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Fact-Checking Associate UT Superintendent Judy Park on Nonacademic Data Collection   13 comments

Once again it seems necessary, unfortunately, to provide a fact-checking rebuttal to statements made by Utah’s Associate Superintendent Judy Park about student data privacy.

In a letter given out to parents of children attending a St. George charter school recently, Judy Park was quoted at length.  Park, the Associate Superintendent of Utah, made the following statements that will be scrutinized here with links to opposing evidence.

In that letter, Ms. Park  wrote:

“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…” 

Here’s evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.

1.  First, there are Utah laws about standardized tests requiring the testing of behavioral indicators.  One law, HB15, created in 2012, that requires the collection of behavior indicators 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 herself is 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 172: “Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure  what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or  skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play,  data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59)

-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.

-From page 136: 
MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a personal commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society”
(Some people may object to MG:A2, for example, since “basic democratic principles” aren’t the same thing as “basic republican principles” and FYI, the Constitution specifically guarantees individuals a republican form of government.  (Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution.)  So what if my child’s been taught about Article 4, Section 4, at home, and he/she doesn’t test “correctly” on MG:A2?  These outcomes may sound innocuous to many, but here’s the REAL point:  if the government/school system/USOE claims the right to test our children for one set of beliefs, be they good or bad, they can test our children for other sets of beliefs.  They don’t have the right to do this, in my opinion,  without parental consent or at least an opt-out-of-the-SLDS-database option for parents who do object.)

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 people stand up– unless bills like Jake Anderegg’s current HB169 student data privacy bill  and others like it will pass, we have very few protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscious data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

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