Archive for the ‘#StopSLDS’ Tag

UT Lawsuit Puts Spotlight on 750,000 Stolen Records of Students and Families   2 comments

judith

Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman

A news bomb about the theft of student data exploded in Utah’s Deseret News last July, but nobody noticed, apparently.

The article’s headline — “Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Puts Spotlight on Utah Autism Rates” — focused primarily on things other than the data theft.  It highlighted former University of Utah research professor Judith Zimmerman’s allegations that university researchers were falsifying Utah’s autism rates.

But to me, the unheadlined bomb that the article dropped was the 750,000 students who had their data and their families’ data stolen by unauthorized “researchers”.  The families now have no way of knowing this happened.

Zimmerman was fired for raising concerns about protected student data that she said the researchers had “compromised and accessed without proper authority.”  She told the Deseret News that unauthorized individuals took  750,000 sensitive records with neither parental nor schools’ consent.  This private “medical and educational information”  included “names, birthdays, information about medical characteristics… special education classification and parents’ names and addresses,”  reported the Deseret News.

How would these families now be notified?  I wonder: with the whistleblower fired and with a years-long lawsuit and likely gag orders pending, the only people who now could potentially contact those families would be still employed at the university –who, being accused of the wrongdoing, certainly won’t go out of their way to inform the affected families right now.

I’m not going to discuss the ways in which the stolen records, and the children they represented, are vulnerable to potential crimes of credit card fraud, health insurance identity theft, crimes of predatory stalkers or the mandates of well-or-ill-intentioned governmental activists.

I’m here to ask –and answer– a very simple question that I hope readers are asking: how could this have happened?  How were three quarters of a million records of children just lying around under the noses of any unscrupulous university researchers?

It’s simple.  Utah has a STATE LONGITUDINAL DATABASE SYSTEM (SLDS) and it’s managed by the UECP at the University of Utah.

uecp

You, your children, and your grandchildren are in the SLDS whether you like it or not –unless you pay 100% of your own money in tuition for a 100% private school, and always have.  There is no other way to opt out.  I’ve tried.

Don’t get me started about how blindly stupid Utah is (all states now are) for having –and continuing to support– the SLDS.

We’re subject to this SLDS data surveillance system simply because in some USOE cubicle, some clueless grant writer responded to Obama’s mess of pottage and decided that the state of Utah might exchange students’ privacy for a $9.6 million dollar federal grant.

Utah traded all students’ data records, longitudinally (permanently) into this data-slurping machine, euphemistically titled the State Longitudinal Database System,  which the feds designed and oversaw— all for the love of money and nonconsensual research.

uda

Without parental consent, Utah children’s data now is daily being collected –using schools to vaccum it up.  This is not a legitimate situation, but you can’t blame schools.  They are being used.  They have to give daily data to the state/fed system, or they lose funds/grind to a halt.  In a recent Utah rulemaking statement, we read:  “all public education LEAs shall begin submitting daily updates to the USOE Clearinghouse using all School Interoperability Framework (SIF) objects defined in the UTREx Clearinghouse specification. Noncompliance with this requirement may result in interruption of MSP funds.”

So we can’t believe the ear candy we’re told, about how this data  mining is about keeping data on kids so teachers can do their best teaching.  It’s not staying in the local school for teachers and administrators to legitimately peruse, but it goes into the federally designed, federally interoperable SLDS database held at UECP/U of U which many state agencies can peruse and which the feds can already partially peruse.

(Side note:  the feds are feverishly working to get much greater unit-record access as we speak.  If you’re interested, livestream the CEP’s federal public hearing on that subject today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvvatB_NBWI )

Every state has an SLDS system.  The feds paid the states to build them.  The feds told the states how the SLDS’s had to be built.  Utah got nearly $10 million to make Utah’s federal SLDS in 2009.  And the grant’s been renewed to keep trading cash for students, in recent years.

Utah children and their families thus have their data sucked away to where unelected, unaccountable “researchers” are entrusted with data via SLDS.  The University’s “Utah Education Policy Center” (UEPC) is a founding partner in the Utah Data Alliance, which controls Utah’s SLDS system. According to UEPC’s website:

“Five other partners include the Utah State Office of Education (public education), Utah System of Higher Education, Utah College of Applied Technology, Utah Education Network, and the Department of Workforce Services. UEPC serves as the research coordinator for the Utah Data Alliance. UEPC coordinates access for individuals and organizations interested in collaborating with the Utah Data Alliance, or researchers interested in accessing data for research purposes.”

That’s a long answer to a short question.  That’s how the data got stolen.

Here’s the follow up question:  what’s keeping the other millions of records of students from going the same way that those 750,000 records went?

Ask your legislator that question.  Ask him/her to show you any proper privacy protections that are actually in place.  (FERPA was shredded; don’t let them pretend there’s protection anymore under FERPA.)

We do not even have the freedom to opt out of SLDS tracking.  But all of this can change– if more good people speak up– act.

fox

 

How did the fox persuade the gingerbread boy to get on his back?  The fox said that he would never eat him, but would surely protect the gingerbread boy from everyone who was trying to eat him on the dangerous side of the river.

On shore stood the hungry horse, the farmer, the dog, the others– and the fox said that he could help the gingerbread boy to get away.  The fox protected the gingerbread boy like the federal government is protecting your child’s personal data.

Every time I read an official promise like this recent CEP statement (and there are so many; even the federal alterations to FERPA sounded like the CEP statement) –I think of the gingerbread boy.  The CEP (federal “Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking”) promises that the government only wants more individual “data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.” I think of the fox “protecting” the gingerbread boy.

That fox wanted to eat the boy just as much as the dog and the farmer and everyone else did.  Even the gingerbread boy probably suspected it, but he really, really wanted to cross that river.

When the government says that it can and will protect privacy while accessing greater amounts of data, I think:

 

River = money

Gingerbread boy = a child’s sensitive data

Horse = educational sales corporations

Farmer = educational researchers

Fox = federal government

Dog= state government

The oven where the boy was born = SLDS database 

 

 

gingerb

 

 

 

 

Testify Now.   6 comments

 

The purpose of this post is to ask you to testify this week to the newly created White House Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP)– either online or in person— against CEP’s idea of studying to remove protective barriers on unit-level data for federal access and policymaking.

Here’s why.

adobe-spark-40

 

Apparently chafing against constitutional and tech barriers against unrestrained access to student-level data, the federal government, this year, invited 15 people to help remove those barriers.

It’s a motley crew: a British behavioral scientist, an American data crime lawyer, a White House Medicaid bureaucrat, and piles of professors who formerly worked for the feds.

They named the group The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) and passed a law (led by Dem. Senator Murray, Speaker Ryan and President Obama) that gives the semblance of authority to the commission and allows them to post on the White House website.

The law passed in March.

The CEP’s stated purpose is to increase “use of data in order to build evidence about government programs“.

How would this be done?  CEP doesn’t say on its website, but the trend in data mining is to push for unit record data sharing.

Individual students are, in computer jargon, “unit record data“.  CEP promises to focus on “existing barriers” that are standing in the government’s way of accessing data [unit record data included] or, in their words, “data already being collected” [by states, in SLDS systems]. That data is none of the federal government’s business. In my opinion, it’s none of the state’s business. My data belongs to me. My child’s data should not be harvested without my written consent. The state never asked before it began to longitudinally study my child. And now, the feds want full access to disaggregated data to “build evidence” of all kinds.

CEP’s website claims that “…while protecting privacy and confidentiality” the Commission will “study how data, research, and evaluation are currently used to build evidence, and how to strengthen the government’s evidence-building efforts.

In the context of the decade-long Congressional debate for and against unrestrained federal study of individuals,  how can CEP simultaneously persuade Congress that it will protect student privacy while pushing Congress to increase its evidence-building efforts?

I suppose if they gain unlimited access to data but deny access to at least one person, they can call this “protecting privacy”.

They used the phrase “protecting privacy” while they:

  1. Installed fifty interoperable, federally designed-and-funded “State Longitudinal Database Systems” (SLDS)  to track the nation’s schoolchildren. There was no vote, no request for parental consent– it was part of the “government evidence-building effort”.
  2. Stripped privacy protections that used to  be in federal FERPA law, which earlier had  mandated parental consent (or adult consent) –for the all important “government evidence-building effort”.

They made scary, transformative changes effortlessly, as unelected bureaucrats dangled money (our taxes) in front of other unelected bureaucrats.  No representation.

When CEP begins its planned study of “practices for monitoring and assessing outcomes of government programs,” and other “studies,” you can just insert your child or grandchild’s name wherever you see the term “government programs”.

It’s all about unit-record data: the kids.

And it’s not a new idea!

In 1998, Hillary Clinton and Marc Tucker conspired to create a system they envisioned as “seamless”; a “cradle-to-grave system that is the same for everyone” to “remold the entire American system” using “large scale data management systems”.  It was exposed, but not abandoned.

In 2013, Senators Warner, Rubio and Wyden called for a federal “unit record” database to track students from school through the workforce.  That was shot down; Congress didn’t want to end the protective ban on unit record collection. In 2008, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act expressly forbade creation of a federal unit record data system.

In 2013 InsideHigherEd.com reported:

A unit record database has long been the holy grail for many policy makers, who argue that collecting data at the federal level is the only way to get an accurate view of postsecondary education…

…[V]oices calling for a unit record system have only intensified; there is now a near-consensus that a unit record system would be a boon… An increasing number of groups, including some federal panels, have called for a federal unit record system since 2006: the Education Department’s advisory panel on accreditation, last year; the Committee on Measures of Student Success, in 2011; and nearly every advocacy group and think tank that wrote white papers earlier this year for a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…

… through linkage with Social Security or other databases, it could track graduates’ wages… The Obama administration — unable to create a federal unit record database — has offered states money to construct longitudinal databases of their own…”

It is time to stand up.

We missed the public meeting and the public hearing last month, but we can still speak at next week’s public testimony at the Rayburn Office Building.

If you can be in D.C. next Thursday, and want to offer public comment to offset the Gates-funded organizations that will be speaking in favor of sharing unit-record data, please send an email to  Input@cep.gov.  Ask for time to speak on the 21st of October.  They ask for your name, professional affiliation, a two sentence statement, and a longer, written statement.

If you can’t make it to D.C. on Thursday, you can catch them in a few months at similar meetings in California and in the Midwest.

At the very least, you can send your opinion online to the CEP at:   https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=USBC-2016-0003

 

My submission to the CEP is below.  Feel free to use it as a template.

adobe-spark-39

Dear Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking,

I love the American concept of voter-based, Constitution-based, elected representative-based, policymaking.  It’s why I live in America.

In contrast to voter-based policymaking there is evidence-based policymaking, which I don’t love because it implies that one entity’s “evidence” trumps individuals’ evidence, or trumps individuals’ consent to policy changes.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson said something about education that also applies to educational data and policymaking:

“The best way to prevent a political faction or any small group of people from capturing control of the nation’s educational system is to keep it decentralized into small local units, each with its own board of education and superintendent. This may not be as efficient as one giant super educational system (although bigness is not necessarily efficient, either) but it is far more safe. There are other factors, too, in favor of local and independent school systems. First, they are more responsive to the needs and wishes of the parents and the community. The door to the school superintendent’s office is usually open to any parent who wishes to make his views known. But the average citizen would be hard pressed to obtain more than a form letter reply from the national Commissioner of Education in Washington, D.C.”

Local control, and consent of the governed, are two foundational principles in our great nation.

Because the CEP is not an elected body, it does not actually hold representative authority to collect, or to recommend collection, of student-level evidence, or of any evidence, without written consent; and, for the same reasons, neither does the Department of Education.

Because the fifty, federally-designed, evidence-collecting, State Longitudinal Database Systems never received any consent from the governed in any state to collect data on individuals (as the systems were put into place not by authority, but by grant money) it follows that the idea of having CEP study the possible removal of barriers to federal access of those databases, is an egregious overstep that even exceeds the overstep of the State Longitudinal Database Systems.

Because federal FERPA regulations altered the original protective intent of FERPA, and removed the mandate that governments must get parental (or adult student) consent for any use of student level data, it seems that the idea of having CEP study and possible influence removal of additional “barriers” to federal use of data, is another egregious overstep.

As a licensed teacher in the State of Utah; as co-founder of Utahns Against Common Core (UACC); as a mother of children who currently attend public, private and home schools; as acting president of the Utah Chapter of United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE); as a patriot who believes in “consent of the governed” and in the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and, as a current tenth grade English teacher, I feel that my letter represents the will of many who stand opposed to the  “study” of the protective barriers on student-level data, which the CEP’s website has outlined it will do.

I urge this commission to use its power to strengthen local control of data, meaning parental and teacher stewardship over student data, instead of aiming to broaden the numbers of people with access to personally identifiable student information to include government agencies and/or educational sales/research corporations such as Pearson, Microsoft, or the American Institutes for Research.

 

To remove barriers to federal access of student-level data only makes sense to a socialist who agrees with the Marc Tucker/Hillary Clinton 1998 vision of a cradle-to-grave nanny state with “large scale data management systems” that dismiss privacy as a relic in subservience to modern government.  It does not make sense to those who cherish local control.

It is clear that there is a strong debate about local control and about consent of the governed, concerning data and concerning education in general. NCEE Chair Mark Tucker articulated one side of the debate when he said:  “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies, much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local control.”

Does that statement match the philosophical stand of this commission?  I hope not.  Local control means individual control of one’s own life.  How would an individual control his or her own destiny if “large scale data management systems” in a cradle-to-grave system, like the one that Tucker and Clinton envisioned, override the right to personal privacy and local control?  It is not possible.

I urge this commission to use any influence that it has to promote safekeeping of unit-record data at the parental and teacher level, where that authority rightly belongs.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

 

 

 

 

Federal Education Research System Poised to Invade – #StopSETRA   3 comments

stealth kid two

I know this might be boring.

I know there are five hundred things you could be doing.  But this will take awhile.

SETRA, or “Strengthening Education Through Research Act,” a federal bill that passed the U.S. Senate on December 17th has not yet passed the House of Representatives, and must not.

(Call 202-224-3121 to speak to your representative in Congress.)

There is a lot to explain about SETRA, and I won’t even hit it all tonight.

SETRA was written “to strengthen the federal education research system”.  That’s sentence number one.  It begs this question: where does the U.S. Constitution permit federal education or federal education research?

Is this communist China, where nationalized education is normal? Did I dream that the Constitution gives zero power to the federal government to dictate even a crumb about education?

Why are we even considering a bill that starts out with that sentence?  Furthermore, when did a single parent in this entire country give informed consent for a single child to be used as an unpaid, unwitting guinea pig for federal research?   How dare the government research the thoughts and beliefs of my child and yours, using our tax dollars, without our consent?

In section 132 of SETRA, the government aims to collect, from your child and mine, “research on social and emotional learning”.  –How so?  Sensitive surveys are forbidden by PPRA, right?

Education Liberty Watch notes that PPRA (a federal law that is supposed to prohibit  collection of psychological, sexual, or religious mindsets) only applies to student surveys– not to curriculum!  It’s a loophole.  Check out Cornell law school’s information on PPRA.

So what SETRA aims to do, in gathering sensitive “social and emotional” data, it can do, because of that loophold.  SETRA’s aims are not prohibited.  The data miners simply have to hide their psychological stalking inside the curriculum.  And this is easier and more common than most of us realize.

 

stealth assessment baby

Psychological or belief data can be mined without openly labeling the effort a psychological, religious, or emotional survey– and even without the knowledge of teachers or school administrators.  For example:

Education Liberty Watch points out that an English Language Arts curriculum that is being used in over 40 Florida school districts and several California districts, a curriculum published by the College Board, called SpringBoard, contains many psychosocial, or belief-based, questions such as this:

Activity 4.9 Justice and Moral Reasoning

I should pay all my taxes because-

  • I could go to jail if I do not
  • people will think of me as a good citizen
  • my taxes along with those of others will help to pay for services used by all

Students are then made to rate themselves, based on having mostly “a” or “b” or “c” responses, as “pre-conventional,” “conventional” or “post-conventional” based on psychological, moral levels and stages of reasoning. This is a psychological test, yet parents are not given notice nor asked for their consent.

Even math tests can contain psychological tests.  They gather information about student “perseverance,” “grit,” and other nonacademic “competencies”.  In fact, perseverance is one of the nonacademic standards tracked by Common Core math.

It’s not a bad idea to teach math students to persevere.  It is immoral, though, to pretend that a math test is testing only math, when it is also testing the psychological attribute of perseverance or another nonacademic attribute or belief– without the informed consent of a parent.

And if politicians and corporate giants get their way, it won’t be possible for a student or parent to avoid this type of psychological data mining by opting out of the high stakes tests, because stealth testing is here to take high-stakes testing’s place.

Did you notice how the parent-and-teacher-generated, national opt-out-of-testing movement has been hijacked by top level politicians  siphoning the grassroots’ energy toward the newest ed reform: “integration of testing into an aligned curriculum,” or “embedded testing” to replace the big-assessment tradition?  This is also known as “stealth assessment“.

Hiding the test from the student (and from the teacher and from the parent) by embedding it in the curriculum does solve many of the problems of high-pressure testing.  But it makes the problem of nonconsensual data mining worse.  And it would make opting out of the governmental inventorying of human beings impossible.  Thanks to “integration of testing into an aligned curriculum, the aims of SERTA can still mine your student’s data– with or without high-stakes testing.

Some people still don’t believe that federal and state governments really aim to gather data about the mind, heart and soul of each child.  In the bureaucrats’ own words, read it.

The Department of Education wrote that 21st century “competencies” would include “noncognitive” (nonacademic) factors. Read that report, entitled “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance,” if you can find it; recently, the White House has removed its prior link to the published report.

OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13

Similar language about schools needing to gather belief-based, or social/emotional data, is found in countless other places.

See, for example, Utah’s own 2009 federal SLDS (State Longitudinal Database System) grant application language, which promised the state would gather noncognitive student data from Utah’s children, about “resiliency” and “social comfort and integration” via “psychometric census.”  (Utah did “win” that federal grant, twice, and so we do have the federally designed SLDS system, as does every single United State.)

There is no informed consent, and there is currently no opting out, of SLDS.)

Ask your congressman:  where is the language in SERTA that would prohibit state SLDS systems from feeding personally identifiable information to the federal agencies?

Where is the language in SERTA that would penalize governmental and private entities who shared or sold student information?

Where is the prohibition on sharing personal student information with international entities, such as PISA, TIMSS, or SIF?

Where are the enforcement remedies when student information is mishandled?

Where is any actual prohibition on a national database, while SERTA encourages states to share and feed out data, ironically calling it “voluntary” sharing –though neither students nor parents ever gave consent to gather or use SLDS-nested information?

There’s more that really needs to be pointed out about SERTA.

 Nonduplication?

The thrifty seeming concept of nonduplication, or not overlapping and wasting energy, is used falsely, repeatedly, in SERTA, to justify the data grab.

The idea that database meshing is needful “in order to reduce burden and cost” (page 4) is supposedly justified so that the federal Secretary of Education shall “use information and data that are available from existing federal, state and local sources”.   On page 12, it extends the database meshing to private entities, too:  “such research and activities carried out by public and private entities to avoid duplicative or overlapping efforts”.  Where are the rights of the people being data-mined?

Will state, local, and private sources just idiotically hand this student data over to the federal agencies, buying the absurd notion that privacy rights pale in comparison to the opportunity of unburdening the federal workday or bank account?

                   Not Just Children’s Data; Adults’ Data, Too?

It is discouraging to note that SERTA strikes the “children” from the previous bill to replace it with the word “students,” repeatedly (page 77, page 117).  This replacement may broaden the reach of the data mining capability of the federal system to include not only children in public schools, but anyone in any environment that can be called a learning environment– I’m guessing: workplaces, libraries, universities, public housing facilities, rehabilitation facilities, hospital learning centers, refugee camps?  Adults are repeatedly mentioned in SERTA, in addition to being included in the more generic term “students.” And SERTA says that “adult education” and “adult education and literacy activities” are used as they are defined in section 203 of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, which is part of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.  The federal link to that bill is currently broken, so I have not read that definition yet. But I think it’s safe to say that SERTA is not just about “improving research” for kids.  It feels as if it’s all about Big Brothering every single citizen.

 

nanny

 

               Cementing the SLDS (de facto federal) Database Systems?

In fact, on page 109, SERTA mandates that a year after it passes, and every three years thereafter, the federal Secretary of Education will prepare a report about each state’s “progress” and “use of statewide longitudinal data systems”.

Fact:  SLDS databases were paid for by federal monies and were designed to federal specifications.

Fact:  SLDS databases are, by federal mandate, designed with interoperability frameworks that mean they create one big, connect-able database of fifty matching state databases.  Utah’s grant application reveals, “the current School Interoperability Framework (SIF) v2 standard fulfills the needs of LEA to LEA, LEA to postsecondary, LEA to USOE, and USOE to EDFacts data exchanges.”  In plain talk, that means that schools, universities, the state office of education, and the federal EDFacts data exchange use the same interoperabilities so they can share any data that their policies will allow them to share.  These groups will say that “it’s just grouped data, not personally identifiable, that is shared.” But the personally identifiable data is housed and CAN be shared, if and when policy allows.  Proper protections are not in place.  Even federal FERPA privacy laws, upon which SERTA relies, and which SERTA mentions –was shredded by the Dept. of Education in the same year or two that it pushed Common Core tests, common SLDS systems, and Common Core Standards, on all the states.  FERPA no longer requires parental consent for the sharing of personal student data.  That’s a “best practice,” now, and not a requirement, and government failing to get any consent carries no punishment.

Yet SERTA relies on FERPA each time it (repeatedly) says something like “adhering to federal privacy laws and protections” (for example, see page 111).

When SERTA says potentially reassuring things, such as the idea that “cooperative education statistics partnerships” are not to be confused with a national database system (page 44) or that “no student data shall be collected by the partnerships… nor shall such partnerships establish a national student data system,” I do roll my eyes.

National student data systems are ready to plug in, like fifty separate puzzle pieces in a fifty piece puzzle; there are fifty SLDS systems– one per state.  So the federal plan has already been established with state SLDS databases.  The hole is dug; the concrete is poured.  Now, with SETRA, they are asking for a permit to build.  Congress can say no!

They must. Privacy matters.  It is a basic freedom.

Do not believe the people who say that it does not matter, or that it’s already gone– because of Facebook or NSA or Social Security numbers being used as national I.D.s.  It’s not yet true.  Privacy is still far from “all gone,” and it is worth fighting for!

The autonomy of your child, free from Big Brother  in his or her future, is worth fighting for.

Remember the Declaration of Independence. It says that governments derive their just powers from the CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. 

Without consent, government actions are unjust.  The SLDS systems are nonconsensual systems.

They came via federal bribe, aka federal grant when unelected, unthinking, nonrepresentative bureaucrats in each state office of education applied for the federal money in exchange for the federally designed and nationally interoperable SLDS systems; no citizen nor representative voted.

These monstrous State Longitudinal Database Systems use schools and other entities to create even huge “data alliances;” this is the basis for SERTA’s potentially frightening, increased powers.  Any language in SERTA implying that there is no plan for any national database is deception.

Don’t give the feds the authority to build that glary-eyed, Big Brother skyscraper on top of us, just because they already dug a foundation and poured concrete under us while we weren’t all paying attention.

#StopSETRA.  #StopSLDS.

 

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