Secretary Godowsky’s Farewell Letter

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will be leaving his post when John Carney is sworn in as the next Delaware Governor in January.  I’m going to be honest here… part of me likes Dr. Godowsky.  I have a feeling if he were the Secretary of Education for a different Governor, things would have been vastly different.  But he was miles better than Mark Murphy.  Godowsky was basically a clean-up guy.  He had to get all of Jack Markell’s policies into place before the “Education Governor” left office.  Today, Godowsky sent a farewell letter to the Delaware General Assembly.  Expect to see some fresh faces in Dover come January 2017…

Dear Legislators,
I have appreciated your partnership and support over the past year-plus as we have worked together on behalf of our students, educators and families.
We can all be proud of the progress made in public education during Governor Markell’s administration with success ranging from early childhood education and K-12 schools to career pathways and college access. Together we have made systematic improvements that will continue to lead to improved outcomes in the years ahead.
Already the progress is clear: More children are enrolled in quality early childhood education centers; in state assessments, at the earliest grades, we are seeing some of the highest test scores in the nation; 10 percent of our incoming kindergarteners are beginning their learning in two languages through the World Language Immersion Program; we have more students graduating from high school than ever before; record numbers of students are taking and succeeding in college-level courses in high school; and revamped career pathways are aligned to the industry and economic needs of our state. These are significant achievements!
We need to celebrate this progress and congratulate the students and educators who are leading the work our classrooms across the state. We owe it to them not to rest but to work even harder in the months and years ahead to ensure every child graduates from our public schools prepared for success in life.
In my remaining time in this office, I commit to continuing to communicate and collaborate with you, and I hope you will join me in some important conversations about the future of our education system in Delaware. It has been a great honor to have served as Delaware’s Secretary of Education. Thank you!
In this newsletter you will find more information on our progress on Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and how you and your constituents can help inform the policy decisions we must make in the months ahead.
Sincerely,
Steve
Steven H. Godowsky
Secretary of Education
Delaware Department of Education
Dover, Delaware
(302) 735-4002

Parent, Education, and Privacy Groups Oppose Overturning The Ban On A Federal Student Database

Leonie Haimson, the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, allowed me to share a press release issued by today by the following groups: Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, American Civil Liberties Union, Network for Public Education and NPE Action, Parents Across America, Badass Teachers Association, and New York State Allies for Public Education.

This morning a letter was sent to the federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking from parent groups, education advocates, and privacy experts, urging them against proposing that the ban on a centralized federal database of student personal data be overturned. 

Recently, several DC-based groups testified before the Commission, urging that this ban be lifted, which was established by Congress as part of the Higher Education Act in 2008.  The Gates Foundation has also announced that the creation of a centralized federal database to track students from preK through college, the workforce and beyond is one of their top advocacy priorities for 2017.

In the letter, parent, privacy and education organizations warned that eliminating this ban would risk that highly sensitive information would breached, as has occurred with sensitive data held by many federal agencies in recent years.  A hack into the Office of Personal Management released personnel records of about 22.1 million individuals. More recently, an audit of the US Department of Education found serious security flaws in their data systems, and a government security scorecard awarded the agency an overall grade of D.

Moreover, K-12 student data currently collected by states that would potentially be incorporated in the federal database often include upwards of 700 specific personal data elements, including students’ immigrant status, disabilities, disciplinary records, and homelessness. Data collected ostensibly for the sole purpose of research would likely be merged with other federal agency data and could include information from their census, military service, tax returns, criminal and health records.

Said Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, whose members led the fight against inBloom, designed to capture and share the personal student data of nine states and districts, “A centralized federal database containing the personal data of every public-school student would pose an even greater risk to individual privacy than inBloom.  It would allow the government to create dossiers on nearly every United States resident over time, and if breached or abused would cause immeasurable damage.”

As privacy advocates in England recently discovered, the personal information in a similar national student database that the government promised would be used only for research purposes has been secretly requested by the police and by the Home Office, in part to identify and locate undocumented children and their families.

“Our disastrous data privacy situation here in England should serve to warn Americans of the grave dangers of this sort of comprehensive student surveillance and database. The personal confidential information in our National Pupil Database was supposed to be used only for research, but we found out recently that data on thousands of students and their families has been secretly requested by the police and for the purposes of immigration control in just the last 15 months. It would be unwise and irresponsible for the United States to create a similar database, which can so easily be used for political purposes which are not in all children’s best interests,” said Jen Persson, coordinator of defenddigitalme, a privacy and digital rights group in the UK.

Chad Marlow, Advocacy& Policy Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “Improving educational opportunities for children and protecting student privacy are not mutually exclusive goals.  In fact, it is our responsibility as parents, educators, and Americans to doggedly pursue both objectives.  Creating any type of centralized database for personally identifiable student data would pose real and significant risks to the privacy of America’s students, and that is why such databases have consistently been rejected in the past.  With education policy, as with privacy, ‘do no harm’ is a reasonable place to start, and here, doing no harm clearly requires rejecting any attempts to establish a universal database that compiles and tracks students’ most sensitive information.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education and NPE Action pointed out, “Whether Democrat or Republican, the one thing parents agree on is the importance of their child’s privacy. To allow the federal government to collect personal and sensitive data on every public-school student in the nation risks that this information would be misused by the government and corporations. “

“Parents Across America opposes any effort to establish a national student record system. Ever since the federal government weakened protections for student privacy, parents have been in a crisis mode. Our children are exposed every school day to a growing mish-mash of screen devices and online programs that capture mountains of their data. We know that the threat to privacy will only get worse if there’s a national record system; education profiteers will line up to tap into an even more convenient source of private student information. But we are determined not to let that happen to our children’s data,” said Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director of Parents Across America.

Lisa Rudley, Executive Director of the NY State Allies for Public Education, observed, “Data collection and sharing of our children’s personally identifiable information should require a parent’s informed consent. Just because the technology of data mining is here, it doesn’t mean children’s privacy rights should be sacrificed.”

“Our children and their families deserve protection of their data.  More importantly, we must understand that protecting our children relies upon protecting their personal information from breach or abuse,” concluded Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the Badass Teachers Association.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking is accepting public comment on this matter until December 14, 2016. For more information, visit the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy website here: http://www.studentprivacymatters.org/federaldatasystem/

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I certainly hope the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association add similar public comments to this massive plan of Bill Gates…

Indian River Has A Referendum In One Week. Where Is The Audit Investigation?

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner promised the citizens of Indian River School District the audit investigation his office is working on would be released before their referendum.  I assumed it would be released at least a week before the referendum to give the citizens in the district enough time to digest it.  I pray to God his office does not release it the day before to soften the blow.  We all know there will be some very serious stuff in there.  We know something happened in this district.  A chief financial officer with a checkered past in another district doesn’t get put on leave and then “resign” a month later unless something very serious went on.  When is Delaware going to stop playing this game?  When will full transparency actually happen in this state?  I feel citizens should have at least a week for this so perhaps the district should put in a request with the Delaware Dept. of Elections to postpone the referendum.

History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data

Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students.  This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out.  Luckily, I am not one of those people.  So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state?  Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data