this system?
Jenni White of ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) states that the only way to get free of this federal data collection invasion is to put political pressure on our governors to give that ARRA money back.  As long as we keep it, we are in data collection chains by the federal government; also, our increasing buy-in to common core exacerbates the educational tech scam on the corporate side. Dept. of Education infringements upon state law and freedom are explained in the white paper by Jenni White entitled “Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy”  –
  • What else is at stake?
Sheila Kaplan has provided expert testimony about the student data collection, but has also said that an educational data monopoly is an issue, too.  She explains that a group exists, including Bing, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc., that assigns high or low attention to content and directs internet traffic.  So if code uses hashtags and common core aligned taxonomies, your education data will get traffic.  If not, it won’t.  If you are searching for any educational data it won’t come up unless it’s using that coded taxonomy.  This wrecks net neutrality and is, in her educated opinion, an anti-trust issue of the internet. She mentioned the CEDS, (common element data system) that is ending net neutrality.  She also finds appalling the Learning Registry, funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Education, which is a place for teachers to advertise for common core aligned products– all using stimulus money.
  • Why did the Dept. of Ed redefine FERPA’s meaning of the term “educational agency” to include virtually any agency and redefine “authorized representative” to mean virtually anyone, even a “school volunteer?

When FERPA is weak, linking of data allows easy access to data, both technologically and in terms of legal policy.  It also trumps other laws, such as HIPPA.  For example, as both Gary Thompson and Jenni White have pointed out, the new, weak FERPA law takes precedence over HIPPA (patient privacy) when medical or psychological services are provided in schools or when educational services are provided in jails.

In that document, states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis,” to give status reports, phone conferences and other information, and must synchronize tests “across consortia”. This triangulation nationalizes the testing system and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program.

For understanding of the motivation of the federal government, read some of US Dept. of Education Arne Duncan’s or Obama’s speeches that show the passion with which the federal agency seeks access to data to control teachers and educational decisions.
  • Are teachers also to be studied like guinea pigs, along with students? Yes.
The Common Core of Data (CCD) is another federal program of data collection that studies TEACHERS as well as students.  It calls itself  “a program of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics that annually collects fiscal and non-fiscal data about all public schools, public school districts and state education agencies in the United States. The data are supplied by state education agency officials and include information that describes schools and school districts, including name, address, and phone number; descriptive information about students and staff, including demographics; and fiscal data, including revenues and current expenditures.”
The system also allows the governments to track, steer and even to punish teachers, students and citizens more easily.
  • How does Common Core relate to the federal and corporate data collection movement?
 Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss at the Dept. of Education has been publicly quoted saying that “data-mashing” is a good idea.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gives speeches calling for “more robust data.” And at the recent White House Datapalooza, the CEO of eScholar stated that without Common Core tests being “the glue” for open data, this data movement would be impossible.

46 responses to “School Data Collection Facts Summary

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  2. Good work ladies.

  3. What happens if I refuse to answer questions?

    • You can opt your child out of the Common Core tests. But by enrolling in school in the first place, he/she has been entered into the state longitudinal database system and is being tracked. Information collected by various agencies is combined on the SLDS.

  4. I’m a teacher/administrator. We don’t have “Common Core” tests in our state, although most assessments are aligned with the CC (as they are just good math and ELA standards). We recently chose (with zero influence from the gov’t) to use the ACT suite for grades 3-12, which I think is a great move. As for the “data mining,” we adopted the CC standards three years ago, and that has yet to happen. Our state superintendent, a deeply convicted and passionate teacher leader, has assured us this WILL NOT happen. I can only speak for my state, but including the CC standards in our courses of study has been a very positive thing. I see evidence of it every single day.

  5. Melissa, the common core tests begin this coming school year. The data mining cannot be argued, since every state has a State Longitudinal Database System, paid for by the federal ARRA money, and required to be fully interoperable with other states’ SLDS systems. Of course, it will become more intense as the tests begin than it has been; but already, it’s outrageous that a parent isn’t told when she signs her child up for school on the first day, that the child is going to be tracked using personally identifiable information from now on. No parent is asked. And the school district HAS to send the data to the state, and the state HAS to have an interoperable SLDS system paid for by the federal government. That much is unarguable.

    The fact that the privacy law (FERPA) was altered by the Dept. of Education (for which they have been rightly sued) is also big. Study that law suit. It shows that parental consent is not required but is only a “best practice.” It shows that your state superintendent will not have the power he/she believes he/she has. The multiple agencies that are deliberately linking data will override the good intentions of any local entity. Study the Datapalooza conference that the White House just had. They openly admit that Common Core is “the glue” that holds the data mining / open data push together. Without Common Core, the data mining could never work. That is one reason we have to get rid of Common Core.

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  11. You are right on about all the data collection. Thanks for the point by point analysis with references. The one thing I have been struggling to find is detailed information about where the data mashing collection takes place. I am limiting any information shared anywhere, but would like to be able to see where all of the data can be collected from. Do they have access to all state government records, what access is there to medical and health records, are teachers “required” to input observational information and private conversations? Kindergarten applications list a question about race and say that it is optional, but that if it is not filled out then they will complete it based on observation. Do you know where to find any of this?
    Thanks for all you are doing!

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  13. There is a laundry list of concerns that this process of new regulations infringes upon the privacy rights of not only the students (for years to come) but those of the parents. Having a centralized data collection overseen by the federal government which is, acquiring information from cradle to grave, and reducing parental permission/consents from required to öptional, or best practices is taking another right away from individuals and the family.. Also, if any archived data of any previously enrolled student, who attended any public educational institution, is now be entered into this collective data base would this not be an infringement upon that person’s right to privacy without acquired permission. The language of these regulations seem to negate individual privacy for governmental control”, and the government allowing unauthorized vendors acquiring this data information. Does anyone else see this as government trying to control too much. This seems like a process that smacks more of something we might see in China or the Soviet Union?

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  26. Thanks to your article here (shared on Facebook by People Against the Standardization of Students… PASS) I was, after weeks of head scratching, able to connect the dots – why school systems aren’t warning students that they’re being spied on by the National Security Agency. As is usually the case, it’s all about the money. My story here…

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  34. Does this just affect public schools or are private schools also jumping on the band wagon?

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