Archive for the ‘control’ Tag

My, What Big Data Teeth you have, Grandmother: An Open Letter to Utah Legislators   11 comments

Dear Utah Legislator,

I’m writing to you as a mother to ask you to put a stop to the use of Utah’s school systems as snooping agents on our children.

Corporate and federal partnerships and Utah state data systems and interstate partnerships now watch and track our children without anyone having asked for parental consent to do so.

Some Utah leaders are working hard to fortify privacy rights, I know. But many powerful organizations, departments and corporations are working hard to ignore, dismiss, or stop any efforts to defend student privacy– all with great intentions but absolutely without authority.

The result is a data collecting and sharing network that represents loss of parental authority and loss of individual privacy.

In recent years, Utah built and is now using a federally structured and paid-for ($9.6 M) State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) from which no parent is permitted to opt their child out.

This lack of liberty should be a red flag.

But few Utahns know that their child is being tracked and very few know that they can’t opt out of that tracking.

Fewer still know that there’s a Utah Data Alliance (UDA) that links K-12 data, collected by schools, with higher ed., with the State workforce and other agencies.

Utah’s UDA has agreed to use the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC) State Core Model –which means all of our data will be interoperable and sharable across state lines. The PESC’s State Core Model aligns different states’ SLDS data systems so that they all match.

I am not saying that Utah agencies are sharing private data yet; I am saying that there’s nothing strong preventing them from doing so and that school systems are moving in the direction of more and more data commonality and disaggregation of student data. (see point 4 at that link.)

Countless entities have lined up with a “Data Quality Campaign” to make sure all their data points and technologies match, so that student information can be pooled.

Federal FERPA laws, previously protective of student data, have now been grossly loosened, and federal agencies including the NCES and the Department of Education, as well as White House events such as “Datapalooza” and White House Chiefs such as Joanne Weiss, are encouraging us to pool data, while (weakly) noting that student privacy is, of course, important. Yet proper protections are missing.

The Department of Education does a two-faced dance, asking for “robust data” and altering FERPA on the one hand, and insisting that they don’t even collect student data when speaking to the press. The U.S. Department of Education’s intentions are, however, revealed in the student-level data-sharing mandate in its cooperative testing agreements and in the contrast between what Secretary Arne Duncan says and does.

The PESC model was developed by the unelected, private trade group, CCSSO, as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) funded by the Gates Foundation. (CCSSO is the same private group that developed and copyrighted Common Core standards). The PESC Model, in its own definition, “includes early childhood, elementary and secondary, post-secondary, and workforce elements, known as “P20,” and establishes comparability between sectors and between states.”

PESC states that it “will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia. The core purpose of an SLDS is to fulfill federal reporting…”

I find this alarming. You might find it hard to believe that Utah is lined up with it.

So here is the evidence:

The agreement is stated on page 4 of section 1 (page 20 on the PDF) of Utah’s 2009 ARRA Data Grant: “The UDA will adhere to standards such as the School Interoperability Framework (SIF), the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC) and other XML schemas.”

Here is the PESC State Core Model abstract.

“1.0 Abstract

The State Core Model is a common technical reference model for states implementing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). It was developed by CCSSO as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) adoption work with funding from the Gates Foundation…The State Core Model will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia. The core purpose of an SLDS is to fulfill federal reporting (EDEN/EDFacts)…
The Model [can replace] 625 distinct Federal reporting types with record-level data collections.

… The Model is designed to address unique, complex P20 SLDS relationships, business rules, and entity factoring… It addresses student-teacher link, common assessment data model, and comes pre-loaded with Common Core learning standards.

The State Core Model consists of three principle artifacts… All three artifacts can be downloaded and used without charge or attribution from [the EIMAC group site].”

Data Baby

And, what is EIMAC? In case you hadn’t heard of EIMAC: it’s the branch of the CCSSO that “advocates on behalf of states to reduce data collection burden and improve the overall quality of the data collected at the national level.” Yes, they said that out loud. They collect data at the national level without authority nor any representation.

But, but– (we say) –Aren’t we protected by GEPA law and by the Constitution from any sort of “accountability” to federal agencies in educational matters or privacy matters including “unreasonable searches”?

Not if our legislators don’t defend these rights.

According to the PESC document, on page 5, we are drowning in “federal accountability”. There are at least 625 federal reports mentioned at PESC. A few include: http://www.pesc.org/library/docs/Common%20Data%20Standards/State%20Core%20Model%2011-17.pdf

EDEN – EDFacts 79 file types
CRDC – Civil Rights Data Collection 2 parts
SFSF – State Fiscal Stabilization Fund 33 indicators, 3 descriptors
MSRI – Migrant Student Records Exchange Initiative
CSPR – Consolidated State Performance Reports 191 Indicators
OSEP – Office of Special Education Programs 34 indicators
IPEDS – Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
CCD – Common Core Data (fiscal) Financial data collected in survey format
SDFSCA – Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Data are collected in CSPR
M-V – McKinney-Vento Collected through CSPR.
Perkins – Perkins Act
RTTT – Race to the Top N/A
TIF – Teacher Incentive Fund 6 Sections
N or D Annual Report of Neglected and Delinquent (N or D) Children Collected through CSPR”

—————–

To clarify: the document that signed us up for PESC is the Utah application for the ARRA grant for a SLDS database. (This document resulted in Utah receiving $9.6 million from the federal government, none of which was used for actual education, but only to build the student database (SLDS).)

That SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and it says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA.

Who are these individuals? How many of them are there? Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?

NON-COGNITIVE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA, TOO.

Starting at page 87, 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)”

The SSI inventory –your child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS) and there are plans to do this for earlier grades, but for now it’s for 11th and 12th graders. Demographic information is captured while administering the test and SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed needs to see it. (This is not a parental decision but a state decision.)

INTEGRATING STUDENT PSYCHOMETRIC CENSUS DATA INTO THE SLDS SYSTEM:

The SLDS grant also promises to integrate our psychological data into the SLDS (that database which the feds paid for/pushed on us.)

“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. Both the USOE (K-12) and the Postsecondary Outcomes and Data Needs
sub-sections will address these needs.”

(My, what big data collection teeth you have, Grandmother!The better to integrate you with, my dear.)

Next, on page 87 of the same grant, Utah’s application for the ARRA money, it 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 how they’re gathering the psychological data.

But that’s not the only way psychological data is being taken in Utah schools. “Behavioral indicators” are also required to be collected by the Common Core tests, those math and English A.I.R. or SAGE tests, as Utah House Bill 15, aka the Common Core Computer Adaptive Testing Bill, demands.

What can we do?

markey images

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Markey has taken action. He articulated his concerns on this subject in a letter to Secretary Arne Duncan. Other legislators around the nation are writing bills to take protective action for student privacy.

I hope all Utah legislators read Senator Markey’s letter, peruse the PESC and ARRA (SLDS) grant documents, look into the SSI surveys, study the machinations of Secretary Arne Duncan,and then take action to put an end to the unreined and ever-growing network of entities which collude for profit and for other, various control-related reasons, to dismiss the vital right of student privacy.

This would mean ending the “partnerships” by Utah with: the CCSSO, the Data Quality Campaign, the PESC State Model, the SLDS interoperability framework, the National Data Collection Model, the CEDS program of EIMAC; it would mean creating proper protections inside the Utah Data Alliance, and most of all, it would mean establishing permission from parents prior to any student SLDS surveillance.

Thank you.

Christel Swasey
Utah Mother

Cherie Zaslawsky: Brave New Schools   5 comments

Brave New Schools

Guest post by California English teacher Cherie Zaslawsky

The much touted Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative that is being pushed as a silver bullet to improve our schools is not simply the latest fad in education: CCS is actually an unprecedented program that would radically alter our entire K-12 educational system, affecting content (i.e. curriculum), delivery (largely via computer), testing (also via computer), teacher evaluations (connected to test scores), as well as creating an intrusive database of sensitive information from student “assessments.” This program, for all the protestations to the contrary, represents the nationalization of education in America, extinguishing any semblance of local control. Furthermore, it was essentially developed at the behest of billionaire Bill Gates, who also funded it to the tune of some $150 million, and who clearly thinks he knows what’s best for everybody else’s children. (His own are safely ensconced in private schools).

California adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative on August 2, 2010, only two months after the standards were released. Nor has this multi-billion dollar program ever been piloted anywhere! It’s a nationwide experiment—with our children as the subjects.  Nor was CCS ever internationally benchmarked. In California, as in most states, there was no time to devote to studying the intricacies of the program, vetting it, or introducing it to the public. Instead, Race to the Top money was dangled in front of state legislatures, and 45 states sprang for it, but 16 of these states at last count are already seeking to withdraw from the program.

Parents need to understand the implications of the Common Core Standards. These standards, which amount to a national curriculum via bundled tests, texts and teacher evaluations, would severely degrade our local schools. How? By lowering the standards of high-performing schools to make them “equal” with low-performing schools, in a misguided attempt to reach what its proponents call “equity” or “fairness” by mandating the lowest common denominator for all schools. True, this would close the muchballyhooed “achievement gap”—but only by dumbing down the education of the best and brightest to better match that of the unmotivated and/or less academically gifted.

The idea that all students should perform identically sounds eerily like something out of  Mao’s China. What happened to our relishing of individual talents and uniqueness? Would we lower the standards for the best athletes to put them on a par with mediocre athletes to close the “performance gap” in, say, high school football?

How do a few of the experts view this program? Dr. James Milgrim of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Common Core validation team, refused to sign off on the math standards because he discovered that by the end of 8th grade, CCS will leave our students two years behind in math compared to those in high-performing countries. And according to Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the respected expert who developed the Massachusetts standards, widely regarded as the best in the nation, “Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for ELA are chiefly empty skill sets and cannot lead to even a meaningful high school diploma. Only a literature-rich curriculum can. College readiness has always depended on the complexity of the literary texts teachers teach and a coherent literature curriculum.”

As English teacher Christel Swasey notes:  “We become compassionate humans by receiving and passing on classic stories. Souls are enlarged by exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, the poetic language and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that live in classic literature.”  Instead, students will swim in the murky waters of relativism where all things are equal and no moral compass exists. We should not be surprised if they are also encouraged to view history along the lines of multiculturalism, “social equity,” and the Communitarian glorification of the collectivist “global village.”

Consider how drastically literature is being marginalized (30%) in favor of “informational” texts (70%) in the 12th  grade, with a maximum of only 50% literature ever, throughout middle and high school English classes. The switch to a steady diet of “informational” texts virtually ensures that students won’t be learning to think critically or to write probing, analytical essays, let alone to develop the love of reading and appreciation for the literary masterpieces of Western culture. Put in practical terms, it means that instead of reading Hamlet, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice, your child will be reading computer manuals and tracts on “climate change,” “environmental justice,” and the virtues of recycling.

And the price of mediocrity? In California, implementation cost is estimated at $2.1 billion, with $1.4 billion as upfront costs—mainly for computers (every child needs one—along with special apps—could that be one reason Bill Gates poured a cool $150 million into this program? Perhaps giving new meaning to the word “philanthropist”…) along with training teachers to navigate the complicated new programs. Even though it’s been proven—as if we needed proof—that children learn better from real live teachers than from staring at LCD screens.

In addition, tests and “assessments” will be taken on computers—resulting in the harvesting of personal data that amounts to a dossier on every child, including choice tidbits about Mommy and Daddy.  And what is to stop the powers-that-be from using these assessments and test results to “re-educate” “politically incorrect” students who show too much independence?

Clearly Common Core is a disaster in the making.  So what can we do? The simplest solution is to insist that our school boards turn down the carrot of federal funding and reject Common Core in order to preserve the integrity of our local schools through local control and to continue to allow our teachers to use their creativity in the classroom. The price of compliance with Common Core, however tempting monetarily speaking, is just too high— the mortgaging of our children’s future.

——-

Thanks to Cherie Zaslawsky for permission to publish her essay here.

Chart Explaining Who Controls Common Core   2 comments

 

Click for sources:

Click to access FlowchartSources.pdf

Thanks to Alyson Williams for this compilation of research.

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