Could A Secretary Of Education Bill Evers Stop The Whoring Out Of Personal Student Data?

In 2011, the Obama Administration changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act so third parties would have access to personal student data.  This has been a major point of contention on this blog for over a year now.  Our children are guinea pigs for state departments of education, the feds, and more corporate education reform companies than you can shake a leg at.  But we could have some relief if Bill Evers is selected as the United States Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump.

While I don’t like some of Evers’ thoughts on charter schools and school vouchers, I do immensely enjoy what he said in a hearing on Common Core in Ohio.  This is what he said about student data privacy and the changes to FERPA in 2011.  Thanks to Education Next for reporting this back in 2013!

Data about Ohio students will flow to the U.S. Department of Education through PARCC, the national test consortium to which Ohio belongs. In return for the money it received from the federal government, PARCC has to provide the U.S, Department of education with its student-level data.  Ohio can do nothing about this as long as it is in a federally-funded national test consortium.  It would have to leave PARCC to block this process of data transfer.

This issue is of personal concern to me.  When I was U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, the student privacy office was part of my portfolio.  Until December 2011, the U.S. Department of Education interpreted the student privacy protections in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) strictly, but reasonably.

But in 2011, the Obama administration turned those protections upside down. The Obama administration reinterpreted technical terms and provisions of the law to allow access to student personal data to non-education government agencies and to private vendors and contractors. It removed requirements that parents had to give consent if third-parties were given  access to student personal data. The Obama administration made this change, in large measure, to facilitating workforce planning by government agencies.

We live in a time of concern about abuse of data collection and data management — by the NSA, the IRS, and other agencies. Ohio policymakers should be concerned about the privacy of student personal data and its possible misuse.

To facilitate workforce planning by government agencies… there we have it!  And we thought Hillary Clinton would stop that?  Hell no!  Is Trump involved in this “workforce planning”?  That is the whole point of all that we are seeing in education: Common Core, high-stakes standardized tests, Pathways to Prosperity, all the education technology, the very bad accountability standards, the smoke and mirrors with teachers which are causing more teachers to leave the profession, the educator quick prep programs like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the plethora of companies that are profiting immensely while students do without.  All of these were and are designed to create this workforce of tomorrow.  A plan geared towards tracking and pushing students into certain career paths.  They love to say it is for the greater good, but don’t be fooled!  It is control, pure and simple.  I don’t trust anything going on at the state or federal level.  But I do know a lot of it hinges on the data.  And if these companies are robbed of the opportunity to get private information about students, that is a major monkey wrench in their plans.

In 2015, former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy was fighting an opt out bill in the First State.  He told the press something to the effect of “It’s the data.  The data is important to us.”  Don’t quote me on that, but it was all about the data.  It was probably the truest thing the guy ever said.  When will we reach the point when we can firmly put this corporate education reform era to bed?  When can educators get the respect they need and our students can learn without being subjected to being nothing more than lab rats for government and corporate agendas?  There is no better time like the present!

There is a petition already out on Change.org to send to President Trump to have Evers appointed as the next United States Secretary of Education.  Please sign the petition NOW!

https://www.change.org/p/president-elect-donald-j-trump-appoint-an-education-secretary-with-integrity

How Safe Is Student Data? If This Commission Gets Their Way, Not Very Safe At All

Yesterday, the Commission on Evidence-Based Practices heard testimony from many organizations about how the federal government uses data to create policy. Many of these organizations were education companies, as seen in the below list. The Commission came out of Public Law #114-140. The hearing was put on Youtube. The video appears after the agenda which shows who testified. A few things to take note of while watching the video: this is a federal hearing, so they record recess time as well. The video doesn’t actually begin until the 17:00 mark. A gentleman from the American Principles Project gives his testimony at the 2:45:50 mark. His testimony is the only one from the side of those concerned with how student data can be used and disseminated. Note the participants behind him and their reactions to what he says.

There are many fighting for the protection of personally identifiable data.  But we aren’t enough.  As Emmett McGroarty explained in his testimony, those who fight to protect student data don’t have the corporate muscle behind it with tons of money to lobby legislators.  But we do our own research on what these companies are doing and what they want to do.  They want to lift the final legal barriers for the sharing of ALL data among government agencies.  And as FERPA law states, student data can be disseminated for educational purposes.  The companies that spoke at this hearing which give me reason for concern are American Institutes for Research, Education Trust, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, New America, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy.  If you look at these agencies alone, they represent companies who would benefit from student data from pre-school to college and/or career readiness.

When I watch hearings like this, and I only see a few Commission members in attendance, it always leads me to a conclusion that this will become policy and all this is just for show.  The summary of the law appears below the video.  To read or submit public comments for this commission, please go here.

Public Hearing

Rayburn House Office

Building, Room B-318

October 21, 2016

9:00 AM

Opening Remarks

Katharine G. Abraham, CEP Chair

Ron Haskins, CEP Co-Chair

9:10 AM

Panel #1

George Grob, American Evaluation Association

Clyde Tucker, American Statistical Association

9:40AM

Panel #2

Amanda Janice Roberson, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Rachel Zinn, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Carrie Wofford, Veterans Education Success

Mark Schneider, American Institutes for Research

10:20AM

Panel #3

Rachel Fishman, New America

Tiffany Jones, The Education Trust

Christine Keller, Association of Public & Land-grant Universities

Tom Allison, Young Invincibles

11:10AM

Break

11:20AM

Panel #4

Erin Knowles, United States Parents Involved in Education

Emmett McGroarty, American Principles Project

11:50 AM

Panel #5

Daniel Crowley, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

RK Paleru, Booz Allen Hamilton

Quentin Wilson, Public Performance Improvement Researcher

12:30PM

Panel #6

David Medina, Results for America

Kelleen Kaye, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

Sara Dube, Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative

1:10 PM

Adjourn

Public Law No: 114-140 (03/30/2016)

Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016

(Sec. 2) This bill establishes in the executive branch a Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.

(Sec. 3) The bill provides for a 15 member Commission appointed by the President and congressional leaders with consideration given to individuals with expertise in economics, statistics, program evaluation, data security, confidentiality, or database management.

(Sec. 4) The Commission must conduct a comprehensive study of the data inventory, data infrastructure, database security, and statistical protocols related to federal policymaking and the agencies responsible for maintaining that data to:
•determine the optimal arrangement for which administrative data on federal programs and tax expenditures, survey data, and related statistical data series may be integrated and made available to facilitate program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses;
•make recommendations on how data infrastructure, database security, and statistical protocols should be modified to best fulfill those objectives; and
•make recommendations on how best to incorporate outcomes measurement, institutionalize randomized controlled trials, and rigorous impact analysis into program design.

The Commission shall consider whether a clearinghouse for program and survey data should be established and how to create such clearinghouse.

The Commission shall evaluate:
•what administrative data and survey data are relevant for program evaluation and federal policy-making and should be included in a clearinghouse;
•which survey data such administrative data may be linked to, in addition to linkages across administrative data series;
•what are the legal and administrative barriers to including or linking these data series;
•what data-sharing infrastructure should be used to facilitate data merging and access for research purposes;
•how a clearinghouse could be self-funded;
•which researchers, officials, and institutions should have access to data;
•what limitations should be placed on the use of data;
•how to protect information and ensure individual privacy and confidentiality;
•how data and results of research can be used to inform program administrators and policymakers to improve program design;
•what incentives may facilitate interagency sharing of information to improve programmatic effectiveness and enhance data accuracy and comprehensiveness; and
•how individuals whose data are used should be notified of its usages.

The Commission shall, upon the affirmative vote of at least three-quarters of its members, submit to the President and Congress a detailed statement of its findings and conclusions, together with its recommendations for appropriate legislation or administrative actions.

(Sec. 5) The following agencies shall advise and consult with the Commission on matters within their respective areas of responsibility:
•the Bureau of the Census;
•the Internal Revenue Service;
•the Social Security Administration;
•the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Justice;
•the Office of Management and Budget;
•the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and
•the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(Sec. 6) The agencies identified as Principal Statistical Agencies in the report entitled “Statistical Programs of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2015,” published by the Office of Management and Budget, shall transfer up to $3 million to the Bureau of the Census, upon request, for carrying out the activities of the Commission.

The Bureau of the Census shall provide administrative support to the Commission.

No additional funds may be authorized to carry out this Act.

(Sec. 8) The Commission shall terminate not later than 18 months after enactment of this Act.

The Creepy Personalized Learning Virtual Reality “Genie” In Reasoning Mind Math: Who Is Behind The Avatar?

 When a “personalized” MATH program admittedly creates a virtual reality “Genie” to become a child’s best friend… what happens when email secrets start to go out, along with confessions about themselves and their home life?  Many parents in America are very concerned.  Who is behind the Genie? Who gets the information?  When they found out that BILL GATESRUSSIA, and the US DOE are promoting and/or paying for this….  let’s just say they became more concerned.  Please read and share this so more parents can become aware of this child predator in the making!  As for the Genie… Well, how would you feel if your child was emailing grown men, disguised as a friendly Genie?  In another country?

reasoning-mind-real-time-data-ai
Reasoning Mind Math reasoningmind.org

The non-profit Reasoning Mind offers “personalized” on-line math curriculum and a computer-based “Genie” who is virtually a child’s best friend, and knows personal things about them, even confessions.  As first noted in this RM document posted by a blogger known as Educray, Reasoning Mind math curriculum  places a large emphasis on teaching Soviet-style morals, collectivism, and the importance of labor (Tudge, 1991).  Reasoning Mind has given some parents reason to worry.   So, let’s take a look at Reasoning Mind and see what could possibly cause concern.

“The Genie”, according to this Reasoning Mind report:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that students are quite “attached” to Genie, who regularly receives (and answers) email on topics beyond the scope of the learning software, including jokes, requests for friendship, and  confessions about students’ home life.”

“Every day, Reasoning Mind elementary students send hundreds of messages to the Genie, a “friend and mentor” who guides students through their studies. Here’s our favorite student message from this week. And yes, the Genie does respond!”

 

 

reasoning-mind-genie-message

Since Reasoning Mind offers “personalized” curriculum that knows and also remembers the student, a child can log into RM from home or school. And since it’s adaptive and personalized, RM and Genie will keep track of the child, will remember their profile. If RM and Genie can track a child into consecutive grades,  like an old friend,  Genie will be able to pick up the profile where the child left off last year.  While proponents would say keeping track of learners’ profiles is beneficial, this massive accumulation of student information also begs the question of data privacy, risk, and security.

With all that PERSONAL communication being directly and indirectly (ie: analyzing emotions) shared with RM’s Genie, we wondered what their data sharing agreements and Privacy Policy  look like. If a parent were curious what data was collected and shared on their child, this is what they would find if they went to Reasoning Mind’s website.  There is nothing posted about how RM uses and analyzes and shares the noncognitive and personal information that children are providing to RM and to Genie while logged onto their curriculum.  There is no mention of how RM complies with COPPA law.

reasoning-mind-privacy-policy

reasoning-mind-coppa-privacy-policy

 

Given the many Supporters  and In-Kind Contributors of Reasoning Mind, spanning the globe, parents wonder if organizations like Salesforce, Microsoft, Russian Petroleum, Google, Swagger Films, etc. are allowed access to their child’s profile or personal information.  We know that data is money.

Money and Moscow Connections:

Non-profits must make public their tax returns (form 990).  Here are 990 returns available for Reasoning Mind. Looking at the 2014 return tells us a lot; for starters, Reasoning Mind is connected.

Connected to each other:  Page 32…   FORM 990, PART VI, SECTION A, THE PRESIDENT AND CEO IS MARRIED TO ONE OF THE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT’S AND THEIR SON IS (LINE2) ALSO A SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT

Connected to Russia:
Pages 7 and 8 of their 2014 form 990 tax return.  Note the Russia Connections:
reasoning-mind-2014-pg-7
Page 22 of RM’s 2014 return shows Moscow did the computer Programming and Testing of end product (remember that GEF MAP I posted a few months ago).
reasoning-mind-2014-pg-22-tested-in-russia

 

Reasoning Mind is Connected to Bill Gates, with this $300k grant for a math pilot  as seen in Gates Foundation 2011 990 form (hint: take a look for other interesting awardees)

2011-gates-reasoning-mind-math-pilot
Reasoning Mind is AGAIN connected to Bill Gates with this $700+ grant awarded in 2011  for alternative human capital models and Common Core aligned math pilot targeting minority children.
reasoning-mind-2011-gates-700k
Reasoning Mind is featured in this 2013 US Department of Education publication that focuses on “New technologies using educational data mining and “affective computing”:
promoting-grit
“There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success… —it is the responsibility of the educational community to design learning environments that promote these factors so that students are prepared to meet 21st-century challenges.
Several private foundations have recently initiated programs to push the frontiers of theory, measurement, and practice around these and related factors, particularly for at-risk and vulnerable students. In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass a range of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics….
Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance mentions Reasoning Mind as an example of  a system that customizes to a student’s cognitive profile and emotional state (e.g., frustration or boredom) using inputs from physiological indicators and facial expressions” and  they also mention experimenting with “animated, affective [digital] agents perceived as caring can increase the likelihood that students will persist through frustrating portions of instruction”.
reasoning-mind-in-promoting-grit
Reasoning Mind is connected to Rice University, an advisor to Reasoning Minds, Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian is also the Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Additionally, Dr. Neal Lane, Professor Emeritus, Rice University; Former Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Former Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; Former Director of the National Science Foundation–sits on the board of RM.
Reasoning Mind is connected to Columbia University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute who did a study on the “affect and behavior among students at three schools using Reasoning Mind, a game-based software system”.   This study was  paid for by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   The researchers reporthigh student engagement with this learning system“.  The researchers attribute student engagement to the game-based nature and also because children were embracing the genie as a friend and confidant:
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that students are quite attached to Genie, who regularly receives (and answers) email on topics beyond the scope of the learning software, including jokes, requests for friendship, and confessions about students’ home life.  On the basis of these reports, it seems that the effect of Genie deserves more careful consideration, as the success of her design may contribute significantly to the high levels of engagement observed.  Finally, we should consider the many game-like elements in its design, including a point system that rewards students for speed drills and puzzles. Once sufficient points have been accumulated, students may furnish their own virtual space within RM City or buy virtual books. Particularly at a young age, this kind of autonomy is likely very appealing.”
Some have questioned whether RM’s Genie is gaining children’s trust and using a reward system to train children to  respond in much the same way that  the Russian researcher, Pavlov,  conditioned his dogs.  Speaking of experiments and research…

Is it any wonder that students areengaged in this video-gaming atmosphere?  They are engaged because many like Dr. Kardaras, author of Glow Kids,  know: online games are addictive.

spying-kids

Online Curriculum– or Spying on Children?

This 1984 quote by Dustin Heuston (Geuston), Utah’s World Institute for Computer-Assisted Teaching, seems  remarkably fitting if not foreboding:
We’ve been absolutely staggered by realizing that the computer has the capability to act as if it were 10 of the top psychologists working with one student… you’ve seen the tip of the iceberg. Won’t it be wonderful when the child in the smallest county in the most distant area or in the most confused urban setting can have the equivalent of the finest school in the world on that terminal and no one can get between that child and that curriculum?”-Dustin H. Heuston, “Discussion–Developing the Potential of an Amazing Tool,” Schooling and Technology, Vol.3, Planning for the Future: A Collaborative Model, published by Southeastern Regional Council for Educational Improvement, P.O. Box 12746, 200 Park, Suite 111, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709/ Grant from National Institute of Education, p. 8.
Even more fascinating and startling is this 2010 research on monitoring engagement [curriculum-usage compliance and Academic learning time (ALT)] of preschoolers while interacting with online curriculum, done by Edward B Heuston of Brigham Young UniversityHis conclusion:
“The ability to remotely and accurately quantify interaction with a computer-based curriculum and assessment in the home defines a new vista in ALT research.”
Should parents and teachers (and friends) and human social interactions be replaced by online “affective” avatar agents, who profile childhood secrets, moods, emotions, failures, and flaws? Will artificial, virtual “friends” like Genie become the Oracle that children consult, confide in? … and take direction from?
Perhaps, parents are wise to question who the Great Oz is behind the curtain.  The entity (or persons), receiving and profiling the hearts and minds of their connected children, both at home and in classrooms.  What has to happen before parents realize the danger they are allowing to come into their child’s life?  Every time you sign a consent form, are you getting this kind of information?  I highly doubt it.  And are parents bothering to educate themselves on privacy policies and how data is disseminated?  I doubt it.  The wolf isn’t at the door.  It is in your home…

Student Data Privacy Presentation To Delaware P-20 Council

The Delaware P-20 Council received a presentation on student data privacy at their July 11th meeting.  You may be asking, what in the world is the P-20 Council?  Just another education council that helps to determine education policy and further cloud the issues.

The Delaware P-20 Council was established in 2003 by Governor Ruth Ann Minner’s Executive Order 47 and placed in statute in 2005. The Council is an inclusive organization designed to align Delaware’s education efforts across all grade levels. Its main goal is to establish a logical progression of learning from early childhood to post-secondary education while reducing the need for remediation. With cooperation from state leaders, higher education, school administrators, the business community, and parents, the P-20 Council will be able to open more doors for Delaware’s children and prepare them to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society who will continue to learn throughout their lives.

At this meeting, the council viewed a presentation on Student Data Privacy.  One was from Christian Wright with the Delaware Attorney General’s office and the other was from Amelia Vance with the National Association of State Boards of Education.  There are some very interesting tidbits in Vance’s presentation…

National Association of State Boards of Education Student Data Privacy Presentation

Delaware Student Data Privacy Laws

FOIA Bill Meant To Protect Delaware Passes Senate With Crucial Amendment

The Delaware Senate passed a bill dealing with the Freedom of Information Act on Wednesday but placed an amendment on the bill.  The amendment on Senate Bill 258 removes the terms “data dictionaries” and “file layouts”.  By including those terms in the potential law, it would essentially prevent parents from finding out what type of student information is going to outside companies from the Delaware Department of Education.  I wrote about this bill on May 19th in a very long article about student data privacy and technology in our schools.  I emailed the entire Senate at the same time.  As a result of my efforts, an amendment was attached to the bill removing the term “data dictionaries” and “file layouts”.

Sources informed me the state was receiving an abnormal amount of requests about the state IT infrastructure which caused much concern.  While it is not unusual to receive these requests, one source who requested anonymity stated, “It was an excessive amount of requests within a short period of time.  Red flags went up!”

By preventing parents from being able to find out this kind of information regarding student data, the bill could have violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  As part of FERPA, parents do have certain rights in asking for information about what records are released about their child.  I am glad the Delaware Senate Executive Committee took this step and listened to my concern.  I’m not sure if others expressed the same concern, but if they did, thank you!  A special thank you to the sponsor of this legislation, State Senator Brian Bushweller, who immediately responded to my thoughts on the matter and took action.

Google describes data dictionaries as the following:

a set of information describing the contents, format, and structure of a database and the relationship between its elements, used to control access to and manipulation of the database.

 

New Legislation Uses “Cyber Attack Threat” To Shield Delaware’s Student Data Mining Tactics

Delaware Governor Jack Markell sure is going out with a bang.  New legislation introduced a week ago in the Delaware Senate all but ensures any citizen requesting information on student data mining in Delaware will be met with a resounding no.  While the legislation mentions nothing about student data, it talks about the Delaware information technology system.  This bill would prevent a citizen from filing a FOIA request for the following:

Information technology (IT) infrastructure details, including but not limited to file layouts, data dictionaries, source code, logical and physical design of IT systems and interfaces, detailed hardware and software inventories, network architecture and schematics, vulnerability reports, and any other information that, if disclosed, could jeopardize the security or integrity of an information and technology system owned, operated or maintained by the State or any public body subject to the requirements of this Chapter.

SB258

On the surface, it looks like a great bill.  But the key words in this legislation are in the data dictionaries.  This defines how a system operates and what is included in it.  You can see one from the Delaware DOE below, from 2012:

The below are recommendations made to the Delaware DOE from Education Insight.  Some of the key words in this document pertain to exactly what is happening now, in current talk and pending legislation.  But the parties who come up with these ideas are trying to make it seem like this is brand new.  The jig is up.  This was planned a long time ago.

The four-year plan for DOE data systems as outlined in Race to the Top will result in a significant expansion in the amount of data available for use within the Department and for sharing with outside organizations. This expansion has implications for how data quality and data access will be managed in the future, and how DOE needs to be organized to meet this demand:

And the below document gives it all away:

Expansion of the warehouse to subject areas such as early childhood, higher education, workforce and social services will increase the need for more formal management of the data interchange process and increasing the demand for sharing of this data with owner organizations.

I have talked to quite a few tech people and none of them understand why “data dictionaries” would be included in this.  Especially when it comes to student data.  But this bill would exempt them from FOIA requests.  So what’s the big deal?  Who cares if your child’s data is tracked and catalogued?  If they aren’t doing anything wrong it should be no big deal, right?  Wrong.

DefiesMeasurement

Over a year ago, the documentary “Defies Measurement” showed parents the flaws of standardized testing. Back in February of this year, members of the Pennsylvania Parents Across America in Lower Merion Township began showing the documentary to other parents.  As a result, opt-outs in Pennsylvania grew bigger by the day. The Philadelphia Inquirer covered what was going on one weekend in February.  One teacher from New Jersey spoke about the threats and intimidation going on:

“They’re trying to use the fear and lack of information to coerce parents,” she said.

The documentary, clocking in at over an hour, is very informative. I encourage all Delaware parents, along with any parent in America who cares about education, to watch the entire thing.

In Delaware, parents opted their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment which began it’s second year of testing a week on March 9th.  Because Delaware agreed to replace Smarter Balanced with the SAT for high school juniors, it is expected opt-out numbers may be less than last year, but it is unknown how many parents opted their children out of the SAT this year.  There is one documented opt out from, of all schools, the Charter School of Wilmington according to a draft of their April 26th board meeting.  Meanwhile, many Delaware legislators played a high-stakes game of chicken in the Delaware House of Representatives.  They had an opportunity to override Governor Markell’s veto of Delaware’s opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, back in January.  Instead, they hung onto stagnant and outdated excuses by refusing to suspend rules to allow for a full House vote on the override. Even though the legislation does sit on the Ready List for a full house vote, Delaware Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf has given no indication he will put it on the agenda for a full House vote.

Last June, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2655 which allowed parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The feds pitched a fit, but Brown heard what the people of Oregon were saying.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, their Senate passed their own opt-out legislation with a 39-9 vote.  Georgia Senate Bill 355 is also called the “Student/Teacher Protection Act”.  This is very similar to how the votes went down in Delaware last spring in our own Senate and House of Representatives.  Did Georgia Governor Nathan Deal sign the bill?  Not a chance.  He vetoed the bill on May 3rd.  Like Markell, he defied the will of the people and his own legislature to cater to corporate interests.  But of course he covers it up under the guise of, get this, making sure there is “local control”:

Veto Number 15

Senate Bill 355 allows federal, state and locally-mandated assessments to be optional for certain students. At present, local school districts have the flexibility to determine opt-out procedures for its students who cannot take the assessments in addition to those who choose not to take such assessments. As there is no need for state-level intervention in addition to the regulations already set in place on a local level, I VETO SB 355.

As organizations like the National PTA, the United Negro College Fund, and other Gates Foundation supported organizations come out with “position statements” against opt-out, parents are figuring things out on their own.  They are putting the pieces together and realizing how bad these tests really are.  What many don’t realize is the data mining that is happening right under our very noses. With these computer-adaptive tests, as well as all the personalized or blended learning modules students log into, there are embedded data mining algorithms involved.  These algorithms are sent to a joint system owned by the United States Department of Education and the Department of Defense.

Back in 2011, the US DOE and US DOD partnered together to create the Federal Learning Registry.  This joint system purported to be a massive sharing mechanism so anyone involved in education could contribute and access.  In an article from Local Journal in November, 2011, it describes the Federal Learning Registry  as being designed specifically “so that both commercial and public sector partners could freely take part.”

Even Education Week got in on the upcoming data mining explosion that was about to take place in education:

Predictive analytics include an array of statistical methods, such as data mining and modeling, used to identify the factors that predict the likelihood of a specific result.

It is hard for any federal agency to work with another.  So why this unprecedented partnership between US DOE and US DOD?  Technology has certainly advanced to this point where collaboration can save taxpayers a lot of money.  But in looking at the University of Southern California’s report on potential funding opportunities with the Department of Defense, there are some very distrubing ideas presented.  One of these is something called the Minerva Initiative:

Human Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Modeling (HSCB)
http://minerva.dtic.mil/
In addition to Service core HSCB programs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) funds S&T programs to address understanding and modeling of human behavior in social and cultural contexts. The basic research component is entitled the Minerva Initiative (see MAPS DOD Chart 128); it is presently administered by ONR.

Another one of these budget items shows where algorithms are changing technology at a rate faster than any of us can imagine or even keep up with:

FY2016DODBudget

What is a data-mining algorithm in this case? Microsoft defines it as:

A data mining algorithm is a set of heuristics and calculations that creates a data mining model from data. To create a model, the algorithm first analyzes the data you provide, looking for specific types of patterns or trends. The algorithm uses the results of this analysis to define the optimal parameters for creating the mining model. These parameters are then applied across the entire data set to extract actionable patterns and detailed statistics.

Microsoft, along with Google and Amazon, lobbied heavily against legislation introduced in many states last year.  In most of the states, the legislation was amended which allows for these data mining algorithms to go out to different sources.  Your child’s data, despite what legislation passed, is not safe. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not recognize the algorithms generated by these types of tests and personalized learning modules.  It does forbid any personal identifying information to go out.  This is otherwise known as PII. This type of information includes name, social security number, address, birth date, and other easily recognized information. This is the information that schools aren’t allowed to get released to everyone.  But the information does go out, in a “de-identified” format.  So how would a state DOE keep track of what information is going out?  They assign each student a student identification number.  So while the PII information doesn’t go out, it is attached to a number.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) covered student data privacy and legislation in several states meant to protect student data in their online April magazine.  But like the legislation it glorifies, the article didn’t even touch what happens when outside companies get the de-identified data, make assumptions on it to form policy or assessments, and then send it back to the state.  The Every Student Succeeds Act is meant to limit federal control in education.  The states and local districts will have more control.  But because of the horrible federal mandates of the past eight years, the states are now just satellites of the same corporate education reform madness that infected the US DOE.  Instead of one central agency, we now have fifty calling the shots.

When you look closer at NCSL’s “concerns” about student data privacy, it is very alarming to see a study done by the Aspen Institute about the need for outside education companies to obtain student data.  This is an organization stacked with more corporate education reform leaders under one membership roof than any other organization I’ve seen.  There are many organizations like Aspen, and they all spit out the same bad methodology and education double-talk: high-stakes testing, Common Core, personalized learning, student data “privacy”, school choice, charter schools, turning schools into community centers, and so much more.  The problem is more and more of the education organizations that are supposed to be the last wall of defense against these corporate intrusions are joining them.  We saw this with the National Educators Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National PTA with the rushed passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Parents have never been more alone in their education battles.  In Delaware, our state PTA can’t even talk about opt out due to the immense bullying of the National PTA.

As long as we have high-stakes testing, we will have opt out.  But now, happening everywhere across the country, there are many other reasons to opt your child out.  Out of anything that could allow your child’s data to be released to any outside organization.  Until legislation is passed in every single state stopping this charade, assume your child’s digital footprint is making some company a lot of money.  Because the states pay these companies to do the research on YOUR child.  And if Delaware has their way, you won’t even be able to track it.

It was for all of these reasons and more that I wrote a Parents Bill of Rights for Education and the accompanying petition.  Please sign the petition today and let our political leaders know our children are not data, to be bought and sold.  They are human beings.  They need to be children, not a part of this absolute destruction of their spirit in the name of corporate wealth.  And if you are a parent of a special needs child, a minority student, an English Language learner, or a low-income or poverty student, the time is now to stop listening to civil rights and advocacy groups that spread this disease in public education and start asking yourself- what is this really about?

 

WEIC Meeting Tonight, The DOE’s Divide And Conquer Strategy Next Monday, & The Capital Debate

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is having a full commission meeting tonight at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The meeting on the 2nd floor in the teacher’s lounge begins at 5:30pm.  Many big education meetings are going down Monday afternoon with overlapping times, thereby ensuring no one can possibly make all three meetings.  As well, the very odd-sounding EFIC group has another meeting and the candidates for the Capital School Board are having a question and answer night!  But first, the WEIC agenda:

WEICAgenda42616I would imagine the group is a bit nervous since no legislation has been introduced to move forward on their redistricting plan.  If I were a betting man, it is coming but not until late June.  Tomorrow, one of the WEIC sub-committees is having a meeting: The Charter & District mud fight Collaboration Committee.

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But next Monday is where a lot of the action is as groups meet about the assessment inventory, student data privacy and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It is possible to make all three if you drive REALLY fast and miss portions of two of the meetings.  But if you want free soda and pizza on the taxpayer’s dime, go to the last meeting!

The first one, which I’m most interested in given that I write a lot about student data privacy all the time these days, is the Data-Mining Club Student Data Privacy Protection Task Force.  They canceled the last meeting because they knew they wouldn’t have a quorum.  I would have put the agenda in, but of course the link doesn’t work.  I guess they want to make it private! 😉

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In the next episode of “We Hate Parents so we are going to trick them out of opting out by making it look like we are getting rid of the bad tests”, the committee meets to discuss testing in Delaware.  Someone on the DOE side will talk about how essential the Smarter Balanced Assessment is and someone from the “good guys” side of the table will question what the hell we are even doing.  Audience members will give public comment overwhelmingly on the side of “Smarter Balanced sucks”.

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To see the wonderful world of the Every Student Succeeds Act through the eyes of Corporate Education Reform Cheerleader State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson, come to Grotto’s Pizza at 5:30pm.  Keep in mind, everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell this mammoth law even means so anything Donna talks about will be subject to change.  Expect many “I don’t know”s and “We don’t know yet”s coming from the microphone for this one.  We can expect a lot of the same people to show up to this one.  Last time I went to one of these I got to take part in a table discussion with Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  Talk about awkward!  But it was all good…

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And then on Tuesday, the Education Funding Task Force is meeting again to finalize their pre-determined potential education funding plan for the General Assembly to squeeze in during the last days of their legislative session.

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But THE most exciting education event next week will actually take place at Central Middle School on Wednesday May 4th at 7pm.  Candidates running for the Capital School Board are having a debate!!!  Shameless plug: I am one of the candidates.  Come and find out what our priorities, ideas, and concerns are and what our plans are to improve the district.  And don’t forget, no matter what district you live in, the school board elections are only two weeks away, on May 10th.

Capital Candidate Night