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 Parent Bill Of Rights For Education

Since the Center for American Progress, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, and the President of the National PTA want to get 10,000 signatures on their Testing Bill of Rights within the next month, I think it is only fair parents who opt their children out of high-stakes assessments do the same.  With that being said, this article needs 20,000 commenters, or official signatures, within the next month.  We need to tell these corporate education reformers: NO MORE!  If we get 50,000, even better.

Our parental bill of rights regarding opt out or refusing the test bill of rights will be a work in progress, morphing and changing based on the need.  We will make sure every single legislator and decision-maker as it pertains to education in our country has a copy of this.  Parents and guardians are the stewards of our children, not corporations and politicians.  They are not “your” property.  They are unique and individual.

THE PARENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS FOR OUR CHILDREN IN EARLY EDUCATION, PRE-SCHOOL, ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

CONCERNING HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENTS, OUR RIGHT TO OPT OUT OR REFUSE OUR CHILD OUT OF THOSE ASSESSMENTS, THE COLLECTION OF STUDENT DATA, AND OUR RIGHT TO GATHER

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PARENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Definition of parent: any biological parent, or a parent through legal adoption, or foster parent, or guardian, or court-appointed guardian, for children through the ages of birth to 18 or 21 with guardianship through the end of an IEP, whichever is later.

Whereas parents have been given the responsibility to raise a child and to help guide them to adulthood, as their primary caregiver, and

Whereas parents, through United States Supreme Court decisions and other laws, have the right to decide what is best for our children in education matters until they come to a legal age when they are able to make those decisions on their own, and

Whereas, we believe public education should be reserved for the public at large and not the corporations, be they profit or non-profit, and that decisions based on education are best made at the local level, and

Whereas, we believe any assessments given to our children should provide immediate feedback for the student, teacher, school, and parent as defined for the sole purpose of giving reasonable and interpretive analysis of academic progress for our child’s allotted grade.

Whereas, as the caretakers of our children, we demand that decisions regarding data and the collection of data are parental decisions and that we furthermore have the absolute, unconditional right and ability to consent or not consent to any sharing of said data

(1) As parents, we have the fundamental, moral, and constitutional right to make decisions on behalf of our children in regards to their education.

(a) This includes the type of school we decide they go to, whether it be in a traditional school district, public charter school, vocational school, private school, homeschool, or homeschool co-op program.

(b) This includes our ability to refuse or opt our children out of standardized assessments despite accountability measures placed upon a school.

(1) Once we have submitted our letter indicating our choice to refuse or opt out our child, we shall receive no verbal or written words meant to threaten, bully, or intimidate, in an effort, whether intentional or coincidental, to coerce us into changing our minds.

(2) We expect our children to receive instruction while their peers take the state assessment that is of equal or greater value to the type of instruction they would receive prior to or after the administration of the state assessment.

(3) If our child is forced to take a test after we have already given our consent to refuse or opt out, we reserve the right to call the local police and press charges against the local education administration.

(4) If we witness parents who are bullied or intimidated, we will advocate on their behalf with their consent, if they feel they are unable to do so.

(2) We reserve the right, as dictated by United States of America Federal Law, Title 34, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Part 99.32 (b), to request all personal identifiable information sent as data or official records to all parties indicated in the entirety of Title 34, Subtitle A, and to receive the entire list of all those who have disseminated, received, or researched said data, and to receive such record keeping as required by federal law, within the 30 day timeframe.

(a) Parents also reserve the right to have any aggregated data on our child, which could conceivably set up a pattern of identification based on our unique and individual child’s health records, social-emotional behavior, discipline, socio-economic, or any such identifiable trait or history of said traits, be banned from any education research organization, personalized learning computer system, or blending learning computer systems, standardized assessment(s), or any other form of educational environment practice or computer-based digital learning environment, whether it is through algorithms already built into a system or any other form of data collection that does not include the legal definition of personal identifiable information, at our request.

(1) This would also include any State Longitudinal Data System, or any Federal system, up to and including the Federal Learning Registry, a joint system shared by the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Defense.

(2) Parents have the right to reject any “competency-based education” decisions for our children that we feel are not based on reasonable, valued, well-researched, or statistically-normed guidelines or analysis.

(3) Parents may freely reject any form of data collection, data-mining, or data sharing that would lead to our child having a pre-determined pathway to a career based on any such data unless we give consent for said behavior, before the actual data collection, data-mining, or data sharing by any education agency or institution, and as such, we reject and forbid any trajectory-based decisions for our child unless we have given complicit consent.

(3) For any education decisions regarding our children that we, as parents, feel is not safe, or is inadequate, or is unhealthy for our children, we hereby reserve the right to be able to give public comment to any governing body, without incident or refusal, based on compliance with existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of public meeting conduct, based on our First Amendment Rights.

(4) As parents, we reserve the right to gather, discuss, and give advice to other parents or concerned citizens, in any public meeting or gathering place or social gathering place, whether it is physical or on the internet, without censorship, removal, or banishment, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of conduct set forth by the host of the public meeting place or social gathering place.

(5) Parents have the right to lobby elected officials or local school board officials or state board of education officials, regarding pending, suggested, or passed legislation or regulation, that parents deem harmful to their child or children in general, without cause or incident, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable law.

(a) We expect our elected officials, based on their availability, to make every concerted effort to personally respond to our request(s) and to not send a generic form letter, but rather to constructively engage with parents to the same effort they would with any official registered lobbyist who is paid to do so.

(6) As parents, we reject the ability of corporations to “invest” or “hedge” in education with financial predictors of success, including social impact bonds, or any other type of investments where financial institutions or corporations would gain financial benefit or loss based on student outcomes, as we believe a child’s education should be based on the unique and individual talents and abilities of each child, not as a collective group or whole.

(7) As parents, we believe our child’s teacher(s) are the front line for their education, and therefore, have the most immediate ability and responsibility to guide our children towards academic success, and therefore, should have the most say in their instruction.

(a) Therefore, we believe no state assessment can give a clear picture of a teacher’s ability to instruct a student or group thereof, and therefore, we reject any evaluation methods for teachers based on high-stakes standardized testing.

(b) Therefore, we believe a teacher’s best efforts should remain at the local level, in the classroom, and not to conform to a state assessment or to guide instruction towards proficiency on a state assessment, but rather on the material and instruction present before the students based on the material and instruction they have learned before.

(8) We reject any basis of accountability or framework system meant to falsely label or demean any teacher, administrator, school staff, or school, based on students outcomes as it pertains to state or national standardized assessments.

(9) As parents, we are the primary stakeholders for our child’s education, and therefore demand representation on any group, committee, task force, commission, or any such gathering of stakeholders to determine educational decisions for children, be it at a local, state, or national level.

(a) We demand equal or greater representation on any such group as that allotted to outside corporations.

Updated, 7:58pm, EST: I have started a petition at Change.org which will be sent to United States Representative John Kline (MN) who serves as the Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in Congress.  If you have already signed the article, please sign the change.org petition instead.  I apologize for the confusion!  It has been a crazy day!

Updated, 11:46am, EST: Apparently, Facebook does not like the idea of a Parent Bill of Rights for Education that touches upon an item concerning censorship of a parent’s First Amendment Rights to express their opinion that poses no physical harm or safety risk to any individual…

FacebookGroupCensorship

 

Updated, 3/29/16, 6:42pm: I am still in Facebook jail.  I’ve sent appeals to Facebook three times with no response whatsoever.  I guess they really don’t like parents protecting their rights…

Governor Markell Shuts Parents Out Again! SAIL Afterschool Program Has Dangerous Red Flags! Beware!

I just don’t get it.  What is it with this Governor and parents?  House Bill 240, the legislation behind the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program was officially released today.  I have several issues with this legislation.  Before I get into that though, I do believe afterschool programs for kids are extremely helpful if done right and in moderation.  But I have grave reservations with this program due to data release, the use of non-profits in this, and the amount of time kids are away from their homes.  I agree that activities students can get involved in after school are very dangerous, especially in our cities.  But this bill seems like it is very rushed.  It is already on the Delaware House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.

First off, as per the below legislation, the whole purpose of this is so students can “meet challenging State academic standards“.  As part of this program, a new council would be developed called The Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Council.  Sure, you would want to have some type of organization for a program like this.  Surely parents would be a part of this, right?  Wrong!  There are NO slots for parents on this council.  But it will have three members of non-profit organizations.  No Delaware PTA representation, no teachers, no special education teachers, no charter school representation, no health providers, no psychologists or psychiatrists, and NO PARENTS!  They want Delaware students and schools that “meet the approved state indication for low socioeconomic status” to be eligible for the SAIL program, but they don’t want ANY parents on this council?  They expect to have children staying afterschool for four to five days a week for three hours and they don’t want parent input?

Since this looks like it will be partly run by non-profits, the idea of a “data share” between teachers and the afterschool coordinators that are NOT employees of the state or the schools is frightening in my opinion.  “A computer based student information system” will be implemented with what?  What safeguards are in place to prevent student data from getting out there more than what it already has?

As a “means to measure the program“, school attendance and grades and at least one (but it can be all) of these factors shall be used: behavior evaluation through school discipline reports, surveys of teachers, standardized test scores, criminal justice records, physical health evaluations, student and parent surveys, class participation, course completion, homework completion, and afterschool program attendance.  That is a huge amount of data that would be put into outside hands, away from the school district and local control.

It seems like Delaware and the feds want children from low socioeconomic backgrounds to essentially became wards of the state for the vast majority of their academic lives.  And the potential data sharing has red flags all over it.  I could easily see Rodel becoming involved in this initiative.  I would NOT want my child’s health or behavioral or any type of information going to them, period.  And who decides who gets the program and who doesn’t?  The Delaware Department of Education.  I cannot support this bill as written.  I’m sure more will come out about it, and I would hope to God our legislators have the good sense to ask all the questions I have and more.

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, these “21st Century Community Learning Centers” will require 95% of the grant funds will go to the Local Education Authority (districts or charter schools), only 1% can be used for administrative purposes, and the rest can be used for state activities.  If this law is already indicating non-profits must be used, isn’t that already stripping the local school districts of any control over how the program is created?  Yes, there are three Superintendents on the SAIL Council, the DSEA President, and the Secretary of Education (or his designated representative), but that is an extremely small amount of representation for programs that have 95% of the funds going to the districts or charters.  And sorry, I don’t trust the DOE or their ability to disperse these funds with fidelity and honesty.

According to this release  from the National Council of State Legislatures, activities for these programs can include “music and the arts as tools to support student success through the promotion of constructive student engagement, problem solving, and conflict resolution.”  I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that was the purpose of students learning music and art.  I thought it was so they could expand their creativity.  Who writes these things?  It doesn’t sound like anyone who is around children and teenagers too much.  This guidance also states “mental health services” could be used at the learning centers.  The potential for abuse and manipulation in that arena is too frightening for words…

Schools are not parents.  They will never replace parents.  I recognize that students in poverty and neglect suffer immensely without proper parental supports, but this solution is very radical and very dangerous.  Valerie Longhurst may have put this bill together, but this legislation is just a small part of the corporate education reform movement that is taking students away from parental control more and more every single day.  Our children are OUR children, and they don’t belong to you.  I would really like it if they get their grubby hands out of our children’s minds and schools.

To read the full legislation, please read below:

 

Education: Everybody’s Got A Price! Stand Up And Refuse! Awesome Video About Data Mining & Sharing

This video is making the rounds today on Youtube and Social Media.  It is excellent and puts everything a lot of us bloggers have been warning about for a long time now.  Parents, not just in Delaware but all over the country, ask your schools what data is being collected on your children.  Ask them what is being shared.  If they won’t give you the answer, keep moving up the chain: district, school board, state DOE, US DOE, as far as you want to take it.  You may be able to FOIA this information depending on your state laws.  This isn’t about helping kids become college and career ready.  It’s about the data, and big, BIG money!

Dr. Godowsky And His Baptism Of Fire Today With Opt-Out, WEIC, and The Delaware Met

The new Acting Secretary of Education in Delaware, Dr. Steven Godowsky, had a baptism of fire today.  Appearing at both the New Castle County School Boards breakfast and the State Board of Education meeting today, Godowsky was quoted by WDEL’s Amy Cherry at the school board breakfast as saying:

“It’s not a final decision, but it looks like from all levels of the department…that harsh sanctions will not carry the day,” he said. “There will be minimum sanctions that are required.”

Those minimum sanctions will include schools having to report to the Delaware Department of Education about the students opting out and what their prior scores were, and most likely, how they plan to address opt-out.  As well, they will not meet Reward status even if they qualify for it if their participation rates fall below 95%.  There is a lot of gray area about the word “required” based on Federal “guidance” which is not Congressionally approved or existing regulation.  Schools are required to have students participate in the state standardized assessment, but nowhere does it factor in parent opt-out.  That situation is out of their control.

Godowsky talked at both the breakfast and the State Board of Education meeting about more communication coming out of the DOE.  I think all of this is good, but I will be cautiously optimistic.  Dr. Godowsky came up to me before the State Board meeting started, said hi, and shook my hand.  That is something Mark Murphy never did.  There were times at State Board meetings where I would have brief staring contests with Murphy and he would quickly look away or straighten out his glasses.  I do believe the DOE needs to be much more transparent about things, but that doesn’t change policies coming out of their halls.  There is a very fine line between what is law with federal mandate, what is guidance, and what is interpretation.  I will continue to let folks know what those are as situations arise.

For Godowsky, the State Board of Education meeting was filled with tension during the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) presentation. A contentious back and forth between State Board members and the WEIC presenters, Dan Rich and Joe Pika, in regards to the plan made this the most interesting part of the meeting.  Later on, Godowsky’s first major decision was whether or not to place The Delaware Met up for formal review.  He recommended it to the State Board and they unanimously voted yes, but not without a great deal of discussion surrounding the details around the consideration.  It seemed like the DOE and Godowsky knew a lot more about what is going on with the school but were unable to give details because an official investigation could not be done because they were not on formal review yet.

I advised, in public comment, that I truly hope Dr. Godowsky acts in the best interest of students and not politics.  While his official confirmation will not happen until October 28th in a special session of the Delaware Senate, it seems as though he is making good first steps.  There is still a great deal to be done, but I do see some light shining into some cracks.  But his job will be to listen to everyone involved, not just the policy makers.  I think he is much more personable than Mark Murphy was, and he has much more experience.  His true test will be in the ESEA flexibility waiver, which will come up next month at the State Board of Education meeting.  He has gone on record stating that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely will not occur.  I hope he lives up to this, but at the end of the day we all know this is Governor Markell’s decision.

I still have very grave concerns with things coming out of the DOE.  My biggest priority is special education.  I am slowly learning what the true problems are, and I plan to keep on addressing them.  I still loathe the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core, and I will not give up exposing the machinations behind those messes.  There are many inequalities between Delaware charter schools and traditional school districts I don’t agree with, and that will be a continuous topic of discussion.  There are things going on in traditional school districts that are beginning to surface which could result in further widening between students in need and their peers.  A growing issue with myself and others, not just in Delaware but on a national level, is the amount of data outside companies are legally allowed to have about students.  I firmly believe many companies are using legal loopholes to share student data for unknown purposes, and that should scare the hell out of any parent.  The legislators will be back in a few months, and the opt-out bill will still be a big thing with me.  I will say I do like seeing more transparency coming from the Department though and I truly hope this trend continues.  I don’t trust Governor Markell, and I don’t think what he wants for education is in the best interest of students and teachers.  I don’t believe the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and I will ever see eye to eye.

The WEIC conversation continues, and as revealed this week, major issues are coming up with this redistricting effort.  One of my biggest contentions with the whole thing is policy that will happen for Wilmington that will affect the entire state.  I agree change needs to happen, but there needs to be some Kent County and Sussex County representation for all of this.  I have communicated this, as well as a need for more special education discussion, to the WEIC leadership.  It is certainly a bold and innovative idea, but there are so many things to be sorted out with this, and the timeframe as put forth in the law is very narrow.  I have always had a theory about the endgame of all this, but now I wonder if it will even go through.  I would highly recommend to the WEIC leadership not to leave anyone out of crucial conversation and not to come up with ideas that could cause any of the players to feel isolated or left out.  No one likes being told what will happen, especially to students, and I think Colonial’s recent decision is testimony to this.

While all of this is going on, all eyes will be on Dr. Godowsky as the newest leader of a very unpopular Department who many in the state feel as though they can do whatever they want because they are Governor Markell’s baby.  While Godowsky did say in the WDEL interview that DOE will feel the pinch of next year’s budget deficit, I feel as though they have been living high on the hog and they need a huge trimming.  Welcome to the DOE Dr. Godowsky!

National Letter From State Coalitions To Halt ESEA Reauthorization Under Obama Administration Includes Delaware Representation

Today, a coalition of advocates from nearly every state in the USA joined together to write a letter asking the United States Congress to suspend committee meetings on the ESEA Reauthorization until a new President is elected.  Delaware is included in this, as Refuse The Test Delaware and Delaware Against Common Core.  Please read the document below to see why so many are opposed to this particular ESEA Reauthorization.