Archive for the ‘FERPA’ Tag

Federal Control of Technology and Data: On “Internet Neutrality,”the ConnectEd Initiative, and SETRA   6 comments

How will President Obama’s multiple initiatives increase federal control over American technology and data mining –and how will these initiatives affect children?

There are several new initiatives to consider.

I.  NET NEUTRALITY

Yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the Obama-approved definition of “Internet Neutrality.”  Proponents made it sound as if “neutrality” meant openness and freedom for individuals, but the ruling increases federal power over the internet.

The notion that fairness and neutrality should be government-defined and government-enforced makes me roll my eyes. The term “net neutrality” sounds just like Harrison Bergeron, with the FCC playing the part of the Handicapper General to enforce equality by handicapping achievers and punishing success.

So now that the federal government has increased power to define and enforce its one definition of neutrality, how will this advance the goals of Obama’s ConnectED initiative?  Will “neutrality” aim, like ConnectEd aims, to strap tax dollars and children’s destinies in education to Bill Gates’ philosophies and coffers?  I ask this in light of Microsoft’s alignment with the FCC’s ruling, Microsoft’s celebrated discounting of common core-aligned ed tech products and Microsoft’s promotion of ConnectED.  Add to that question this fact: Microsoft’s owner, Gates, funded the Role of Federal Policy report, which found (surprise, surprise) that the power of federal groups, to “research” children/education without restraint, should be increased using ESRA reauthorization.  More on that below.

How does all of this work with the SETRA bill’s student data collection goals?

II.  CONNECT-ED

First, a quick ConnectEd review:  Obama is bringing the now-neutralized internet to all schools while behaving very non-neutrally himself: he’s officially favoring and partnering with Microsoft/Bill Gates/Common Core so the uniform customer base (children) will only receive the One Correctly Aligned Education Product (and likely will thank Gates for what they see as kindness, deep discounts).  Microsoft’s website explains: “Partnering with the White House’s ConnectED Initiative, we’re helping provide technology for education, at a fraction of the cost.”  Pearson, Inc. is doing the same thing here and here and here to lay those near-irreversible foundations for the future.

What Microsoft, Pearson and ConnectEd are doing could be compared to offering free or discounted train tracks to your city.  They’re fancy tracks, but customized to fit one sort of train only.  By accepting the offer, you are automatically limited to using only the kinds of trains made to run on your new tracks.

States and schools ought to be saying “no, thanks” to Gates and Pearson if we want to have the freedom to later use education and ed technology that might be Common Core-free.

(As an important aside: one of the stated aims of Obama’s ConnectEd is to catch up to South Korea where “all schools are connected to the internet… all teachers are trained in digital learning, and printed textbooks will be phased out by 2016.”  I’ll never join the chorus of “Let die traditional, print books”.  But ConnectED has. )

The Internet has been, until now, unregulated by the federal government.  It’s been free.   The controllistas think of free as “unfair,” however.

“The main excuse for implementing the new invasions is the statists’ favorite complaint: Internet service providers ‘discriminate’  …[F]acilitators seeking to benefit from less competition, such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix,  ought to be beige in color, have identical horsepower, the same number of doors, and get the same gas mileage no matter how far or fast they may be driven” (from Bob Adelman, New American Magazine).

In the FCC’s ruling, Bob Adelmann pointed out, there’s been dramatic change without  transparent vetting.  Adelmann wrote, three days ago: “On Thursday consumers will finally be able to see and read the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) planned new rules to regulate the Internet. Deliberately hidden from public view, the 332-page document … [was] demanded by President Obama… he told FCC … to adopt the “strongest possible rules” in regulating the Internet.”

 

 

WHY?

 

Why was Obama bent on getting the “strongest possible rules” to control the Internet– and why did he confuse people by calling this move one toward openness and freedom?  I don’t know why.

The “why” is not so important.

What matters most now is that Americans recognize that he is, in fact, aiming for ever increasing control at the expense of our freedoms, and that he’s partnered with private corporations who share his aims.  History teaches that many people seek to control other people; whether for kindly intentioned or malicious intentioned reasons, they always have and always will.  That’s why our Constitution is so sacred.  It protects individuals from others’ controlling tendencies by decentralizing power.

Government-imposed equality, or “neutrality,” is a theme Obama has promoted in many ways prior to yesterday’s “Net Neutrality” punch.

  1. Think of common “College and Career Ready Standards” –a.k.a Common Core, which his administration promoted to U.S. governors –and reported about to the U.N.— in 2009-10: “President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments,” said Secretary Duncan.
  2. Think of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) for all students and for every state database, data standards which his administration partnered in creating.
  3. Think of his administration’s funding and promotion of common SLDS state databases that now track and grade the nation’s schools, teachers and students using interoperable systems and common, national data models.
  4. Think of federally-promoted, aligned testing for all states and students.  Same, same, same.

Match that to the speeches of Bill Gates  about building the uniform customer base of students using Common Core.

In each of the Obama-promoted, standardizing measures, no one may soar.  No one is allowed to meander into creative or superior or innovative paths because of that devoted mindset: no failure– not allowing anyone freedom, if that includes the freedom for some to fail.  This commonizing of the masses under the banner of “fair and equal” once upon a time used to be called communism, but that’s not a politically correct term anymore.  You can’t even call it socialism.  Instead, the p.c. terms are “social justice”  or “playing fair.”  I call it theft.  Legalized plunder.

And it’s never actually fair: There is nothing fair about elites centralizing power to take freedom from individuals.  Also, for those who decide that they are above the law there are exceptions; the ruling elite still get to choose.

When I say, “elites centralize power to take freedom from individuals,” I don’t mean metaphorically or theoretically.  It’s real.  It’s no theory.  The micromanagement of schools, children, teachers to minimize parental “interference” and parental “opportunity” is a large and extremely well oiled machine.

On its federal hand, there’s the Obama Administration’s “National Education Technology Plan“.  On its private, corporate hand, there’s the Bill-Gates-led “Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research,” explained out a report written by Aspen Institute and funded by the Gates Foundation.  It says, “there is a broad consensus that federal investment in education research, development, and dissemination is vital” and “the pending reauthorization of ESRA creates new opportunities to better harness the tremendous research capacity we have in America to turn broad consensus into broad benefit,” and even: “the Obama Administration has proposed to create a new unit of ED, called ARPA-ED, that would be analogous to the high-profile Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Department of Defense. ”

III. SETRA – The Reauthorization of ESRA

We need to study the “pending reauthorization of ESRA” that hopes to “harness” students’ data.  The SETRA bill now on-deck, bill S227, is the data collection bill that American Principles Project  warned America about in a press release.  SETRA is a direct answer to what the both the Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research and the National Education Technology Plan had requested:  more power to the federal government over student data.

The history of educational data collection by federal/private forces is very boring.  I only bring this up because we need to see them for what they are: public-private-partnerships, with unclear dividing lines between federal and private controls.  That means that we can’t easily un-elect them or influence the power that they wield.  It’s data collection without representation.  That’s not only unconstitutional; it’s also very creepy.

The boring but important history of these public-private-partnerships is detailed in the Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research report, as well as on websites from the REL/WestED groups.   WestED, a now-nonprofit, explains: “The roots of WestEd go back to 1966, when Congress funded regional laboratories across the country to find practical ways to improve the education of our nation’s children.  Charged with “bridging the gap between research and practice,” a number of the original Regional Educational Laboratories grew beyond their initial charge and developed into successful organizations. Two in particular—the Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory (SWRL) and the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (FWL)—evolved beyond their laboratory roots, eventually merging in 1995 to form WestEd.”

Why it matters?  Ask yourself this:  How does a parent protect his/her child from data leaks, privacy breaches and unwanted government intrusion or “guidance” when the data collection machines are not run by elected representatives, and they are paid to run well by the unstoppable force of taxes?

How does a parent protect his/her child when federal FERPA (Family Ed Rights and Privacy Act) has been altered so that it’s no longer protective of parental rights and student privacy?

How does a parent protect his/her child when the new SETRA bill allows power to go to regional commissioners, rather than residing in local schools, districts, or even states?  Regions take precedence over states under SETRA.

But the public does not know this because proponents of SETRA reveal what they want to reveal in their “pro-SETRA” talking points.

I hate talking points!  Give me truth in the form of direct quotes and page numbers from a bill next time, Congressman Boener.

Proponents fail to reveal the details of the bill that alarm opponents of SETRA.  I’ll share a few.

Psychological Profiling

For example, page 28, section 132 reveals that data to be collected on students may: “include research on social and emotional learning“.  Social and emotional learning means psychological testing!  This is promoting the same creepy biometric data mining methods that the Dept. of Education was pushing two years ago in its “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report of 2013 (see report pdf page 44).

grit

This SETRA bill’s  language empowers the government to create a profile on your child, psychologically (emotional learning) and politically (social learning).

I do not support allowing the government to keep psychological/political dossiers on children.

 

Reliance on a wet-noodle FERPA for privacy protection

But I have no power, they tell me,  despite being a mom, a voter, and a taxpayer.  Recall that there is no requirement under federal FERPA any longer to get parental consent over the gathering or sharing of student data.

Likewise, in Utah, there’s no protection for student data.  The state longitudinal database system (SLDS) gathers data about each child from the moment he/she registers for kindergarten or preschool without parental consent.

The state has said that no Utah parent may opt an child out of SLDS and legislation to create protections for children’s privacy in Utah has not been successful.

Utah’s legislature and school board continues to allow the SLDS to run wild, unaccountable to parents or to anyone.  Students’ data in Utah is unprotected by law.  If the board or an administrator tells you differently, ask them to show you the law that provides protection in Utah.  Then send it to me.

In fact, the Utah Data Alliance promotes the sharing of data between agencies such as schools, higher ed, workforce services, and other agencies.  If the board or an administrator tells you differently, ask them to show you the law that provides protection in Utah.  Then please send it to me.

 

Parental Rights Dismissed

 

Soon, if federal SETRA passes, student data will be even more unprotected.  Zero parental rights over student academic data (thanks to shredded federal FERPA protections and wrongheaded Utah policies) will be joined by zero parental rights over student psychological data (thanks to power-hungry SETRA).

In section 208 (see page 107) the SETRA bill reauthorizes the federal government “to align statewide, longitudinal data systems [SLDS] from early education through postsecondary education (including pre-service preparation programs), and the workforce, consistent with privacy protections under section 183;’’

SLDS is the very set of databases that deny parents their rights to be the main authorities over their own children’s data.  Do we want to reauthorize the federal government to use our tax dollars for that purpose, moms and dads?

“Privacy protections under section 183,” as we discussed above, equals no privacy at all.  Why?  There used to be confidentiality standards, such as those seen in the 2002 data privacy code.  But all of that changed.  Now, confidentiality and parental consent have been reduced to “best practice” status, and parental consent prior to sharing data is not required by federal FERPA.

 

REGIONAL EDUCATION LABS MAY SUPERCEDE STATE AGENCIES IN POWER

Under SETRA section 174, “REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL LABORATORIES FOR RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, DISSEMINATION, AND EVALUATION” the power of the regional educational laboratories is expanded.  This whole section is worth reading, but it’s hard to read because of the many interruptions where the bill alters definitions and phrases from the original ESRA bill.  Try it.

I have to say that in this section, the repeated use of the term “laboratories,” in the context of “regional educational laboratories” gives me the creeps.  Am I the only one?  Our children as guinea pigs in laboratories of educational and now psychological experimentation –organized by region and not by state? No, thank you.

When Regions Rule, States Lose Constitutional Strength

Another important thought:  how can states’ rights over education ever be defended and protected when education is being restructured to function in regional, not by states, divisions?  Is this why the regional laboratories of educational research are growing to become more powerful than state boards?)

On page 57 of the pdf the R.E.L. Commissioner is given a lot of power.  “Each eligible applicant desiring a contract grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under this section shall submit an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Evaluation and Regional Assistance Commissioner may reasonably require.”  The Commissioner can deny funds, or give funds, to people who “shall seek input from State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the region that the award will serve”.  Hmm.  I see.  People may seek input from state agencies, but the regional laboratory commissioner is The Man.

The Regions aim for that power.

rel-logo-large

I’m not finished with my SETRA analysis.  I’m just sick of it right now.

I’ll be back.

Utah’s Fight for Student Data Privacy is On   4 comments

 

Sharing my letter, send out today.

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Dear [State School] Board,

I am gravely concerned about the “emergency vote” that was taken by the board last month, which decreased the amount of student data privacy protections that were previously in place, in order to cater to corporate education vendors, and in order to align with unlawful federal regulatory changes to federal FERPA– which harmed parental rights and student privacy, giving third party vendors unwarranted trust and access to student data.  Where were the student advocates and parent testifiers, when the corporate testifiers had their day to speak and to influence this board?
http://www.utah.gov/pmn/files/135221.pdf
I request that the “emergency vote” be immediately dismissed as unethical and unlawful, because it aligns exactly with the unethical and unlawful alterations that the Dept. of Education has made to family privacy rights without Congressional approval.  I request that a deep and probing study be taken on this weighty issue prior to a vote.  Allowing vendors this easy data-access aligns with the abuses of the Department of Education, and are not in harmony with vital principles of individual rights, family rights, and freedom from essentially handing oversight of education and student records to unelected vendors.
Christel Swasey
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(I’ll keep you posted.)
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anderegg

Utah Rep. Jake Anderegg

 

 

Why I wrote the letter?

I compared the student privacy protection bill  that Utah Representative Jake Anderegg is running right now, with the summary of a recent public hearing –in which corporate education vendors pushed for decreased student privacy and for increased student data sharing.  I realized that the fight is truly going on right now in Utah.  Most people don’t know the fight is on; it doesn’t make news headlines, though it should.  So few people speaking up.  And the board assumes it’s okay with all of us to keep loosening and loosening student data protections.

Should students and families maintain individual rights over student data privacy or not?  

Which side are you on?

Have we as an informed electorate, as neighbors, and families and friends, discussed what happens when students and families do  –or do not– have data privacy protection?  These are weighty matters with long term consequences.

The board’s having had a seemingly quick and one-sided “hearing” followed by an “emergency vote” seems hasty and even dangerous.

Let’s think and talk and debate thoroughly before we automatically align with corporate agendas.  Let’s ask ourselves how these alignments and their possible unintended consequences may affect our children in the long term.

Both the bill and the summary report are wordy and  un-reader-friendly, true. But we can’t know what side to support if we don’t study it out. So here are the links and abbreviated screenshots –of the two sides– to get started.

Anderegg’s privacy protection bill  calls for increased privacy protections, particularly in reference to third party vendors:

anderegg bill

 

 

The corporate education vendors call for decreased privacy protections.  They say that the former provision that a school/district was to be the only entity authorized to collect and store school records is “overly restrictive and does not allow Third Party Ventors to collect and access records…. the rule does not reflect the actual practice”.

(If it does not reflect the actual practice, that is because federal agents have been unethically altering what Congress held the sole right to alter: Federal FERPA privacy law.  Do we in Utah want to align with federal abuses, in order to cater to education vendors?  Sure, the vendors testify that it’s a great idea.  It makes their businesses run better. But the board ought to place the needs and rights of students and their families above corporate education vendors.  Who is advocating for individual privacy rights for children at the corporate level? Nobody.  The businesses want that data, and they don’t want to be inconvenienced by parental or student rights.)

Here’s the link to that report (and the first two pages, screenshots).

 

 

 

state report on third party data sharing

 

screenshot two of utah report data

Here’s my “explain it to a fourth grader” summary of the situation:   “When the government lets business people run the schools, the business people want to store records of what students do, so the government says OK.  It is not good because the voters lose power over their rights.  Voters can change the laws of government and can un-elect those we’ve elected to govern schools, but we cannot influence what business people do nor who gets to run businesses, by our vote.  We have no control over them.  That gives them control over us and over our records/privacy rights.  We need to keep control of ourselves,  our children, and our privacy rights.  We should not give business people power over our schools, no matter how nice they are.

Alpine School Board Members Speak Out For Student Privacy   5 comments

Alpine-Board-10x8-1024x819

 

Three remarkable Alpine School Board Members: Wendy Hart (front left) Brian Halladay (standing, middle)  and Paula Hill (front, right) have written an open letter on student privacy, citing documented realities (contracts, documents and laws) that boldly stand for student privacy and parental rights, against Common Core SAGE/AIR testing.  The letter stands tall against statements from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park and the Utah State Office of Education that claim all is well with student privacy in Utah schools.

Hats off to Hart, Halladay and Hill for speaking up despite pressure to go along in silence with the decisions or positions held at the state level.

Before I post the letter, here’s a little background:

Before Common Core testing even began, Utah officially dropped out of SBAC (a federally funded Common Core test maker) but then immediately picked up, as a replacement, test maker  AIR  (American Institutes for Research– also  federally approved, but not federally funded; Common Core-aligned; a test maker that specializes in psychometrics and behavioral testing,  prioritizes promoting the LGTB philosophy –and is officially partnered with SBAC!)  Many Utah parents are opting their children out of these tests, and state level officials are desperately trying to persuade the population that there’s no reason to opt out.

Statements promoting and approving AIR and SAGE, by Assistant Superintendent Judy Park, have been rebutted and even publically debated before– but this new letter stands very, very  tall, shedding much more light on the student privacy dangers of SAGE/AIR and highlighting the lack of Utah laws that protect an individuals’ ownership over his/her own data.

 

Here’s the letter:

 

September 18, 2014

 

Dr. Judy Park

Utah State Office of Education

Dear Dr. Park,

 

Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing.  We especially appreciate your citations of the contract.  In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.

To begin, a point of clarification.  Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you.  In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.”  We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE.  Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate.  We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their consitutents simply remain silent.

So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.

We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14.  It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied.  We were hopeful that there would be additional insight.  Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.

I-96 – I-98:  This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items.  However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.”  FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds.  Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard.  Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor.  If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations.  Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.

I-61:  Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords.  Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.

I-72 – I-73:  Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing.  This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.

I-85 – I-86:  Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates.  This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc.  Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.

While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting.  Some of our concerns are as follows:

1)  Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party.  As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent.  As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent.  We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.

2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation.  As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah.  They would have access to many data sets from many entities.  They also would have multiple on-going research projects.  There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing.  As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access.  What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis?  AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students.  However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.

3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data.  While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data.  State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing.  So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data.  Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents.  If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.

4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students.  As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students?  Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).  There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s dat with AIR and the SLDS.  At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database?  What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?

Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns.  Based on his response, we have the following questions.

1)  Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.

2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?

3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?

4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?

5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.

6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?

7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties.  Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.

Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGe testing.  We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.

1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)

2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability

3. Content description Validity

4. Differential Item Function Analysis

5. Criterion Prediction Validity

6. Construct Identification Validity

7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs

We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future.  As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed.  And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary.  Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary.  Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children.  As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount.  As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area.  For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual.  For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brian Halladay

ASD4

Wendy Hart

ASD2

Paula Hill

ASD1

 

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I wish every Utah parent, teacher, student and principal read this letter– and took action!

The time has long passed for blind trust in Dr. Park, in the State Office of Education and in the State School Board. Surely, power holders –in the legislature, in district administrative offices, and in the governor’s office who read this letter– will finally act.

Share this letter!

If Student Data Privacy Isn’t Protected, It Isn’t Protected   1 comment

Data Baby

 

California just passed a bill to protect student privacy.  I want to know why Utah hasn’t done the same thing.  Those few Utah legislators who tried to pass privacy-protecting bills (Jake Anderegg, Brian Greene) were not supported by the majority of Utah politicans.

Why?!

Do we not care about student privacy?

Is privacy not a child’s fundamental, Constitutional right?

What happens when there is no guarantee of basic rights?  Think about how much privacy there is in modern day North Korea, or in China.

Privacy goes hand in hand with liberty, always.  Even in the fiction books and movies –over and over again, the theme is spot on: when government knowledge of every citizen trumps individual privacy, then comes hell.  (See The Giver, Divergent,  Anthem, The Hunger Games, 1984.)

The Fourth Amendment says that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”.

If the government is forbidden from coming into our homes to peruse our children’s coloring books, photo albums and diaries, why is it permitted to come into our schools to seize and read data gathered there?  Do we even realize how much data is shared by schools with the state?  Look here and here for starters.

Current tracking —without parental consent— of student academic, non-cognitive, behavioral, health, familial, attitudinal, and belief-data, is happening without restraint.  Is this seizure of personal data not an unreasonable seizure of personal effects, forbidden Constitutionally?

It is clear that we must stand up for our children’s privacy rights.  But how?

First, we must define in our Utah laws that student data belongs to the student.   It does not belong to the state.   Currently, the state has made the arrogant assumption that student data belongs to the state.  That means tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and the picture the kindergartnener drew of her family which can easily be psychologically mined for student and family profiling.  Since no student or student’s parent have given written consent to share any data generated by that student, the school has no right to hand it to the state database; the state has no right to hand it to corporate or university “research partners” nor to the federal EdFacts Data Exchange nor to the National Data Collection Model groups.  That is data theft.

Knowledge is power.  Learn, then contact your school board and legislature.

What to say?  Ask them what they’ve done, what they know, what protective laws they can point you to.

Read the following brand new articles on this subject:

1.  California Legislature Passes Stiffest Bill to Protect K-12 Students’ online data – San Jose Mercury News:   http://www.mercurynews.com/education/ci_26444107/online-privacy-california-passes-nations-stiffest-protections-k

2. States Collaborate to Keep Track of Students – Pew Charitable Trusts – http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/09/05/states-collaborate-to-keep-track-of-students

3.  What Are Schools Doing With Your Kids’ Data – Yahoo Tech https://www.yahoo.com/tech/what-are-schools-doing-with-your-kids-data-95682103324.html

4. Nine Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Kids’ Privacy at School – Yahoo Tech – https://www.yahoo.com/tech/9-things-you-can-do-right-now-to-protect-your-kids-95681803099.html

 

If you didn’t read them, or if you didn’t email your local school board or legislature yet, asking what they are doing to protect student privacy, I ask you why not.

If you think that our Constitutional rights are secure and that the good folks you elected are out there successfully defending your constitutional rights– including the right to personal and child privacy — think again.  All these rights are under fire.  If we don’t have proper legal protections in place specifying how student data will be protected, then we and our children are fully  un-protected.

The New York Times and Time Magazine have openly attacked and mocked the Constitution– and the rights we claim under it which include, of course, privacy and freedom from seizure of these personal effects.

Freedom and local control and individual rights, these “cool” articles say, are out of data and out of style.

Check them out for yourself:

1 Time Magazine:  http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2079445,00.html

2.  New York Times:  http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/us/we-the-people-loses-appeal-with-people-around-the-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1

By the way, how I found those articles was when a parent emailed them to me, saying that her child was told to write about them for a school assignment.  Thank you, education system, for yet one more corrupt dump into our kids’ minds.

What to do?

Ask yourself, first:  is privacy a fundamental right, or not?  Does the government (or corporations) have business knowing your business or your child’s business, without your consent?  If the answer is no, then ask:  Where can I find a law that protects my child’s school data?  Ask your school board.  Ask your legislator.  If they say “FERPA” tell them to do their homework.  Federal FERPA was shredded a few years back.  Bottom line is:  we need legal protections in place ASAP.  And it won’t happen until the people pressure their representatives to make those protections reality.

Please, speak up.

 

 

 

Protect Your Child’s Privacy –and Happiness– by Opting Out of State Testing   2 comments

—————  On Children’s Privacy ————————–

The insatiable data-hunters at American Institutes for Research (AIR) –who also happen to create Utah’s SAGE/Common Core/Utah Core school tests— seem to qualify as stark enemies of student privacy and parental rights.

Desperate to access personal information about children, AIR  wants us to believe the following lie: “your information is out there anyway, so stop fighting for your child’s right to privacy.”   That’s the gist of  this interview with Julia Lane, a “fellow” at American Institutes for Research (AIR).  It’s short, and a must-see.

 

Jakell Sullivan, a Utah mom, has provided the following commentary on Julia Lane’s interview:

  • “It’s impossible to get informed consent about collecting big-data.” 
    … (TRANSLATION-”We can’t wait for you, the parent, to understand our need to collect your child’s data. We’ll need to change public policies at the federal and state level without your consent. We can unilaterally do this by lobbying legislators to stomp out your parental rights.”)
  • “Google knows where you are every single minute of the day”
    … (TRANSLATION-”We couldn’t let Google have a monopoly over big-data, so we partnered with them in 2012. Now, we can drill down on what your child is doing and thinking. Luckily, your child will be using Google Chromebooks soon to learn and take SAGE tests. Once we get every child on a one-to-one device, we can continuously assess your child’s skills through the technology without them having to take a formal test—or be at school!”)
  • “The private sector has been using the data to make a lot of money.”
    … (TRANSLATION-”We deserve to make obscene amounts of money, too, by tracking your child’s thinking patterns from PreK to Workforce. Then, we can manipulate their education data to spread the wealth right back into our coffers.”)
  • “In the public sector, we tend not to use those data.”
    … (TRANSLATION-”We don’t see a need to follow ethical rules anymore. Everybody else is collecting big-data. We deserve big-data on your child! Your natural right to direct your child’s learning is getting in the way of US doing it. We deserve to control their learning!”)
  • “The good that is being lost is incalculably high.”
    … (TRANSLATION-”We can’t save your child because you won’t let us track their personal learning. We must be able to track what they think from PreK to Workforce—for the good of the collective.”)
  • “The rules that exist are no longer clear and are probably no longer applicable.”
    … (TRANSLATION-”We don’t think federal or state privacy laws are fair. We will unilaterally decide how Utah’s state policies will be changed so that we can track your child’s personal learning styles, beliefs, and behaviors. It’s for the good of the collective, of course!”)

 

This video shows how very wrong we are to buy into AIR at all, or to buy into the current “children live to serve the workforce” movement.

Consent does matter.  Privacy is an important right.  Personal choice shouldn’t be superseded by what so-called “stakeholders” desire.  Governments and corporations don’t have the right to take away  privacy –any more than they have the right to take away your property.  No fluffy argument can trump these inherent rights.

Don’t let them have it!  Don’t give your child’s privacy up so easily!  The more people who opt their children out of taking the high-stakes AIR/SAGE tests, the less information these data hounds will have.

Just today, I was registering my high school student for the upcoming school year, online, and was asked many questions about personal, non-academic things: what languages do we speak at home, whether my child has contact lenses, emotional troubles, what our ethnic background is, and endless medical data questioning.

It was not possible to go to the next screen without saying “yes” or giving out each piece of information.

So I wrote to the school district and complained.  Please do the same.

If many of us stand up, things will not continue to hurtle down the path toward a real-life Orwellian 1984 where privacy can no longer exist.

 

——————–  On Children’s Happiness ————————–

 

Privacy from big-data mining is not the only reason people are opting their children out of state tests.

The other thing that opting your child out of state testing gives you, is a happier child.   The tests are very long and don’t benefit your child.  They are non-educating, are secretive (parents may not see them) and test the experimental Common Core standards rather than legitimate, classic education.  Why participate?  What is in it for your child?

Currently, teachers in Utah are under a gag order; they are not allowed to tell parents that parents have a legal right to opt a child out of state testing.  The fact is that although schools are required by current law to administer these terrible tests, students and parents are under no obligation to take them.  Schools are not allowed to penalize students for opting out, in any way.

Opt out.

Learn more about how and why to boycott SAGE/AIR/Common Core tests, and learn what your legal rights are, as a parent or as a student,  at Utahns Against Common Core.

 

Senator Markey: Letter to Arne Duncan Questioning Student Data Collection Practices   9 comments

markey images

Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey has written a vital letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the loss of student privacy under new education reforms. The Senator asks the Secretary eight great questions. My favorite is question #2.a): “Should parents, not schools, have the right to control information about their children?”

Senator Markey’s full letter is posted below. Please share it with your senators and with your state superintendents, who may, by their connection to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and its partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, have sway in getting to real answers more quickly.

Markey letter on data

October 22, 2013

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

The efficient collection, analysis and storage of K-12 students’ academic records holds promise for improving scholastic performance and closing the achievement gap. By collecting detailed personal information about students’ test results and learning abilities, educators may find better
ways to educate their students. However, putting the sensitive infomation of students in private hands raises a number of important questions about the privacy rights of parents and their children.

According to a recent article in The New York Times (“Decidir1g Who Sees Students’ Data”, October 5, 2013), a growing number of school districts are outsourcing data storage functions to private companies. This change, the companies assert, will “streamline access to students’ data to bolster the market for educational products”. While better analysis of student reading may, for example, help educators better target the appropriate reading materials to students, disclosure of such information, which mayr extend well beyond the specific private company hired by the school district to a constellation of other firms with which the district does not have a business relationship, raises concerns about the degree to which student privacy mayI be compromised.

Moreover, as the article cited above also explains, sensitive information such as students’ behavior and participation patterns also may be included in files outsourced to third-party data firms and potentially distributed more widely to additional companies without parental consent.

Such loss of parental control over their child’s educational records and performance information could have longstanding consequences for the future prospects of students.

Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permit “schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management,” according to the Times article. The infomation shared with private companies mayr vary from infomation such as grades, test scores, and attendance records, to other sensitive data such as disability, ­family relationships, and
disciplinary data.

In an effort to understand the Department’s views on the impact of increased collection and distribution of student data on their privacy, I respectfully request that the Department provide answers to the follow questions:

1) In 2008 and 2011, the Department issued new regulations with respect to FERPA that addressed how schools can outsource core functions such as scheduling or data management and how third parties may access confidential information about students. These changes also permit other government agencies that are not under the direct control of state educational authorities, such as state health departments, to access student infomation. Please explain those changes.

a. Why did the Department make these changes?

b. Did the Department perform any analysis regarding the impact of these changes on student privacy? If yes, please provide it. If not, why not?

2) Has the Department performed an assessment ofthe types of infomation that are shared by schools with third party vendors, including but not limited to Contact information, grades, disciplinary data, test scores, curriculum planning, attendance records, academic subjects, course levels, disabilities, family relationships, and reasons for enrollment? If yes, please provide it. If not, why not?

a. Should parents, not schools, have the right to control infomation about their children even when their data is in the hands of a private company?

b. Do you believe that parents should have the right to choose which infomation is shared by schools with third party vendors and which is kept confidential?

In other words, is it the Department’s view that some elements of personal data are more sensitive than others, and therefore deserve greater protections?

2) Has the Department issued federal standards or guidelines that detail what steps schools should take to protect the privacy of student records that are stored and used by private companies? For example, are there guidelines about access to the information, how long it can be retained, hcw it will be used, whether it will be shared with other parties (including but not limited to colleges to which students apply), and if it can be sold to others? lf yes, please provide those standards 0r guidelines. If not, why not and will the Department undertake the development and issuance of such guidelines?

4) Are there minimization requirements that require private companies to delete information that is not necessary to enhance educational quality for students?

5) Do students and their families continue to have the right to access their personal infomation held by private companies as they would if their personal information were held by educational institutions? If yes, please explain how students and families may exercise this right and how they should be informed of the existence of this right. If not, why not?

6) While there are significant potential benefits associated with better collection and analysis of student data, does the Department believe that there also are possible risks when students’ personal infomation is shared with such ñrms and third parties? If yes, what is the Department doing to mitigate these risks? If not, why not?

7) Does the Department require entities that access student data to have security measures in place, including encryption protocols or other measures, to prevent the loss of or acquisition of data that is transferred between schools and third parties? What security measures does the Department require that private companies have in place to safeguard the data once it is stored in their systems?

8) Does the Department monitor whether these third parties are safeguarding students’ personal infomation and abide by FERPA or guidelines released by the Department? If yes, please explain. If not, why not?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please provide written responses to these questions no later than November 12, 2013. If you have any questions, please have a member of your staff contact Joseph Wender on Senator Markey’s staff at 202-224-2742.

Sincerely,

Edward J. Markey
United States Senator

———————————————

Thank you, Senator Markey.

Alabama School Board Fights For Childrens’ Privacy   3 comments

Betty-Peters- -Alabama-State-Board-of-Education_

Betty Peters of the Alabama State School Board is fighting for the privacy rights of children in Alabama by requesting documentation about what types of information is currently being disclosed without parental consent, and to whom.

Below are draft versions of the requests.

For more information about the shredding of parental rights under previously protective federal FERPA laws, see the lawsuit currently raging against the Department of Education, brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. I have written about this issue previously as have many other people.

————————————————————————

Memo to Alabama State Board Members:

Since there is a debate without documentation about the use of data on our students of whether personally identifiable data is released on our students, we must request the following documents to clarify and end this discussion. Once we have documents that would substantiate the use of redisclosure of data, personally
identifiable information, PII, that the US Department of Education now allows under FERPA, we can better resolve the issues and take steps to protect our children in the state of Alabama. I am requesting and demanding that all documents requested herein, be given to each State Board Members and legislators, and only then, can we make decisions to protect our students and their families. All meetings and debates should be tabled until documents are received from the Department, and/or under the Freedom of Information Act that will prove one way or another, that will substantiate whether personally identifiable information can be used or not be used without the informed written permission of parents. These documents will provide the basis of our decisions and requests to our legislators of what should be done to protect student privacy.

Sincerely,

Betty Peters

————————————————————————————-

Request for Documents, Written Agreements, Cooperative Agreements

RE: Redisclosure of Personally Identifiable Information on Students According to 99.31 of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA Unknown to Parents and Legislators

Request the Cooperative Agreements between the US Department of Education and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, to determine the use of redisclosed personally identifiable information, PII, used to evaluate individual students toward Common Core Standards.

Request the Cooperative agreement with the Department of Education allowing Florida to be the fiscal agent for each of the states in the PARCC consortium. Request the Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Education allowing Washington to be the negotiating partner for each state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium.

Request the Memorandum of Understanding between Washington state as the negotiating partner, and WestEd, the project management partner, that has access to redisclosed personally identifiable information, PII, for each state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Request the Memorandum of Understanding between Florida, and Achieve, Inc., Florida as acting fiscal agent for the PARCC consortium and Achieve, Inc as project management partner. Please submit all written agreements allowing access to redisclosed personally identifiable information , PII, for each state.

Request any written agreements, memorandums of understanding, or cooperative agreements Alabama or other states not using PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment, has with the US Department of Education, ACT (Aspire, Explore, or Plan,) and/or Pearson, that has access to redisclosed personally identifiable information, PII,
used to evaluate individual students toward Common Core Standards.

Request any written agreements, memorandums of understanding, or cooperative agreements with other contractors who have been given redisclosed PII on student data to develop curriculum, computer adaptive digital software, and/or any testing development. These “school officials” may be identified as private sector contractors, consultants, volunteers, or other parties to whom an agency or institution has outsourced services or functions, including, non-profit organizations, corporations, or businesses to develop curriculum and/ or computer adaptive resources for individual students. These contractors may include Microsoft, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ETS, & ACT. Please submit any written agreements that allow access to PII, which was unlocked by order of President Obama, Office of Science and Technology Policy Executive Office of the President, January 19, 2012

Request the purchase agreement and amount for each written agreement between any “school official” and the US Department of Education, PARCC, and/or Smarter Balanced Assessment, for the purchase of obtained redisclosed data on personally identifiable information, PII, on individual students to develop curricula or computer
digital programming or testing materials.

Request any Requests for Proposal, RFP, or Written Agreements between any private sector working group, defined as a “school official” in FERPA, 99.31, including PARCC, Smarter Balanced Assessment, Wested, or Achieve, ACT or ETS, who are developing and expanding Common Core Standards to new individualized criteria to ”
improve instruction”, called, CCCR, College Career Citizenship Readiness, in which Citizenship, measures dispositions. Source: http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/ILN%20Knowledge%20Skills%20and%20Dispositions%20CCR%20Framework%20February%202013.pdf

Request any memorandums of understanding or cooperative agreements to test and measure disposition test items that are ” difficult to measure” and may infringe on personal privacy rights, violate federal law for redisclosing psychological information without informed written parental consent.

Request any memorandums of understanding or cooperative agreements that may be used as identifiers for interventions for changing dispositions or improving instruction, without the informed written consent of the parent violating privacy laws, personal liberty, and illegal access to mental health criteria.

Request sample test items or test blueprints with scoring criteria that will measure dispositions and values in the new College Career Citizenship Ready Standards, CCCR, that are being introduced to the Common Core Standards by the CCSSO.

————————————————————————————————————-

Working Draft:

Put this letter in writing to clarify requests:

Since there is a debate without documentation about the use of data on our students of whether personally identifiable data is released on our students, we must request the following documents to clarify and end this discussion. Once we have documents that would substantiate the use of Redisclosure of data, personally identifiable information, PII, that the US Department of Education now allows under FERPA, we can better resolve the issues and take steps to protect our children in the state of Alabama. I am requesting and demand that all documents requested herein, be given to each State Board Member, and only then, can we make decisions to protect our students and their families. All debates should be tabled until documents are received from the Department, and/or under the Freedom of Information Act that will prove one way or another, that will substantiate whether personally identifiable information can be used or not without the written permission of parents. These documents will provide the basis of our decisions and requests to our legislators of what
should be done to protect student privacy.

Other questions to be answered:

Was Congressional authority given to expand FERPA regulations concerning redisclosed access of data and the flow of personally identifiable information, PII to outside contractors?

Which federal law expanded FERPA to include all outside contractors as “school officials” to have access to personally identifiable information, PII,on students without the informed written consent of parents or legislators?

Why was the Hanson Memorandum rescinded in the ‘‘direct control’’ requirement contained in the policy guidance on authorized representatives allowing the flow of personally identifiable information to outside organizations, corporations, non-profits, and business to have access to personally identifiable information, PII?

Request the Presidential Executive Order providing that FERPA regulations were to be revised and changed to unlock data and allow re-disclosure of personally identifiable information, PII, to outside contractors.

Do outside contractors pay for the data? Examples:

• If outside for-profit contractors are developing tests, assessments, curriculum, or computer software to meet individual specific outcomes aligned to the Common Core Standards, including non-cognitive areas called dispositions, do these contractors pay for the data or intellectual property rights taken from individual students to research and develop testing, assessments, curriculum, and adaptive software to be re-sold to
states and individual schools for use in the classroom?

• If non-profit contractors are developing tests, assessments, curriculum, or computer software to meet individual specific outcomes aligned to the Common Core Standards, including non-cognitive areas called dispositions, do they pay for intellectual property rights? Are they violating their non-profit status to make a profit when these items that they are developing are re-sold to states and individual schools
for use in the classroom?

• Are individual states co-contributors to Redisclosure of PII?

• Is the National Center for Education Statistics co-contributors to Redisclosure of PII?

Whitehouse Unlocks Data:see source http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ed_data_commitments_1-19-12.pdf

FERPA sections allowing Re-Disclosure of PII

§ 99.31 Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information?

(a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by § 99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions:

(1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution

whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests.

(B) A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph provided that the outside party—

( 1 ) Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use
employees;

( 2 ) Is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of

education records; and ( 3 ) Is subject to the requirements of § 99.33(a) governing the use and redisclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

§ 99.31(ii) Paragraph (a)(5)(i) of this section does not prevent a State from further limiting the number or
type of State or local officials to whom disclosures may be made under that paragraph.

(6)(i) The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to:

(A) Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests;

(B) Administer student aid programs; or

(C) Improve instruction.

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