Category Archives: Unfair To Children

CCSS Are Unfair to Children

States Should Move Swiftly to Protect Student Data

States and schools are signing over private data from millions of students to companies and researchers who hope to glean secrets of the human mind.

Nine states have sent dossiers students — including names, Social Security numbers, hobbies, addresses, test scores, attendance, career goals, and attitudes about school —to a public-private database, according to Reuters. Standardized tests are beginning to incorporate psychological and behavioral assessment. Every state is also building databases to collect and share such information among agencies and companies, and the U.S. Department of Education has recently reinterpreted federal privacy laws so schools and governments don’t have to tell parents their kids’ information has been shared.

Promises of researchers’ and governments’ good intentions are not enough to justify this, especially when spending tax dollars, directing government energy, and invading privacy without parent or even school officials’ knowledge. Anything conducted in this manner should be immediately tabled and publicly examined. Stop. Collaborate. And listen to how parents and taxpayers react, after explaining what’s happening.

Very few U.S. citizens want to move even gradually toward a government like that of China, which keeps dossiers on all citizens’ performance and attitudes. These records influence work, political, and school opportunities. Because “everything they do will be recorded for the rest of their life … the dossier discourages any ‘errant’ behavior,” says Chinese professor Ouyang Huhua.

This is not to say big databases equal communist oppression, but here in the United States we do things differently because we believe in self-rule. When the government we are supposed to control has amassed a thicket of data about how we think and can thus manipulate our actions and opportunities, self-rule ends.

Any researcher or organization wanting to plumb data to potentially help kids learn more, faster, can do so without trampling individual rights. Here’s how.

First, historic practice with student records has been to keep them anonymous when shared outside schools. Researchers and even government accountability gurus don’t need to know Sally Smith failed Algebra 1. Her parents and teacher do. Researchers do not need personally identifiable information such as names, Social Security numbers, and addresses. They just need to know, for example, whether lots of students are failing Algebra 1, and in what context. Schools and states should check these privacy firewalls.

Second, students and their guardians should have full access to their records, with the ability to correct false information. They also should be informed of and able to opt out of all data-sharing involving their records. Schools need parent consent to give children an aspirin. They should get consent to share a student’s psychological evaluations or test performances.

Third, agencies should be required to explain exactly how they will keep the sensitive information in their hands from being hacked or exposed. The more people and organizations with access, and the bigger a treasure trove these databases become, the more likely security breaches will be. Hundreds of thousands of people were put at risk of identity theft in 2012 because of security breaches in government databases, including one affecting three-quarters of South Carolinians. And child identity theft is often not discovered until adulthood, which makes their records even more attractive to thieves.

Because the U.S. Department of Education has unilaterally knocked down federal privacy protections, lawmakers should rebuild that wall. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Oregon are a few states considering such legislation. They should act swiftly, and so should others.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org), a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with permission of the author.

Education Department Helps Leak Students’ Personal Data

States and schools are signing over private data from millions of students to companies and researchers who hope to glean secrets of the human mind.

Nine states have sent dossiers on students —including names, Social Security numbers, hobbies, addresses, test scores, attendance, career goals, and attitudes about school —to a public-private database, according to Reuters. Standardized tests are beginning to incorporate psychological and behavioral assessment. Every state is also building databases to collect and share such information among agencies and companies, and the U.S. Department of Education has recently reinterpreted federal privacy laws so that schools and governments don’t have to tell parents their kids’ information has been shared.

Promises of researchers’ and governments’ good intentions are not enough to justify this, especially when tax dollars are involved and government entities are helping invade students’ privacy without parents’ or even school officials’ knowledge.

Very few U.S. citizens want to see their government even slightly imitate that of China, which keeps dossiers on all citizens’ performance and attitudes. These records influence work, political, and school opportunities. Because “everything they do will be recorded for the rest of their life … the dossier discourages any ‘errant’ behavior,” says Chinese professor Ouyang Huhua. This is not to say big databases equal communist oppression. But we do things differently in the United States because we trust our citizenry and we believe in self-rule.

Any researcher or organization wanting to plumb data – perhaps to help kids learn more, faster – can do so without trampling individual rights. First, the historic and accepted practice with student records has been to keep them anonymous when shared outside of schools. Researchers and government accountability gurus don’t need to know that Sally Smith failed Algebra I, even if her parents and teachers do. Researchers do not need personally identifiable information such as names, Social Security numbers, and addresses. They just need to know, for example, whether lots of students are failing Algebra I. Schools and states should check these privacy firewalls.

Second, students and their guardians should have full access to their own records, with the ability to correct false information. They also should be informed of and able to opt out of all data-sharing involving their records. Schools need parent consent to give children so much as an aspirin. They should get consent to share a student’s psychological evaluations or test performances.

Third, agencies should be required to explain exactly how they will keep the sensitive information in their hands from being hacked or exposed. The more people and organizations have access, and the bigger a treasure trove these databases become, the more likely security breaches become. Hundreds of thousands of people were put at risk of identity theft in 2012 because of security breaches in government databases, including one affecting three-quarters of South Carolinians. And child identity theft is often not discovered until adulthood, which makes youngsters’ records even more attractive to thieves.

Because the U.S. Department of Education has unilaterally knocked down federal privacy protections, lawmakers need to rebuild that wall. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, New York and Oregon are a few states considering such legislation. They should act swiftly, and so should others.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org), a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with permission of the author.

Data Mining Kids Crosses Line

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating how public schools can collect information on “non-cognitive” student attributes, after granting itself the power to share student data across agencies without parents’ knowledge.

The feds want to use schools to catalogue “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intrapersonal resources – independent of intellectual ability,” according to a February DOE report, all under the guise of education.

The report suggests researching how to measure and monitor these student attributes using “data mining” techniques and even functional magnetic resonance imaging, although it concedes “devices that measure EEG and skin conductance may not be practical for use in the classroom.” It delightedly discusses experiments on how kids respond to computer tutors, using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.

And that’s not all the feds want to know about your kids. The department is funding and mandating databases that could expand each kid’s academic records into a comprehensive personal record including “health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status and religious affiliation,” according to a 2012 Pioneer Institute report and the National Center for Educational Statistics. Under agreements every state signed to get 2009 stimulus funds, they must share students’ academic data with the federal government.

As Utah blogger Christel Swasey has documented, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act used to protect highly personal psychological and biological information, including items mentioned above and, according to the DOE, “fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.”

Under the DOE’s 2011 FERPA reinterpretation, however, any local, state or federal agency may designate any individual or organization as an “educational representative” who can access such data as long as the agency says this access is necessary to study or evaluate a program. These can include school volunteers and private companies. A lawsuit against the regulations is pending.

Meanwhile, several agreements the DOE has signed with two organizations writing national Common Core tests insist the information these tests collect must be “student-level” – meaning these would not be anonymous records but instead tied to specific children.

Previous FERPA interpretations required data collectors to identify students by random numbers. No one knows what personal data the Common Core tests will collect, because those tests have yet to be written and released. But this information mother-lode has to come from somewhere. Since the tests are being written by private organizations, although entirely funded so far by the federal government, no one can do a public records request to find out.

In short, the government wants to collect a dossier on every child, containing highly personal information, without asking permission or even notifying parents. Officials believe “federal agencies should invest in programmatic portfolios of research” to monitor and influence student attitudes through schools, says the February DOE report.

The department recommends schools start tracking and teaching kids not just boring old knowledge but also “21st Century Competencies” – “recognizing bias in sources,” “flexibility,” “cultural awareness and competence,” “appreciation for diversity,” “collaboration, teamwork, cooperation,” “empathy,” “perspective taking, trust, service orientation,” and “social influence with others.” I’m really looking forward to seeing how psychologists profiling children for government reports interpret each of these characteristics.

Utah officials told Swasey no student may attend schools there without being tracked, even those in non-public schools. The personal data are currently being collected through the tests public schools are required to administer, but part of the agreement the states signed for stimulus money includes a requirement that schools collect data on students who are not tested.

All of this looks like another step in the federal government’s push to compile an intimate, cradle-to-grave dossier on every American. What they might intend to do with all that information remains a rather disturbing question.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org), a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with the author’s permission.

Dear Homeschooler,

I am writing to you because I am very concerned about the national reform called the Common Core Standards.   I am a homeschool mom and this reform scares me.  Common Core has the potential to make huge changes and consequences to our homeschool families.   Let’s take a look at five ways this can affect us.

Currently, there are 45 states that have accepted the Race to the Top Grants to implement the Common Core Standards.   Wisconsin is one of those states and has accepted 22.7 million dollars. The HSLDA has taken a strong side against the Common Core Standards.  They believe that this is a push towards nationalized education and a national test.   Considering that 87% of our students are under the mandates of Common Core, homeschoolers and private schools will be the only groups standing against the movement of a national curriculum and test.   There will be continuous pressure for homeschool families to participate in these tests.

The loss of power at the local level is also a concern.   The state of Wisconsin is now participating as a large consortia of 45 states.   Each state is giving up their local power to work in this network.    It is only a matter of time before Wisconsin will rewrite the state’s homeschooling law to agree with the collective.     Chances are the national law will have more requirements for homeschoolers rather than less.

The Obama administration has shown little willingness to help the freedoms of homeschoolers.   Recently, Eric Holder has been quoted, “There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool.”  The German Romeike family has come to America to seek the right to freely teach their children as they see fit.   They came to America looking for asylum and the Obama administration is showing signs that they will deport this family.   Will Eric Holder use those same words towards American homeschoolers?   Those words are a slippery slope and homeschools are sliding in the wrong direction.

Another concern is purchasing curriculum.  I notice all the advertisements on the materials meet the new Common Core Standards.   This movement is so strong that it has even embedded itself into homeschool teaching materials.   We are unaware of the consequences that an unproven, untested set of standards will have our our children’s education.   Yet, a homeschooler can not pick up and educational magazine, shop at a school store, or order materials from a reputable company without the words Common Core plastered all over it.   One homeschool mother has dedicated an entire website to educating parents on what materials use Common Core Standards.   Each day I read blog posts about homeschool families that are concerned about Common Core.   I am not surprised by this.   We are ususally the first defense to protect children’s rights and their educations.   This is a war on the American family and the freedom to choose what is in the best interest of our own children.

Lastly, the SAT tests are a concern.  The tests are being rewritten to meet the Common Core Standards.  The College Board, which oversees SAT, helped develop the concepts behind the Common Core Standards.   The College Board was one of the orginal five think tanks that gave America this reform from the top-down.    Any homeschool student that wants to do well on his/her SAT will be forced to use curriculum that supports the Common Core Standards.

Fundamentally, the Common Core Standards go against every thing that I believe is good about American:  freedom, liberty, and individualism.   This is not the American way and it is not the homeschool way.

 

Cherry, Cherry, or Cherry

I have this yummy bag of jelly beans sitting on my desk.   It has 50 flavors in one little bag.   My personal favorite is cherry.  It is the perfect blend of a tart, juicy fruit.  I love it.   Therefore, I am going to set a new mandate and reform all jelly beans.   Jelly bean bags will be filled with cherry, cherry, or cherry.   This is a simple metaphor for our education system today.  In Wisconsin DPI is just foolish enough to sell us bags of just cherry, cherry, or cherry jelly beans and they will spend millions of dollars to push those cherry jelly beans down your throat.

Recently, Wisconsin has thrown out the ability for local schools, local teachers,  the parents, and taxpayers to have input in our schools.    We are now in the age of top – down education reform.   The top includes the rich and the powerful, a small group of people making reforms for 87% of our american student population.  It is a “one size fits all” movement called the Common Core Standards.

Teachers train for years to learn different methods and techniques to use in the classroom.  The days of diverse learning and individualizing instruction are gone.   We trusted our teachers to find lessons to help the students in each class learn.  There was a lot of diversity in instructional methods and teachers would learn from one another.   Often a teachers method was related to their natural gifts.   Today we put our teachers in a box.   This next month my local school will be retraining the teachers to the common core math.    This new math has a very specific  methodology and technique.   The geometery is very controversial and failed in a Russian gifted and talented program.    Parents are frustrated when they help their child with math homework.  It is very different than the math most of us grew up with.  This new math is the cherry jelly bean of math.

So are you sick of cherry yet?