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!

The Delaware Department of Education is NOT the state entity calling the shots on the Pathways To Prosperity program.  It seems to be multiple state agencies cooperating with multiple federal agencies.  They are just the vessel and their goal is to have the Pathways program in every single Delaware high school and 65% of Delaware students participating by 2025.

Further, the DDOE will align state and federal accountability measures, develop a more robust data collection and reporting system, and align college and career ready measures within the school accountability framework and the workforce development system.

That was in the Delaware Pathways Strategic Plan from a year ago.  I haven’t seen this included in the Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Group for Measures of Accountability yet.  And the first draft of Delaware’s ESSA plan came out on October 31st.  Will they have it in future drafts or will they include it later on based on “public comment”?  What really worries me is their “more robust data collection”.  As it stands now, I believe their “data collection” to be invasive at best.

Revise Delaware Administrative Code, 14 Del.C. §545 to emphasize the use of data and a comprehensive school counseling program that connects social and emotional standards based on the ASCA national model;

I saw this mentioned in the documents I put up on October 28th but I hadn’t checked to see what Regulation 545 is.  I imagine this will be in the Delaware Registrar of Regulations at some point in the near-future.  And we thought all the “social-emotional learning” was to help the struggling kids.  Another smokescreen, not just happening in Delaware but throughout the country.  This is NOT just a Delaware thing.  It is happening everywhere.

Provide professional learning experiences for administrators, LEA supervisors, and school counselors on college and career readiness, the student success plan (SSP), and ASCA-aligned school counseling plans;

The Student Success Plan.  One of the key ingredients to the Delaware Pathways program comes in the form of the above mentioned Student Success Plan.  This is one of the requirements for students to graduate from Delaware public schools. All students in 8th-12th grade are required to create these plans.  All Delaware students create their Student Success Plan on the same website: Career Cruising. This program is owned by a Canadian company called Anaca Technologies, Ltd. They are based out of Toronto, Ontario. Delaware students have been using this application since it was first piloted in Delaware schools in 2009. Would you care to know who brought this out of the country website to Delaware? The Southern Regional Education Board. A conglomeration of sixteen states that decide education policy for member states and then push it out to those states. I’ve written about them before. One Delaware legislator has been on this board for a long time. His name is Delaware Senator David Sokola. Perhaps you are familiar with him.

The Career Cruising website came to Delaware through a federal grant called the College Access Challenge Grant.

PR Award # : P378A080049
Grantee : Delaware Department of Education
Director : Dr. Michael Owens
Telephone : 302-857-3302
E-mail : mowens@doe.k12.de.us
Year 1 Award : $330,000.00
Project Description:
Delaware’s College Access Challenge Grant (DCACG) project will increase students’ and
families’ knowledge of the college application process, enhance the use of Student Success Plans
in our secondary schools, and expand the capacity of our guidance counselors through
professional development and networking opportunities. We will accomplish this by:
• Focusing our trainings on the use and application of our Student Success Plans;
• Creating a Web-based application to catalog high school-to-college and college-tocollege
course transfer information;
• Facilitating a professional development conference for guidance counselor led high
school teams and in-state higher education officials in financial aid, admissions, and
academic advisement;
• Enhancing the Delaware “Yes You Can” Web site to serve as a portal through which
Delaware students and families can access all college and financial aid information; and
Partnering with SREB and other states in the development of course modules for training
guidance counselors on the intricacies of advising college bound students.
The Delaware Department of Education and DHEC (Delaware Higher Education Commission)
will be collaborating with all of Delaware’s postsecondary institutions, the State Board of
Education’s P-20 Council, the Delaware School Counselors’ Association, and the Delaware
Association of School Administrators to accomplish the work of the CACG. By providing
students and parents with direct access to college information and ensuring our educators have
the knowledge to assist students we can break barriers and create opportunities for all Delaware
high school graduates to obtain a postsecondary education.

Michael Owens is no longer with the Delaware DOE, but he was the one who got the ball rolling with this grant. Want to know what else came out at the same time as this? Something called Common Core, followed by Race To the Top with accountability systems that punished poor urban schools, and eventually the Smarter Balanced Assessment. And do take note of the Southern Regional Education Board’s role in this. Eventually, the Michael Owens role fell on Karen Field-Rogers’ shoulders. She was the Assistant Deputy to the Secretary of Education.

A few weeks ago, the Delaware Dept. of Education sent me the original request for proposal, Anaca’s response, their contract with Anaca, a training and implementation schedule, and an amendment signed this year which allows Career Cruising to stay in Delaware schools until June 30th, 2017.  But the payments for this contract are no longer coming from federal dollars. It comes out of the State of Delaware General Fund. The Delaware Dept. of Education issued a Request for Proposal for this online career counseling application in 2013.  All of the above documents can be seen below.  The key highlights are listed first, with certain parts bolded for emphasis.

Central to the Students Success Plan Program is the need for an interactive, highly user friendly website that students can use to develop portfolios that includes learning about career and colleges, setting academic goals, creating resumes, conducting job searches and selecting appropriate courses to achieve their goals.

In the requirements for the selected contractor, the Delaware DOE had very specific things they were looking for from a company. Some of these include the following:

  • Personal data
  • Career goals
  • Assessment information including interest inventories
  • Student educational goals
  • Extracurricular activities, employment, work experience, skills and abilities, awards, recognitions, volunteer experiences
  • Personalized feedback

While this all seems benign on the surface, this would have to be a system with the capabilities of tracking and saving all this information that a student puts into it.

The subject of data privacy does come up in the RFP:

Provide and manage all user accounts on the ILP system with required permissions for accessing data and adding, updating, deleting, exporting, reporting, and other functions.

For each person accessing the data, certain criteria would suggest who could view what:

Student: Has access only to his or her specific data. Can only create self-specific reports or run pre-determined self-specific reports

Parent: Can access data and create reports or run pre-defined reports regarding any student to which he or she is associated with or has been associated with as a parent or guardian

Advisor Teacher: Can access data and create reports or run pre-defined reports regarding any to which he or she has had a teacher-student relationship. If the student has multiple teachers, in high school, for example, then the identified homeroom teacher or advisor would fulfill this role. Can be notified via email and/or on-screen of sudden changes to associated students.

School Administrator: Can access data and create reports or run pre-defined reports regarding any and all students currently and/or formerly enrolled at that specific public school. Can be notified via email and/or on-screen of sudden changes to associated students.

District Administrator: Can access data and create reports or run pre-defined reports regarding any and all students currently and/or formerly enrolled at that specific public school district. Can be notified via email and/or on-screen of sudden changes to associated students.

State Administrator: Can access data and create reports or run pre-defined reports regarding any and all public school students currently and/or formerly enrolled statewide. Can be notified via email and/or on-screen of sudden changes to associated students.

How long is this information saved?

SSP data must be archived for a period of five years after the student’s cohort graduation date and available through normal user operations.

Is this just for secondary education?

The system will also allow tracking of enrollment and credits beyond K12 earned through participation in credit-based transition programs such as dual-credit, dual-enrollment, delayed credit, etc.

But when the request started calling for this system to have availability on cloud-based systems, my dread increased rapidly….

Describe your company’s approach to current progress and timetable for compliance with standards promoting the portability of content between software platforms, including IMS (www.imsglobal.org) and ADL SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model at www.adlnet.org

But what about the existing student tracking system in Delaware? How would that work?

The system must integrate with the Delaware student information system.

Here is where words started jumping off the page and the power of this system became very real to me.

The website shall be integrated with the Higher Education Commission and Delaware Department of Labor and State Office of Volunteerism web-based services.

But wouldn’t this company have to adhere to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law meant to protect student records? Absolutely!

The selected Consultant must adhere to federal and state laws relating to student records: the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

So if they have to adhere to federal law, what happens with data storage?

Initial SSPs should be generated only by data from the Delaware student management application. Additionally, data input from the student management system will not be editable from within the SSP system. All data is entered once and shared appropriately to eliminate duplicate entry and/or data conflict including archived data stores. Additional SSP data not captured by the Delaware student management application can be input within the SSP system itself by the end-user according to his/her access rights.

So what does all this mean? It means once information is put in through the Delaware student tracking system (currently e-School Plus and IEP Plus for students with disabilities, run by a company called Sungard), if any information is missing it can be added by someone with authority to access the system. Which means someone besides a student or parent could add information to a Student Success Plan.

How long would the contract be good for?

The term of the contract between the successful bidder and DDOE shall be for two years with four possible extensions for a period of one year for each extension.

All of that is just in the DOE’s request for proposal.  This gets more chilling once you see the information Anaca gave the DOE.

In meeting the requirements of this RFP we can attest to the fact that we would be able to do so in such a way that no activity will take place outside of the United States.

Thank God!  They recognized they are a Canadian company and this could place a question mark with their proposal.  Even though the DOE had been utilizing their services for the three years before this.

However, we would like to request that you consider one exception to this requirement: Currently Jim Daigneau provides all client support for the State of Delaware from our Toronto office and has done so for the past three years.  Ideally, for both parties, Jim would be able to continue in this role.  If that presents a problem, we would make arrangements to identify a new client account manager for this role who would work out of our North Carolina office.

Oh snap!  Did the DOE honor this request?  They sure did!  All payments go to their Toronto office and the contract was signed out of their Toronto office.

But wait, how long has this program been going on in Delaware?

For the past five years, it has been our pleasure to provide the SSP system for Delaware students, parents, educators, and administrators.

Double oh snap!

Access to real-time, customizable reporting tools that allow you to drill into every aspect of your students’ usage of the system.

It sounds like they want people to drill for oil.

They even have assessments!  Nothing coming out of the Delaware DOE would be complete without having the word “assessment” in it!

Career Cruising’s Learning Styles Inventory is designed to help users understand how they learn and retain information.  The assessment consists of 20 questions that ask users about their preferences and tendencies.  The Learning Styles Profiles analyze the responses according to three learning methods- visual, auditory, and tactile.  Users may be identified as having a primary and secondary, dual, or mixed learning style.

Excellent!  Any other assessments that can be added to this?  Sure!

If students have taken external assessments, such as Meyers-Briggs, CareerScope, ACT Explore, and so forth, they can record their results in the Other Assessments section of the SSP.

Whoa!  That is A LOT of information tracked in one place!  Any other probing and personal information students can put into this plan that parents don’t get a parental consent form for?

Similarly, students can select from a list of the personal attributes, language skills, and computer skills they have acquired over the years.

And the system seems to have enough algorithms in it to make choices FOR the student.

The cornerstone of the Career Matchmaker interest assessment is transparent, personalized feedback for students.  Matchmaker does this by providing “Suitable for You” information for all occupations in the database.

Career Matchmaker promotes self-awareness and learning by showing students how each occupation on their list matches their personal and work interest and their employability skills.

Does the Student Success Plan end after you graduate from high school?  It depends on what kind of student you are.

Post-school surveys for Career Technical education and Special education have been created based on the specification of the DDOE.  These are available to students at the discretion of the DDOE.

At the discretion of the Delaware DOE?  That sounds like a recipe for calamity!

So how about that data!

In addition, there are a variety of aggregate Completion Status Reports that administrators can use to measure student progress and identify intervention opportunities.  The customizable report includes:

SSP completion status snapshot

SSP completion Status by Student

Incomplete SSPs by Criteria

Complete SSPs by Criteria

View SSP Completion Standards

SSP Reports – These reports allow users at the school, district, and state level to generate reports on all data elements entered in users’ Student Success Plans.  More than 35 reports allow educators and administrators to track advisement activities, assessment results, career and education exploration, goals and plans, activities and experiences, support services, and more.

That is a hell of a lot of tracking!  And the key word in this is “tracking”.

Reports at the region and state level can also be filtered by school and district.

Once again, the key word is “can”.  It doesn’t mean they have to.  What concerns me the most is the ability of state administrators to access this information and what they can do with it:

State Administrator – Can access data and create reports or run pre-defined reports regarding any and all public school students currently enrolled statewide.  Archived reports allow administrators to generate reports for data from previous years.

Holy smokes!

So what kind of data is tracked AND archived?

The current import data includes district, building, student ID, name, grade, gender, home language, ethnicity, LEP, address, phone number, special education enrollment, and date of birth.

If students in Delaware public schools use Google Chrome for so many things, is this system compatible with that?

This fall the student portion of the Student Success Plan will also be compatible with Chrome.

Does Career Cruising have access to e-School Plus?  It sure does!

Career Cruising currently receives files from e-School Plus on a weekly basiscovering student and parent data for students in 8th through 12th grade.  This can easily be expanded to include students in 6th through 12th grade.

Why would this company need parent data?  On a weekly basis?  For me, the danger with students’ personal data has never been about outside forces hacking into a system.  It has always been about loopholes in privacy laws that allow districts and the state to send that information out.

Career Cruising came under my radar almost a month ago.  Two parents from the Appoquinimink School District reached out to me on the same day. Both of them have children in the 8th grade at Appo. They received a document from the district notifying them of this mandatory Student Success Plan. It advised them of the Career Cruising website. But what was NOT included with this letter was a parental consent form. This website gets a ton of information on students. It has a personalized learning plan. It asks questions about what they want to do in life. Their thoughts. Their plans. With no parental consent form. That students start in 8th grade. In some schools and districts, students in 6th and 7th grade begin Student Success Plans.  Well before the age of consent. See what I’m getting at here? To make matters even worse, this is not an American company. It is Canadian.

What does FERPA have to say about that?

Under FERPA, a school may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from a minor student’s education records to a third party unless the student’s parent has provided written consent. However, there are a number of exceptions to FERPA’s prohibition against non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records. Under these exceptions, schools are permitted to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent, though they are not required to do so by FERPA. Following is general information regarding some of these exceptions.

Interesting.  So, what are these exceptions that do not require parental consent?

One of the exceptions to the prior written consent requirement in FERPA allows “school officials,” including teachers, within a school to obtain access to personally identifiable information contained in education records provided the school has determined that they have “legitimate educational interest” in the information. Although the term “school official” is not defined in the statute or regulations, this Office generally interprets the term to include parties such as: a teacher; administrator; board member; support or clerical staff; attorney; nurse and health staff; counselor; human resources staff; information systems specialist; school security personnel; and a contractor, consultant, volunteer or other party to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions.

A school may disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent to a “school official” under this exception only if the school has first determined that the official has a “legitimate educational interest” in obtaining access to the information for the school. A school that allows school officials to obtain access to personally identifiable information contained in education records under this exception must include in its annual notification of FERPA rights a specification of its criteria for determining who constitutes a “school official” and what constitutes “legitimate educational interests.” A school official generally has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

There are several other exceptions to FERPA’s prohibition against non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records, some of which are briefly mentioned below. Under certain conditions (specified in the FERPA regulations, 34 CFR Part 99), a school may non-consensually disclose personally identifiable information from education records:

  • to organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the school making the disclosure for the purposes of administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs, or improving instruction;

That is the loophole in FERPA that was changed in 2008 and 2011 that allows personal identifiable information of students to go to outside companies, like Career Cruising based out of Canada.  That is the loophole that was not addressed in Delaware’s Senate Bill 79 from 2015 that was meant to address “student data privacy”.  Many states enacted similar legislation that year.  What were the changes made to FERPA?

In 2008, according to the Registrar at Pennsylvania State University, the following changes were made to FERPA:

Permits disclosure to those who can assist the student

“School officials” may include third parties under contract who provide services or functions the institution would normally provide

Allows release without consent to organizations conducting research studies

School must agree with purpose of study

Requires written agreement with organization conducting study

De-identified data may be released without consent

De-identified data must not include any data that “would allow a reasonable person in the school or its community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty”

Okay, so this one of those websites that helps students choose a career path.  Nothing wrong with that.  Or is there?  According to Concord High School in Brandywine School District, Career Cruising provides online assessments to “help” a student choose a career path:

How Do I Choose a Career Pathway?

Base your pathway decision on everything you’ve learned about yourself from using the Career Compass and from your online assessments in Career Cruising. What do you like? What skills do you have? What career clusters interest you? What occupations are expected to have openings? Make an informed career path-way choice to prepare yourself for an interesting and fulfilling future.

And what is the Career Compass?  Just a monstrous guide provided by the Delaware Department of Labor…

While all of this is huge in scope, do parents even care how much personal data on their child is going out?  They should be.  Earlier this year, the National Center for Education Policy at the University of Boulder issued a report called “Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School”.  According to Valerie Strauss with the Washington Post, in an article written on 5/17/16:

Although some parents try to resist the collection and use of data about their children, the ubiquity of computers makes it easy for children and their parents to accept “constant data gathering and attendance surveillance of children” — and few look through the companies’ “long paragraphs of legalese” to understand what is really going on. Americans are, the report says, “to some extent being socialized to ignore and tacitly accept the collection, organization, and sale of information about us.”

Strauss quoted the report as saying:

Although companies that collect, sell, analyze, and buy data may not know children’s names (though they probably do), that hardly matters if they have the information and tools necessary to model everything about those children — including their interests, social networks, personalities, vulnerabilities, desires, and aspirations — and if they have personalized access to children, via their electronic devices, to shape them. By feeding children ads and other content personalized to appeal specifically to them, and also by choosing what not to show them, marketers influence children’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. As they do, they also test, adjust, and perfect their models of influence — and then track and target some more.

But the data going out to companies is far more pervasive than just targeted advertising as the report states:

Changes to FERPA in 2008 and 2011 expanded the definitions of both school officials and authorized representatives. In one of the most important changes, the U.S. Department of Education now considers “school officials” to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.”

Did you know Google is considered a “school official” now?  Remember that integration with Google Chrome listed in

This change has far-reaching implications for student privacy. For example, when school leaders sign a contract to use Google Apps for Education (GAFE), they assign Google the authority of “school official.”  The Department also considers “authorized representatives” to be any individuals or entities that local or state educational authorities, U.S. Secretary of Education, or U.S. Comptroller General select as an authorized representative. As a result of these changes, schools may now provide data to private companies without parental consent. Significantly, these private companies are not named “partners,” but rather “school officials” or “authorized representatives.”

Going back to Career Cruising, is it really a coincidence Delaware chose 8th grade as the start year for this online career counseling?

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to children under the age of 13, requires companies to obtain parental consent before they can collect personal information from children for commercial purposes.  In December 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expanded several definitions under COPPA, increasing protection of children by accounting for new tracking technology.  While these changes are significant, the law does not apply to teens. Teens are especially at risk because they are online more than young children both in and out of school, and also because developmentally they are particularly susceptible to targeted marketing.

But guess what… COPPA doesn’t even apply to online activity in public schools.  What’s the point of it then?

Could someone go after a company outside of the U.S. border if they abused personal student information?  FERPA applies to parents, students, and schools.  Not to the outside vendor.  If there were a violation of FERPA, it would fall on the school, not the company.  But yet Delaware made a graduation requirement, got federal funding from a grant and paid a Canadian company for a website all public school students in 8th-12th grade must use, and now it isn’t even paid for by the feds.  It is paid for out of the Delaware State Budget with a contract that will keep extending year after year.

The student data privacy concerns with this are very real, as are many other ed tech programs students use.  Like I said earlier, it isn’t the data getting hacked into, it is what our state and districts do with it.  When information from the Delaware DOE goes out to education “research” companies, it is done with just the student’s state identification number.  But when that information comes back to the DOE, along with whatever research that company compiled, the DOE is able to integrate it with the plethora of information already attached to that student identification number.  Our students, and by extension, their parents, are being tracked at levels unheard of before.  It has been going on a long time, and even though Delaware pretends this data is protected by legislation like SS1 for Senate Bill 79, it is not.  The highest levels of the state and Senator Sokola know this.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn should know about it.  If not, he will now.  But then again, I have not heard one peep from Denn on my request for him to investigate the answer to my FOIA complaint on the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee and their failure to make their first meeting public.  The one that Rodel has a big hand in.  Gee, I wonder why… Parents can no longer afford to be fooled by this tracking machine that is in every single Delaware school.

I would have come out with this article earlier, but requests for information went unanswered.  I attempted to contact Luke Rhine at the Delaware DOE.  He runs the CTE program there.  I left him a message.  The next day I received an email from Alison May, the public information officer at the DOE.  She said she would be the contact person on the Career Cruising contracts.  I refused to go that route.  She is methodical about what type information she provides and history has proven it would be a futile effort.  I also contacted a few school districts to find out more information.  None of them returned my calls or emails.  But every single parent I talked to about this, which were many, never once were given a parental consent form.  Most had never heard of Career Cruising or were even aware they were supposed to take part in it.  One parent who was aware of it said their child was very upset this system suggested certain careers for the student.  This student was not interested in any of the suggestions but felt that was the path they had to take.  The parent told their child to ignore it and that they had time to decide what they want to do in life later.  The parent also told their child they can do and be whatever they want.

As someone who tracks a lot of my own data with how our schools and the Delaware DOE spend money, I have to admit I missed this one.  When I look at Delaware Online Checkbook, I primarily look at sections with “consultants” and “other professional services”.  How does the DOE code their Anaca Technoligies payments?

anacafy2017

anacafy2016

anacafy2015

anacafy2014

anacafy2013

anacafy2012

anacafy2011

Delaware Online Checkbook only goes back to Fiscal Year 2011.  While they are listed other “other professional service”, the primary year that I really started digging into this stuff was FY2016.  Notice the Delaware DOE lists this as “computer supplies”.  And why are districts paying Anaca Technologies for services?  Even worse, how is it Indian River can use Federal funds to pay for Anaca’s services in this school year?  I have a feeling we might find the answer to that one when the State Auditor of Accounts comes out with the report on their investigative audit on the district this month.

It really doesn’t matter if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton won the U.S. Presidency.  These data tracking mechanisms are in every single state.  Students across the country are being measured by algorithms developed in online programs and applications that are developed with a sole purpose: the cradle to grave tracking of American citizens which will “suggest” potential career paths for students at a very young age.  But the officials pushing these systems rarely send their children to public schools.  Their kids are sent to private schools without all the ed tech and tracking going on.  These are the students who will rule over society as part of the 1% one day.

I am calling on the Delaware General Assembly to contact ALL state agencies and hold public hearings on personal data and how it goes out and how it is used.  I am also calling for an immediate investigation into all activity with Senator David Sokola and his role in this massive intrusion with students’ personal data.  I will be inviting parents to act if the General Assembly does not.  This will include protests, rallies, press conferences, letters, emails, and more.  Our children and their private information are not for sale.  It will NOT be shared, researched, or made to profit from.  This madness stops NOW.

 

 

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