Tag Archives: data

The Sharing of Student Data Creates Concern in NYC

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

From nbcnewyork.com and Parents Blast New State Database of Private Student Info:

Parents and privacy experts are blasting a new national database that compiles personal student information for educational companies that contract with public schools.

New York State officials, working with the city, have already uploaded students’ names, addresses, test scores, learning disabilities, attendance and disciplinary records into the inBloom database, according to the Daily News.

Read more here and watch the news video.

What is inBloom?  From the Daily News:

InBloom, a 3-month-old database, is funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. built the infrastructure for the new electronic portal.

The state spent $50 million in federal grants to partner with inBloom and finalized its agreement in October to share data with the fledgling company.

The new service will not cost the city any money at first, though inBloom officials said they will probably start to charge fees in 2015.

Names, attendance records, disciplinary histories, addresses, test scores and more are delivered to the state. The state contracts with inBloom, a database that warehouses that information. InBloom then contracts with private companies selling educational products and services that can access the information.

Wouldn’t “contracting with private companies selling educational products and services” that access students’ personal information be considered selling student information without parental permission or knowledge?  Why is this being funded partially by federal grants so that the state can partner with inBloom and share student information with the company?

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Database in #CommonCore Explained. Segregation Revisited?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

We shared Mark Garrison’s written testimony yesterday supporting MO SB 210 and HB 616 which calls for the halting of Common Core implementation.

Garrison writes in An Irrational $170 Million Database We Most Certainly Don’t Need about the data to be gathered on students via databases and Common Core standards:

********************************************

While some folks have been warning the public about this for over a year, a recent Reuters article has renewed popular outrage over a privately controlled centralized database that will house an unprecedented amount of individual level data without the consent or even the knowledge of parents, and apparently, state or federal legislatures. My comments are throughout, as I can’t resist. The article reads, in part:

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares. But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school. In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school — even homework completion.

Brushing off real concerns about this development, readers are reassured with this declaration: “Federal law allows [schools] to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.”
Further on readers are informed:

Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

This raises a host of questions, ones that I’ll deal with in a future post. But, for now, let’s follow the “logic” outlined in the rest of the article and what it reveals about the “Career and College Ready” agenda that is driving this initiative.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software. CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products — educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

Maybe I’m confused, but I thought teachers created lesson plans and principals created reports? This discourse suggests the intensification of the de-skilling and de-professionalization of educators that began decades ago with scripted protocols, etc. Once in place, any Teach for America like temp worker can print up the computer-generated lesson plan, which will certainly include some “educational games”. Results of those “games” will automatically populate the report that the virtual principal will produce for the virtual school board.

Next we are told:

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp [known for violating privacy rights and spying], built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

What isn’t shared in the article is the role this database will play in implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), which would not exist in its present form without the Gates Foundation. The inBloom website discussion board clearly indicates that this database is designed around the CCSS. The CCSSI assessment apparatuses are likely to directly tie into this database if and once they become fully functional. And, given that the plan is to have student essays graded by computer, there are likely to be “digital” assessments of student writing from the dispositional point of view. Might an angry or merely “different” essay by a student trigger a “no education list” (a la the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center’s no fly lists) and be used by corporate charters in screening applicants, inventing a vast and detailed hierarchy of “human capital”?

The article continues:

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts — have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

So, individual data collected by public authorities that are responsible to protect the privacy claims of these individuals is turned over to a private company, and then the public authority has to pay the private company for access to that data? Now that’s “critical thinking”! And while “inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it ‘cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.’ ” Seems like a double standard when you think about how “reformers” would scream if a public school stated that it could not protect student privacy.

The article does report that parents from

New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

I encourage parents to send a letter, similar to this.

What follows is the main justification for the initiative, and it is worth parsing out in detail.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.

First, I believe “personalized learning” is the new language for what used to be called tracking based on “ability”, social class, or other forms of social differentiation (“race,” ELLs, etc.). But it gets better:

Does Johnny have trouble converting decimals to fractions? The database will have recorded that — and may have recorded as well that he finds textbooks boring, adores animation and plays baseball after school. Personalized learning software can use that data to serve up a tailor-made math lesson, perhaps an animated game that uses baseball statistics to teach decimals.

What kind of non-thinking human being creates such narrative? Even the most unmotivated mediocre teacher can determine if a student has trouble converting decimals to fractions! And wouldn’t the database be more useful if it could identify those students who actually found textbooks exciting? And, seriously, might teachers, unencumbered by the demands of “accountability” that increasingly block them from establishing meaningful relationships with their students, know which student likes baseball?

No teacher, school administrator or parent needs this database; it is a solution to a non-existent problem. It’s a complete hoax. It is also frightening that someone thought the above narrative was a useful public justification and that it could stand in a news item. How far gone are we that the absurdity is not evident? “Personalized learning” = remove the teacher -> collect “data” -> replace real teaching with “virtual games” -> so as “to get to know the student.”[1]

But wait, there’s more!

Johnny’s teacher can watch his development on a “dashboard” that uses bright graphics to map each of her students’ progress on dozens, even hundreds, of discrete skills.

Forgive me, but I prefer to watch the development of young people in person. “Bright graphics” — sounds like Disney, not education. “Discrete skills” — nothing says “product specification” better than “discrete skills.”

“You can start to see what’s effective for each particular student,” said Adria Moersen, a high school teacher in Colorado who has tested some of the new products.[2]

If you need a glowing, colorful dashboard of “discrete skills” to “see” your “students develop” and discern what is “effective” there’s definitely a problem. Or, maybe that’s the vision? Let’s continue:

The sector is undeniably hot; technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year, according to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on the sector. The investment company GSV Advisors tracked 84 deals in the sector last year, up from 15 in 2007.

NewSchools is a big supporter of charters and other privatization schemes.

In addition to its $100 million investment in the database, the Gates Foundation has pledged $70 million in grants to schools and companies to develop personalized learning tools.

Again, I offer my suggestion that “personalized” is the new language of tracking. Data will be the new marker used to segregate.

Also of note is that the official estimates of the Gates Foundation contribution to the Common Core Standards is $100 million; but if we include all those grants that are part of the Core agenda, the number becomes much, much bigger; the above $170 million constituting a start. Based on data I have collected from their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website, I estimate the total expenditure to be about $1.5 billion between 2009 and 2012. The next bit is revealing as well.

Schools tend to store different bits of student information in different databases, often with different operating systems. That makes it clunky to integrate new learning apps into classrooms. […] The new database aims to wipe away those obstacles by integrating all student information — including data that may previously have been stored in paper files or teacher gradebooks — in a single, flexible platform. […] Education technology companies can use the same platform to design their software, so their programs will hook into a rich trove of student data if a district or state authorizes access.

This reminds me of the justification for the security state built post 9/11. We would all be safe if we could just break down those barriers between databases (e.g., eliminating boundaries between local, state and federal police agencies) and remove the blocks to spying!

At the Rocketship chain of charter schools, for instance, administrators must manually update at least five databases to keep their education software running smoothly when a child transfers from one teacher to another, said Charlie Bufalino, a Rocketship executive. The extra steps add expense, which limits how many apps a school can buy. And because the data is so fragmented, the private companies don’t always get a robust picture of each student’s academic performance, much less their personal characteristics.

First point: you most likely don’t need the software; the money could be better spent. Second point: who cares if the “private companies don’t get a robust picture”? Why are we all of a sudden so concerned about private companies having a “robust picture” of our children?

Yes, it even gets better.

Larry Berger, an executive at Amplify Education, says the data could be mined to develop “early warning systems.” Perhaps it will turn out, for instance, that most high school dropouts began to struggle with math at age 8. If so, all future 8-year-olds fitting that pattern could be identified and given extra help.

Forgetting for a moment that Larry’s statement erases more than 40 years of research on the predictors of “dropping out” (linked mostly to poverty, racism and lack of funding), my question is this: will the “early warning system” be color coded, like the now infamous “terror alerts?” Is “fitting the pattern” the new language for profiling? Sounds like the noble language of helping to prevent “drop outs” might hide something a little less palatable; maybe inBloom will partner with state governments to alert them of students not “ready” to vote?

Companies with access to the database will also be able to identify struggling teachers and pinpoint which concepts their students are failing to master. One startup that could benefit: BloomBoard, which sells schools professional development plans customized to each teacher.

Well that’s good news. Private companies that are charging the public for access to the data provided to them by the public will assist in further attacking teachers as the source of the problem while social inequality reaches new heights! Hopefully BloomBoard will lobby for more computers — I just hope some of the leaking roofs won’t short out the circuits. I also hope their statisticians can develop models that can compensate for students not giving a damn as they sit, alienated, in their PARCC testing cages.

The new database “is a godsend for us,” said Jason Lange, the chief executive of BloomBoard. “It allows us to collect more data faster, quicker and cheaper.”

But I thought it was “all about the kids”?

In the end, this is an untenable plan, doomed to failure, with more harm along the way. It should be opposed.

  1. Even the introductory video on the inBloom website presents a vision of the teacher/student interaction as completely mediated by their database which is to form the basis of and completely structure the student/teacher relationship. In the video, both students and teachers are presented as passive, with very limited voice, only acting through the devices devised by the database developers.
  2. The formulation “each particular” set me off, so I went searching on the Internet for Adria, and I came up with what appears to be someone who loves signing up to all the social media, but never really uses any of it (is she real?). No posts from her twitter account. No info on Linkedin, but a member. “Summitt Post” indicates “high school teacher” in Colorado. On “Clas talk”, nothing. Uses “pinterest” — what I saw was vapid. Appears on “rate my teacher” with 3 stars out of 5, from six respondents (“fun” was used frequently by those posting). (Obviously the sites that did not identify her profession and location could be for someone else.) From what I could find, she does not come across as an authority on the subject of using large databases to enhance education. She has been a teacher for a short time, and in general strikes me as an odd choice for an interview by an international news agency.

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Common Core is Not Just About Standards, it’s also about Data Mining.

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog.

We’ve written through the years about Common Core and have been concerned about the data mining allowed to occur now that states use common assessments.  The data mining is not just centered on educational information.  This educational reform also requires personal information on students and their families.  This is to create a managed workforce based on student data gathered from educational facilities and with the expansion of FERPA allowing information to flow freely, this information will be supplied to research firms, contractors and other interested parties.

Seattle Education reports on a grant received by school districts to gather this data:

One of the deals that we made with the devil when it comes to accepting Race to the Top dollars is the relinquishing of our children’s information.

Gates and others have begun to collect information about our children from New York to LA and it is about to happen in Seattle thanks to the efforts of the Road Map project, et al, falling all over themselves to receive a pittance of educational funding, $40 M to be split between 7 districts in our state. That’s $5.7M if it were to be divided equally.

To put that into perspective, West Seattle High School’s budget for this year is a little over $6M and that does not include building upkeep or other building costs including utilities.

The money will not go into established programs or to help with our budget crunch which happens to be a $32 M shortfall in Seattle, but is to go to “assessing” students starting in pre-school. Assessments basically mean testing on a long-term basis. This is not sustainable but oh well, there is some pie in the sky reasoning about receiving yet another largesse from Bill Gates, and maybe someday we would be able to continue to pay for everything that we have promised to deliver forever.

Per a previous post, A Race to the Top Winner. Really?, the following is the information that people want culled from our students’ “data”.

Road Map On-Track Indicators
The following is a list of the Road Map Project on-track indicators. These are reported annually against specific targets.
% of children ready to succeed in school by kindergarten
% of students who are proficient in:
3rd grade reading
4th grade math
5th grade science
6th grade reading
7th grade math
8th grade science
% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 1*
% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 2*
% of students who graduate high school on time
% of graduating high school students meeting minimum requirements to apply to a Washington state 4-year college
% of students at community and technical colleges enrolling in pre-college coursework
% of students who enroll in postsecondary education by age 24
% of students continuing past the first year of postsecondary
% students who earn a post-secondary credential by age 24
* Early warning indicators are for 6th and 9th grade students. EW1: Six or more absences and one or more course failure(s). EW2: One or more suspension(s) or expulsion(s)
Other Indicators to be Reported
The following is a list of the Road Map Project contributing indicators. These are reported annually or whenever possible, but do not have specific targets. These contributing indicators combined with the on-track indicators make up the full list of Road map Project indicators.
% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds
% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs
% of licensed childcare centers meeting quality criteria
% of families reading to their children daily
% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool
% of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten
% of students taking algebra by the 8th grade
% of students passing the exams required for high school graduation
% of English language learning students making progress in learning English
% of students taking one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses
% of students absent 20 or more days per year
% of students who make a non-promotional school change
% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school
% of students attending schools with low state achievement index ratings
% of females age 15-17 giving birth
% of 8th graders reporting select risk factors on the Healthy Youth Survey
% of students exhibiting 21st century skills
% of students who graduate high school by age 21
% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program
% of eligible students who complete the College Bound application by the end of 8th grade
% of graduating College Bound students who have completed the FAFSA
% of students who directly enroll in postsecondary education
% of students who did not complete high school on time who achieve a postsecondary credential
% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

It’s not theory anymore.  It will be coming to your school district in the future.  Your superintendent may declare he/she doesn’t compile this type of data, but you can see this is an important component of common core.  Not only do we need to compare student test scores, we need to compare their birthweight, if their parents read to them, their level of motivation, etc.

Stephanie Simon writing in Reuters K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents has uncovered data mining on children and has documented where it goes:

(Reuters) – An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as start-ups eagerly show off their latest wares.

But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

 Entrepreneurs can’t wait.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.

CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products – educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states – Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts – have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.

Read more here.

One should shudder to read the statement from Mr. Williams from the IL State Board of Education.  Remember the Illinois Data Set that has been waiting to be rolled out with data sets pertaining to student blood test results, eye color, voting status?  Here’s the plan to keep students on the right track: a national based GPS system for your student so he/she will never get lost along life’s way.  

Like a car navigation system, the learning management systems of the future will know the current location of each learner and be able to plot multiple, individualized paths to the Common Core and other academic goals. Students will be able to select preferences of modality of instruction, language,and time. And, like a car navigation system, even if they decide to take a detour, the system will always know where they are, where they want to go, and multiple paths to get there. (pg 8 of 126) 
How do you feel about multiple agencies and private organizations tracking your child’s every move and data points? If you believe your child is a piece of inventory and human capital, this a suitable and desirable tracking mechanism.

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Maxine Waters Confirms “Big Brother” Database

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog.

People are concerned about Facebook and credit card company breaches but for some reason, the divulging of personal student information has not garnered the same outrage and/or interest.  Maybe it’s because  you can’t see who is taking the information, who is receiving it and how it is being used by the government/private companies.

Maxine Waters stated that indeed, President Obama has established a massive database on American citizens that knows information about every individual.  She said the Democratic candidate in 2016 would “need to be down with that”.

“The President has put in place an organization with the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life,” Representative Maxine Waters told Roland Martin on Monday. “That’s going to be very, very powerful,” Waters said. “That database will have information about everything on every individual on ways that it’s never been done before and whoever runs for President on the Democratic ticket has to deal with that. They’re going to go down with that database and the concerns of those people because they can’t get around it. And he’s [President Obama] been very smart. It’s very powerful what he’s leaving in place.”

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Fox News: Feds Using K-12 to Illegally Access Personal Data – Interview with Emmett McGroarty, American Principles Project

H/T to What Is Common Core?

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Would Dr. Suess Approve of Data Determining “The Places You’ll Go”?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”  Remember the Dr. Suess book with that name?  It’s a book given to many graduates as they enter the world.  It’s a book about choices, change, risk and growth a young boy faces as he explores life.  Excerpts from a summary of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” from suite101.com:

Oh The Places You’ll Go describes up times and down times, waiting times and stressful times. Here’s a summary of this popular kids’ book by Dr Seuss.

In the beginning, Dr Seuss writes…
Oh! The Places You’ll Go starts with a boy (sorry girls, it’s one of those times you just have to lump yourselves in with the guys). Anyway, this boy is starting off on his journey to Great Places. He’s “off and away!” He’s got brains and feet, and can go in any direction he chooses. He’s fresh and excited about his latest adventure, and he knows nothing will stop him.

Decisions in Oh! The Places You’ll Go
The boy can choose whether or not to go down certain streets. Dr. Seuss stresses how smart and capable the boy is. And we all are, even us girls (but sometimes we ignore our gut feelings). Oh The Places You’ll Go is about making good decisions.

Read the summary (or the book) and you will understand the boy’s decisions are up to him on how to live his life. He learns to make good decisions.  He learns life is a series of ups and downs and how to enjoy the good times and stay strong through the hard times.   It’s a coming of age book and the character learns the direction of his life is up to him.

When I read the article Oh, the Data We’ll See and the Places We’ll Go! from Data Quality Campaign (DQC) I was speechless.  It is written by a Texas principal, Vera Wehring, about her use of data and how it must be monitored and for what purpose.  My first thought was “Dr. Suess must be turning over in his grave”.  She borrows Suess’ book title about a character determining his own life’s path and turns it into an exercise of using data to determine a student’s life.  The student’s innate abilities, desires and decisions are now funneled into data sets for school success, not the student’s personal success.  From the DQC article:

Individual Students
One of the challenges we have faced as a campus is in not meeting some of the rising accountability standards. Each time scores have been below standards, it has been by just a few students, and students from different subpopulations within our school. Thus we learned that we must look at individual student progress and individual student needs, and then individualize student interventions. To do so, we access student testing trends, projections of future success, and suggested interventions based on student profile. This particular data source helps us identify teachers’ value-added performance, identify students in target groups, and drill down to student detail. These data are used alongside traditional classroom assessments, campus and district assessments, and any other information that may be gleaned about individual students so that all students are monitored to ensure they are reaching their potential and achieving at appropriate academic levels. Progress is monitored by students themselves, classroom teachers, the campus leadership team, and the entire faculty.

Over the last several years, we have established processes and procedures to make data collection, analysis, reflection, and action an ongoing and embedded expectation. We do not claim to be perfect, nor do we claim to have found a panacea for all achievement ills. We do continue to refine and adjust our processes as data points change, teacher and leader capacity grows, and student needs alter.

The responsibility in Suess’ world depends on the individual to determine his destiny.  DQC and data driven educators believe the responsibility to determine students’ destinies rely on their services based on student data.  Read the entire article and you can understand how swamped these educators are with data driven mandates and how to manage the data requirements:

On a daily basis, principals are bombarded with a myriad of data points. It is easy to take a cursory glance at the piles of data, become overwhelmed, and move on to the next item on our to-do lists. It is also tempting to become bogged down in the data and spend hours on end sorting, analyzing, and then failing to act on them. The most effective leaders prioritize data, analyze them, and use them to make data-informed school improvement decisions.

What this data mining accomplishes is for school improvement benchmarks.  Wehring mentions student individualization, but this individualization is based on standards imposed by data sets.  How is “projection of student success” measured?  If a child doesn’t show “promise” by a certain age?  If a child is an auditory learner and material is taught visually, is that child not a projected “success”?   What this principal doesn’t seem to understand is that “the places you’ll go” isn’t about DQC or her data.  It’s about taking life by the “hoo-has” and living life to its fullest:

My cousin, Todd Parker, however, has definitely lived up to Dr. Seuss’ philosophy of life. He is a 2003 graduate of Petal High School. He was awarded the Presidential Scholarship from the University of Southern Mississippi and was dedicated to his education.

While in school he worked part time at Purple Parrot where he developed the skill and love for cooking. Against his parents’ advice and the advice of many others, he decided to forfeit his scholarship and head for New York City in pursuit of becoming a chef. That decision took a great deal of courage.
My cousin enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in 2006 in New York City, and the art of cooking became his passion. He completed an eighteen week internship in New Orleans and graduated from the Culinary Institute in 2008.
After graduation he returned to New Orleans and worked for approximately two years when he was asked to move to Germany to expand his education under some of the most world-renowned chefs. So, do you think he jumped on the opportunity? You bet your grits he did.
I propose Dr. Suess had this type of life journey in mind for people rather than a school/data company/government program of placing human capital into specific slots in a managed economy.  Students’ futures are not up to administrators, data companies or the government.  The following quote was meant for individuals, not corporations/government agencies making decisions for the individuals:
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”
― Dr. SeussOh, the Places You’ll Go!  
Link here for more quotes from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
If Principal Wehring is going to use this title of a Suess book to support a data driven agenda, she might want to read the book to understand what she advocates is far from what Dr. Suess meant to convey to readers.  Perhaps she took this tongue in cheek book review as fact and data to support her data driven argument.  This actually is the argument of the managed economists, don’t you think?

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The Architect of Your Future – Data Quality Campaign

by Anngie from Missouri Education Watchdog.

We all remember the Life of Julia, where the Obama Administration laid out how government programs were going to affect someone’s entire life. But in order for those programs and policies to be there to ferry Julia from one life stage to another, some government agency had to design and implement them. Someone had to anticipate future problems and create programs that would address them. In today’s world you only do that with data which is collected, crunched, analyzed and finally used to justify policy. That data collection begins at birth and ends at death. A social security number is applied for at birth which creates a permanent record for that individual. A death certificate is registered at the end of that life.  In the middle other data are collected: a student ID, a driver’s license, a mortgage account, a credit report, a criminal record, a health record, etc. All this data tells the story of us. Or it would if it were all easily accessible in one place which up until now has not been possible.

Enter the Data Quality Campaign, whose goal is “to ensure that every citizen is prepared for the knowledge economy.” In their most recent document Pivotal Role of Policymakers as Leaders of P–20/Workforce Data Governance the DQC wrote, “Achieving this goal requires unprecedented alignment of policies and practices across the early childhood; elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education; and workforce sectors (P–20W). Consequently, many policy questions require data from multiple agencies to answer.”

See, they need data from all these agencies in order to answer policy questions about education.  But they have a problem.  Though states have independent databases that track the information policy makers claim they need (we’ll get back to that in a minute) they run into “challenges” accessing this information due to: turf, time, technical issues, and trust.

Challenge 1 Turf – Data is power and money. One does not just casually hand that over to another agency just because the other agency has claimed a need for it. Those who currently manage the data “silos” need assurance that they will not lose control or have another entity assigned oversight on what they do. This is a reasonable concern since education data collection which started in the states has had rules and restrictions placed on it by the states that cannot and should not be violated. DQC’s response is to “define clear and distinct roles and responsibilities aligned to commonly established goals. This creates and fosters a culture of shared responsibility…”

Challenge 2 Time – Only so many hours in a day and money to pay people to manage all this data. And since all that money comes from taxpayers, regardless of whether it is a government employee or a government contracted company, there needs to be assurances in place that the time/money is well spent on data management.

Challenge 3 Technical Issues -each agency defines its own data standards and protocols and procedures for data use, making sharing data difficult and inefficient. Here is where DQC can really shine because their goal is to make all these databases talk to each other so sharing data across them is – they use the word efficient, but let’s call it – easy.  These inefficiencies and mismatching may be the last  thing protecting your privacy and DQC is working like bunnies to strip that away.

Challenge 4 Trust -“Agencies are concerned about how their data might be used once the data are linked, matched, and shared.”  How about parents? Mightn’t they be concerned about how this data will be used once matched and shared? Throughout this entire document the people who really “own” this data, the children and those who speak for them, their parents, are never mentioned.

Maybe I came too late to the discussion. When was it discussed that the government had a right to collect and use personal data on every single American? That seems to already have been agreed upon by un-elected bureaucrats who don’t answer to parents. Here are the Board members of DQC.

Tom Luce, Chair Chairman, National Math and Science Initiative 
John Bailey Director, Dutko Worldwide 
Tammi Chun Policy Analyst, Office of the Governor, State of Hawaii 
Kathy Cox CEO, U.S. Education Delivery Institute 
Kati Haycock President, The Education Trust  
Bruce Hoyt Former Board MemberDenver Public Schools Board of Education 
Sharon Robinson President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education 
Bob Swiggum Chief Information Officer, Georgia Department of Education
Gene Wilhoit Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers 

Their process looks like this:

  • Link Systems to allow for efficient matching of data that have been deemed necessary for specified purposes.
  • Match Data to create datasets with connected records on the same individuals from two or more databases.
  • Share information to provide participating agencies and institutions knowledge that was unavailable prior to the data matching.

There are circumstances where some data would be useful. How could colleges improve their course offerings if they didn’t track how many of their graduates got jobs and in what fields? How would high schools know whether they were truly preparing their graduates for the real world if they didn’t track how many went to college and how many got jobs?

The problem is more in the Field of Dreams area.  If you build it, they will come. If you begin to create a completely integrated data stream of personal data (which everyone always refers to as lacking individually identifiable data, right) with guidelines on how to set up new databases that can link to it and job descriptions that include making sure your data is compatible with the integrated system, you begin to create something so powerful that its governance should not be in the hands of any single individual or agency. Try preventing that from happening.

Most people only look at the privacy issues in terms of the individual databases. So what if someone knows my kid’s student ID. Who cares if I’m part of the public record as someone who receives unemployment payments. With groups like DQC working to connect all this data and develop policy on it, who knows what kinds of policies could be developed because of someone’s interpretation of that data. Maybe a policy needs to be established that requires an automatic visit by Child Protective Services for every child whose parent has become unemployed because past data showed a statistical potential for neglect when a parent loses a job.

The bigger issue is that government agencies will be self directed by data to address problems that the public has not asked to be addressed.  Our elected representatives could, in essence, be replaced by databases.  Whatever efficiencies or solutions might be gained by creating such a system should be weighed heavily against the possibility of such systems being abused by someone you don’t agree with. In addition should always be the concern of  such data being compromised, maybe even from entities outside the U.S. One of the key elements in the P-20 system is that it be accessible. That means, by definition, outside entities need to have a way in. There is no such thing as a completely secure system that needs broad access and any honest IT person will confirm that. So how much data do we want to put in such a system?  Has anyone asked us?

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RFID Chipping: When Students are Determined to be Human Capital, then it’s Necessary to Track them as Inventory.

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

One of the schools in my district is looking to implement fingerprint scans to hurry up the lunch line.  Some parents express concern on this practice while others view it as an efficient method to solve a problem of impatient waiting children and decreased times to eat lunch.

I read education articles from progressive to libertarian to conservative sites.  Regardless of political affiliation, writers from all sides are concerned about data mining of students and the future implications of

  • who has access to this information
  • where it will be shared
  • how it might be used
  • possible data breaches compromising private and sensitive information

Voices championing these programs are the ones making money off the data mining information and programs and the clueless taxpayers who believe governmental agencies have our individual interests in mind as the basis for these programs.

The article Student RFID Chipping Conditions American Youth to Accept Government Surveillance covers the gamut for student data mining. Once it’s permissible to scan your child’s fingerprints to receive government services, why isn’t it permissible (or mandated) to use other bioscan techniques in order to receive other educational programs?

A school in Maryland has installed PalmSecure, a biometric scanning system that requires elementary students to place their hand on infrared scanners in order to pay for their school lunch. The unique nuances of each child’s individual hand will be catalogued and the image encrypted with a numerical algorithm that is combined with the cost of school lunches.

PalmSource, a Japanese corporation specializing in biometric technology offers this “authentication system” which is a marketed as a necessity in healthcare, security, government, banking, retail and education.

The corporation also provides an array of RFID chipped tags with memory capacity.

The cost to taxpayers and parents for the installation of this Big Brother surveillance system in 43 schools in Maryland is estimated to be $300,000.

PalmSource is being beta-tested in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The school district of Spring Independent in Houston, Texas believes that “RFID readers situated throughout each campus are used to identify where students are located in the building, which can be used to verify the student’s attendance for ADA funding and course credit purposes.”

In Texas, children attending school in the Northside Independent School District will be required to carry RFID chipped cards while on campus. The 6,000 student’s movements will be monitored by faculty, in a pilot program that hopes to expand to tracking all students in the 12 districts.

Principal Wendy Reyes of Jones Middle School, explains: “It’s going to give us the opportunity to track our students in the building. They may have been in the nurse’s office, or the counselor’s office, or vice principal’s office, but they were markedly absent from the classroom because they weren’t sitting in the class. It will help us have a more accurate account of our attendance.”

In the San Antonio school district, the Student Locator Project (SLP) is being beta-tested at Jay High School and Jones Middle School – two schools in the Northside district. The SLP includes the use of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to “make schools safer, know where our students are while at school, increase revenues, and provide a general purpose ‘smart’ ID card.”

Students rallied against the use of RFID chips in two of their middle schools in San Antonio, Texas. The school district “maintained” that controlling truancy and tardiness as well as gaining $2 million in state funding for the use of these tracking devices was the motivation behind the implementation of the technology.

The school district of Spring Independent in Houston Texas believes that “RFID readers situated throughout each campus are used to identify where students are located in the building, which can be used to verify the student’s attendance for ADA funding and course credit purposes.”

In order to check out school library books, register for classes, pay for school lunches, the “smart” ID card is being employed to trace and track students and their movements on campuses all across America. By using leverage of educators to coerce school districts to adopt this method of tracking students, the argument for the use of the RFID technology is campus safety, efficient registration, and food and library programs.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) demands that ranchers use RFID chips to monitor their livestock. It is expected that RFID chips will become a part of our daily life, with their presence embedded in clothing, packaging, and bar-code labels on retail goods.

Herding and surveying people in our society with the use of RFID chipping disrupts our innate ability to remain private and infringes on our Constitutional civil liberties. The information contained in the RIFD chip could be the individual’s social security number, home address, medical records, school records, criminal records, financial records, and any other information that can be referred to digital storage. These chips can be accessed either by a source 100 feet or more from the person wearing the RFID chip. Remote access to the information contained in the chip is able to be read by directed satellites and sent to database centers where it can be used within a digital profile.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built 70 counterterrorism fusion centers across the nation. The cost to taxpayers is $1.4 billion so that federal and local law enforcement agencies can use surveillance equipment to database the movements of American citizens. According to a US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on fusion centers, some may be allocated for pre-crime suspicions, others would be simply watched so that they the US government will be able to properly learn how to control a mass of people.

These fusion centers receive mostly unusable information that endangers citizen’s civil liberties. The Committee could not surmise from data provided by DHS how the fusion centers worked with local law enforcement, but rather came to an assumed conclusion that data being collected on Americans is being stored within DHS facilities for the expressed (and as of now unknown) use by the federal agency.

Meanwhile, mainstream media is busy selling the idea that multi-media devices like smartphones, need to be implanted in the body. In the not-so-distant future, corporations hope that humans will embed microchips into their brains in order to use technologically advanced devices. However, this endeavor has a dark side.

It is predicted that in 75 years “microchips can be installed directly in the user’s brain. Apple, along with a handful of companies, makes these chips. Thoughts connect instantly when people dial to ‘call’ each other. But there’s one downside: ‘Advertisements’ can occasionally control the user’s behavior because of an impossible-to-resolve glitch. If a user encounters this glitch — a 1 in a billion probability — every piece of data that his brain delivers is uploaded to companies’ servers so that they may “serve customers better.”

Anngie and I have returned from a trip to a one room Amish schoolhouse.  We’ll be writing in the next few days about the difference between education including electronic tracking vs education delivered in a small, intimate setting with no government surveillance needed.  The difference between how public education students are tracked in school and how the Amish teachers handled student movement on school property is astounding.

This community established the school two years ago.  It was approached by the public school district to sign the students up as public education students.  It would have been a great tax infusion for the district and financing for the Amish school, but for the community school autonomy, not so much.  The community made the decision not to align itself with the public school’s programs.  The Amish teacher understood this tradeoff and while finances are tough for the school, she was pleased she has the authority to teach the students in the manner the community believes appropriate.  She was aghast that local public school districts are now mandated by Washington DC for much of the education delivery on the local level.  I can just imagine her response on chipping children for informational data information for governmental use.

Here’s a website  alerting folks to the dangers of chipping children like cattle.

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DOEd – The Master of Loopholes?

This article is cross-posted from Missouri Education Watchdog.

The DOEd has just released their draft regulation for the latest round of the Race To The Topgrant competition. Many have noted extensively how they no longer seem to care that they are forbidden by law from developing national standards. Duncan and his representatives have repeatedly stated that they are not doing that. Rather, it is state consortia (which DOEd incentivized the creation of through the first RTTT) who are developing standards (which they require states to adopt to receive second round awards in RTTT).  But it is this latest round of RTTT that is by far the biggest power grab by a federal department who was originally only designed to be a clearing house for education information. In it, DOEd seems to have perfected the technique of loophole optimization by taking on things that are so far afield from public education that no one could say they are in opposition to their original mandate to focus on education delivery.

Applicants for this RTTT award will be Local Educational Agencies (LEAs).  DOEd has drilled down below the states directly into your school board through this version of RTTT. Here are some of the requirements for receiving this latest award.

At least forty percent of participating students across all participating schools (as defined in this document) must be students from low-income families, based on eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch subsidies under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, or other poverty measures that LEAs use to make awards under section 1113(a) of the ESEA.

Clearly this round is meant for a very specific type of school district. Only those districts who are in urban areas or extreme rural communities will meet this qualification. However, high poverty, high needs schools must follow very prescriptive rules based upon federal and state guidelines which limits their ability to innovate. This would seem to fly in the face of the grant competition’s goal of inspiring innovation. It does exploit a loophole that then allows the feds to funnel money to urban areas which, coincidentally I guess, tend to vote one way.

The next requirement is where the DOEd seeks direct control of your school board and superintendent.

  • Applicants must demonstrate a track record of commitment to the core education assurance areas (as defined in this document), including, for each LEA included in an application, an assurance signed by the LEA’s authorized legal representative that–

The LEA has, at a minimum, designed and committed to implement no later than the 2014-15 school year–

  1. a teacher evaluation system (as defined in this document);
  2. a principal evaluation system (as defined in this document);
  3. a LEA superintendent evaluation (as defined in this document); and
  4. a LEA school board evaluation (as defined in this document).

An assessment of the LEA school board that both evaluates performance and encourages professional growth. This evaluation system rating should reflect both (1) the feedback of many stakeholders, including but not limited to educators and parents; and (2) student outcomes performance in order to provide a detailed and accurate picture of the board’s performance.

See, now your school board members will be rated and their performance will be tied to student performance. One does not set out to create a rating without the intent to use it as a means to take action. If your district’s students continue to perform poorly on the standardized assessments, something may need to be done about your school board members. Your vote for them will be greatly diminished if not negated.

And nothing can come out of DOEd without the requisite requirement to provide DATA.

The LEA has a robust data system that has, at a minimum,–

  1. An individual teacher identifier with a teacher-student match; and
  2. The ability to match student level P-12 and higher education data.

def. Student Performance Data – information about the academic progress of a single student, such as formative and summative assessment data, coursework, instructor observations, information about student engagement and time on task, and similar information.

Individual districts, not the state, will now supply this information directly to DOEd. If it has the ability to match teachers to students and track students beyond P-12, it is not sanitized for your protection. While the regulation states that such data have, “regulatory protections in place that ensure Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliant privacy and information protection,” it still maintains that such data be made accessible and usable by stakeholders. The more broadly this data is disseminated to stakeholders (who are very broadly defined by DOEd) the less control they have over it and the less secure your private information is.

Asking individual school districts to be sophisticated enough to develop the necessary software encryption to protect such information is unrealistic. Most likely they will have to go to a private vendor to purchase an existing software package. Who could be waiting in the wings to provide that little piece of business?

One of the last sections is titled “Competitive Preference Priority–Cradle-to-Career Results, Resource Alignment, and Integrated Services.” The federal government has stated openly that their goal (by giving preference priority to applicants who agree to this) is to be involved in your children’s lives from cradle to career (HHS takes over the grave part.) At this point does this even look like school anymore?

In this section of the draft regulation, they state they will be looking for:

Whether the applicant has formed a coherent and sustainable partnership with public and private organizations, such as public health, after-school, and social service providers; businesses, philanthropies, civic groups, and other community-based organizations; early learning programs; and post-secondary institutions to support the plan described in Absolute Priority 1. The partnership must identify not more than 10 population-level desired results for students in the LEA or consortium of LEAs, which may span from cradle to career, that align with the applicant’s proposal and reform strategy.

Here is your community school.  In addition to providing a basic education for children, your school district will now be evaluated on:

family and community results (e.g., students demonstrate social-emotional competencies, students are healthy, students feel safe at school and in their communities, students demonstrate career readiness skills through internship and summer job opportunities)

This is a gargantuan power grab by the federal government that, sadly, some individual school districts will actually ask them to do. It seems unfathomable that school board members, superintendents and tax payers would want the federal government this involved in the running of their schools, just for the benefit of a few dollars.  Nowhere in the grant application are districts required to show fiscal feasibility of maintaining any program started with RTTT funding. If DOEd isn’t going to ask for this, maybe the taxpayers should, because they will be the ones on the hook for increased “school” (and I now use that word loosely) funding.

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