Delaware Gets C+ In Report On Public School Privatization

The Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation released a report this week on how all fifty states rate on the privatization of our public education system.  They measured how charters are run, the quality of the charter schools, and how the state handles voucher schools as examples.  Delaware received a C+ in this report.  Most of that was due to the fact Delaware came in 2nd out of all states in the voucher school category with a grade of A+.  Delaware does not support any type of voucher system in our public schools.  But we got an F for the number of charter schools in the state based on how they divert funds from traditional school districts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Network for Public Education Calls For National Opt Out, Refuse The Test NOW!!!!

Carol Burris, the Executive Director for the Network for Public Education, put out a press release last night calling for a National Opt Out of high-stakes testing, otherwise known as standardized tests.  In Delaware, we call this the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Refuse this test for your child now.  The stakes are getting bigger by the day for each student in public education.  What started out on my end as thinking these tests were just Common Core drivel has morphed into something much bigger.  Just look at the past week’s worth of my articles to find out why.  This isn’t a matter of making a choice for your child anymore.  It is now a moral imperative.  Here is the press release from the Network for Public Education.

After careful thought and deliberation, the Network for Public Education is calling for a national Opt Out because of the harmful effects of annual high-stakes testing on children and schools.  We enthusiastically support those parents who refuse to have their children take the 2016 state exams.

The alleged purpose of annual testing, federally mandated since NCLB was passed in 2004, is to unveil the achievement gaps within schools, ostensibly to close them.  Twelve years later, there is no conclusive evidence that NCLB high-stakes testing has improved the academic performance of any student—particularly those who need the most help. All that has been closed by testing are children’s neighborhood schools.

Fairfield University Professor and NPE Board member, Yohuru Williams, has made the case that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism and closes doors of opportunity for black and brown children. We agree when he states that opting out is a necessary and direct act of protest to highlight the injustice of a system that refuses to address the underlying socio-economic problems that contribute to unequal learning experiences.  The current demand for high-stakes testing and uniform standards diverts attention from the hard work of school improvement and the correction of the social and economic inequities that lead to inequitable results.

The Common Core tests rely on passing marks set artificially high, so that at least two thirds of all children will be labeled as failing. When U.S. Secretary of Education, John King, was New York’s Commissioner, he accurately predicted that about 70% of students would fail. Students with disabilities, English Language learners, and children who live in poverty experience even higher failure rates. These tests are manifestly unfair to the neediest children.

Furthermore, the data derived from high-stakes testing is intended to undermine our public schools by creating a false narrative of failure. Once public schools are closed, they are replaced by privately managed charter schools, with insufficient public oversight. When teachers are fired, they are replaced with inexperienced and often temporary staff. Testing data are used to demoralize teachers and take away their hard-earned job rights, thus creating a constant churn of teachers whose work is reduced to test preparation.

Although officials may claim that the information derived from these tests is helpful to children and teachers, this is not true. Test results are reported in the summer or fall, when it is too late to inform instruction. Numerical rankings of 1,2 3 or 4 and percentile ranks are meaningless markers that cannot be used to guide the instruction of any individual child.

We acknowledge that there is a legitimate role for standardized tests, if they are limited in frequency and time, developmentally appropriate, well-designed and reasonably scaled with realistic cut scores and provide useful instructional feedback. High-stakes tests given for school accountability purposes, do not meet those standards.  They are undermining the public school system that is the pillar of our democracy. We believe that opting out of state tests as an act of direct protest will help turn the tide and eliminate damaging policies.

We recognize that some parents will find it difficult or impossible to have their children refuse the exam due to punitive state laws or district policies.  We urge those who cannot opt out to speak out and demand their right to do what is best for their children in the face of harmful testing. The brunt of testing for school accountability is falling on children. Our elected leaders must address this broken accountability system and provide relief.

For those who can, we ask that they break ranks, join us and not comply with testing. Policymakers cannot ignore the voices of the public when we speak together. Opt Out gives us that voice.

The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to Opt Out is now.

For more information on how to opt out, we recommend the following sources: United Opt Out’s State by State resources: http://unitedoptout.com/state-by-state-opt-out-2/ and FairTest’s: Just Say No to the Test: http://www.fairtest.org/get-involved/opting-out.

Listen to Diane Ravitch give reasons why parents should opt out here.

NPE Board member Yohuru Williams explained why opt out matters at this year’s United Opt Out conference. Watch him here.

And NPE Board member Julian Vasquez Heilig explains how Opt Out rights a “civil wrong” in this video here.

Don’t hesitate.  Don’t even question your decision.  Just do it.  First thing Monday.  If you are able, make it a point to drive your child to school and hand the Principal your refusal letter.  Opt out is the ONLY way to change things.  It is the ONLY way to force the destroyers of public education from furthering their agendas.   I’m not going to mince words.  These education reformers: they are not nice people.  They may smile for the camera and tell you they care about children, but they don’t.  If they did, many of their own children would be taking these tests.  If you care about the future for your children and your grandchildren, refuse the test Monday.  All of you need to do it.  We all need to refuse.  We need to say NO MORE!!!  This is an education revolution.  I get that.  It is bold, and daring, and frightening in some respects.  But you truly need to do this NOW!!!

How Delaware Got A “D” On The Network for Public Education 2016 State Report Card

The Network for Public Education released state report cards for their 2016 State Report Card today.  Below is Delaware’s grade determination, for which they received a grade of D.  Personally, I would have given Delaware a grade of D for rejecting high-stakes testing with the behavior over a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Delaware scored very poorly on the “resisting privatization” category.  While Delaware doesn’t take part in any type of voucher system, the push for “school choice” is huge in the First State.  The gap between certain charter schools student demographics and their counterparts in the traditional school districts they reside in is gigantic!

NPEDelawareStateReportCard2016

Delaware Gets A Grade Of “D” From The Network For Public Education

The Network for Public Education released their 50 State Report Card today and Delaware got a D.  This is no surprise to me considering all the education policies Governor Markell has brought about in the last year.  Frankly, I’m shocked we didn’t get an F.  As Markell continues to tout his success with education, it becomes more clear how flawed his initiatives truly are.  Below you can read the entire report card.