Yesterday, UT Associate Superintendent Judy Park responded to an open letter (posted below) that I sent a week ago. I had sent the letter to support St. George parents who want to opt children out of the standardized testing.
Ms. Park’s response was a one-sentence email message that included a link to a graphic, also posted below, under the open letter.
She did not respond to the vital issues brought up in the letter, nor did her graphic reveal, despite its little red lock-icons (labeled “secure“) –any actual laws or proper policy protections that exist to make our students’ data secure from inter-agency and vendor sharing. No such laws, that I am aware of, yet exist in Utah.
Here’s my letter:
Dear Associate Superintendent Judy Park,
Recently, you wrote (and were quoted in a letter sent out by a St. George charter school to the parents –a letter that aimed to prevent parents from opting children out of the Common Core testing– the following:
“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”. They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim. The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”
Here’s unfortunate evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park. First there is a Utah law about Common Core standardized tests. This law, HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of behavior indicators. It calls for “ the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing. This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.
But another law (HB177) has been requiring, from the 2002-03 school year on, “the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance.” Since 2002!
2. Utah has paid at least $39 million to the AIR company to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests: American Institutes for Research”s mission: “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…”
Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah laws say that the test must note behavioral indicators, the AIR test still won’t?
3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals? Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)
Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied by school systems. These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)” That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS). Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it. (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)
The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database. “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.” It also says:
“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency… Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.” So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah. That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.
4. Ms. Park, you are a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core. This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are. On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data. Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.
5. “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance.” (UMCCG) is an official document from the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) that actively endorses the collection of behavioral and non-academic data. It says, for instance, that perception data must be assessed.
-From page 66: Examples of attitudes or belief data include: “74 percent of students believe fighting is wrong.”
This list of Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers, according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.
These 5 points together prove, at least to me, that the educational government of Utah is collecting behavioral and non-academic data on our children without our consent.
But lastly, there is this issue: Ms. Park also wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”
This is a big problem since the state and the federal privacy protection requirements do not match anymore. Ms. Park does not seem to be aware of this. But today, the state is much more protective of students’ rights. Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky Department of Education (DOE). The DOE changed the definitions of terms. They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data). They redefined personally identifiable information. So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared. Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?
Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant applicaton to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it. Unless bills like Rep. Anderegg’s HB169 student data privacy bill and others like it are taken seriously, we have no proper legal protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscuous data sharing here in Utah.
Sad but true.
From: Park, Judy <Judy.Park@schools.utah.gov>
Date: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: Open Letter to Judy Park on Student Data Privacy Facts
To: Christel S <email@example.com>
Cc: “Allen, Dixie” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Menlove, Martell” <Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov>, Board of Education <Board@schools.utah.gov>, Constituent Services <email@example.com>
A data document is available on the website.
Yep. That one sentence is all the response that she had.
Below is what Ms. Park’s link brings up. Click here to see it for yourself at the USOE site.
Notice the continued insistence that no behavioral or belief related data is collected despite the links I provided above. Notice that the USOE states its purpose for the SLDS database is to serve schools and districts on this graphic; but in federal grant applications, federal sites and federal/corporate partnered websites, it’s stated that the SLDS exists to serve federal and “stakeholder” decision-making. Always it’s a two-step, two-faced dance.
Please know, Utahns, that while probably Ms. Judy Park is a lovely person in many ways, she is very unfortunately and very definitely not a friend to local control. She’s an active member of the CCSSO, which created national Common Core, and she was an Executive Committee co-chair of SBAC, the federally funded testing group which, by federal contract, mandated that states aligned with SBAC must allow federal management of testing and data. FYI– Utah since then dropped its SBAC membership and is currently partnered with AIR, but AIR is fully partnered with federally mandated and funded SBAC.
I can also testify that if a teacher or parent asks Ms. Park a question in person, which I have, she’ll put her hand on her hip, beam an uncomfortably long-lasting smile; not answer the question, and lightly dismiss the legitimate issue of concern with: “You certainly are passionate about what you believe. I need to move on to the next person.”
This oft-demonstrated attitude, pervasive at the USOE and USSB, is truly hurting some of the most important and best people –the students and teachers– in our beautiful state of Utah.