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Protecting Kids: Pioneer Institute’s Call to Action for Parents, Schools, Congress   Leave a comment

stealth assessment babyI’m posting today to draw attention to Cogs in the Machine, an important white paper published last year by Pioneer Institute, written by Jane Robbins, Joy Pullman and Emmett McGroarty.   It’s about public-system-assisted big data collection –and how Americans can protect their kids.  The paper includes specific, effective action points for parents, schools, state- and nationally-elected representatives.  The length of the white paper, though, makes me think few will read down to find these treasures, so I’m posting just the final recommendations here.  Please read (and share)  the whole white paper when you can.   If you click here and scroll down to the end, you can read the whole paper, and much more easily.  Pasting from the pdf is causing tight spacing that I don’t know how to fix.
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The white paper’s policy recommendations for parents, schools, state and national lawmakers:
This report  has discussed dangers that unchecked data-collection poses to individuals and the United States as a whole. 
What are some ways to check these dangers?
• If your child has any sort of computer login or participates in any computer program (say, a computer vocabulary game or computerized tests) as part of school, his or her data is being automatically logged and compiled through these devices. If this concerns you, ask your school to explain how they will protect your child’s privacy. If these protections are not satisfactory, ask the school to modify its contract with the technology provider to guarantee it will not sell or indefnitely compile your child’s information.
• If your child’s school is implementing digital-learning platforms, insist on an explanation of what kinds of information will be compiled through those platforms. Will the software record data about your child’s behaviors and attitudes ratherthan just his academic knowledge? If so,and if you object to this data-collection, opt out.
• If you child is using a vendor’s education apps, verify that the vendor is not mining your child’s data to use for marketing or other purposes.
• As always, be vigilant about what happens in your child’s classroom. Read all notices schools hand out about data-and information-sharing, and don’t sign off on anything you don’t understand. Choose not to provide information when the reasons someone wants it are not explained to your satisfaction.
• When your child takes a standardized test, demand to know what data the assessment will collect and to whom it will be disclosed. Find out if the test measures non-cognitive attributes such as self-control, home environment, etc. If any answers are unacceptable to you, opt out.
• Be especially wary of having healthcare services provided to your children at school. These are not subject to thetighter privacy protections required of non-school healthcare providers.
You are entitled to know what information your school has already collected about your child, and to correct any errors in that record. All you have to do is ask someone in charge at your child’s school.
Demand that state lawmakers pass strong legislation protecting your child’s information.
When you sign contracts with technology providers, include clauses that require the vendor to erase student-level information after the contract term has ended, forbid the vendor from selling or sharing student information with any other entity unless mandated by law, and as far as possible provide for student anonymity by using ID numbers and random logins rather than personal identifiers such as names, email addresses, and especially Social Security numbers.
• Introduce and vote for legislation to correct the relaxation of FERPA.  The legislation should include penalties that will make it not worth a company or nonprofit or agency’s while to disobey the law. It is also essential for states to pass student-privacy laws because, even if FERPA is restored or strengthened, the more bulwarks against excessive data-collection, the better. Further, laws made closer to the people who must follow them offer better protection to citizens and the ability to tailor laws to the needs of each state.
• Require state departments of education, local school systems, and schools to include tight privacy protections in all contracts with vendors, contractors, cloud computing services, and so forth.
• Limit the information the state demands that schools collect to the least data required to comply with federal mandates in exchange for federal funds.
• Prohibit state departments of education from accepting federal grants that include any data-collection mandates without prior review and public approval by the legislature.
Be wary of investing in and implementing any digital-learning platforms without understanding exactly what capabilities they have for compiling data on students, such as measuring psychological resources and other affective assessments. No such platforms should be used without full explanation of their data-collection capabilities to, and consent by, parents.
Amend any state laws that require parents to opt out of automatic data-collection and require them instead to opt in. Also amend state laws that penalize parents or children for choosing to opt out of state tests.
• Hold town hall meetings on private and government data-collection.
• Pass comprehensive laws to address the state’s authority to collect, whether directly or through private sources, personal data and its authority to pass that data on to others, including the federal government and private entities. 
Immediately reaffirm the original privacy protections of FERPA and seek to strengthen that law with one fit for the digital age, which affirms individuals’ ownership of their own private information.
Prohibit federal agencies from demanding or accepting student-level data from, or disclosing such data to, any private entity or any health, labor,workforce, social services, education, or other agency.
• Replace demands for data in exchange for federal education funds with federal laws that block grant such funds to states with freedom to spend their education dollars as they see fit. This is the model of the A-PLUS Act, a good step toward sending unproductive and intrusive federal education mandates at all levels.
• Pass legislation that recognizes the right of the individual to exploit (i.e., prohibit the exploitation of) his or her personal information. Such legislation would, ofcourse, have to specify at what point such a right of action vests in the individual (at what point of data collection and manipulation may an individual take action).”
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