"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Superintendent or Superman?

Today, Sen Brian Nieves and Rep Andrew Koenig spoke to a local republican group, giving a wrap up report of the last legislative session in MO. Mr. Nieves' main point was that, when ensconced in the heart of the legislature and forced to deal with its inner workings, political posturing, and party loyalty or pressure, it is important to celebrate the little victories.

When asked what little victories there were for education, he threw up his hands. There were none, despite a majority of republicans in both houses and the presence of strong conservatives in appreciable numbers for the first time in many years. When asked why, it was Mr. Koenig who mentioned the presence of supermen who wander the halls of Jefferson City wielding their super powers to stop education legislation in its tracks. These mighty men are from the Union of Superintendents and they, apparently, have the power to make or break political careers, a fact that they remind representatives of repeatedly. So, despite the support of many constituents, education reform legislation can be killed by a single disapproving look from a single superintendent.

When you thought it was your representative calling the shots for education, it was really your superintendent. Legislators shrink back from supporting what they want to support, because their superintendent does not want them messing with the status quo, and the representative wants to get re-elected. And you thought all a superintendent did was call off school for snow.

Not only can they kill legislation with a single phone call, they have the clairvoyance necessary to sign a RTTT grant application, knowing it's efficacy and cost without knowing what's in it that they would have to adopt. They can summon money from thin air to apply to your running mate come election time. These truly are super men (and women).

So I was thinking, now that school is over and there is a little break in the action, maybe it's a good time to get to know your superintendent. Give them a call. Invite them out to lunch. Because, parents, if you want changes in education, these are the people you are going to have to get them from.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Personally Identifiable Information (PII): Does the DOE Need to Know Your Religious and Political Affiliations for Educational Purposes?

Have you heard of "Personally Identifiable Information" (PII)? PII plays a large role in the proposal to reshape the privacy regulations in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Here's a basic definition from Wikipedia:

Personally Identifiable Information (PII), as used in information security, refers to information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or can be used with other sources to uniquely identify a single individual. The abbreviation PII is widely accepted, but the phrase it abbreviates has four common variants based on personal, personally, identifiable, and identifying. Not all are equivalent, and for legal purposes the effective definitions vary depending on the jurisdiction and the purposes for which the term is being used.

The Department of Education uses the term PII in the description of needed data for the Longitudinal Data System; this is from the National Center for Educational Statistics:

In order to ensure that the necessary data protections are in place, the Governance Committee or a Data Subcommittee for each entity that holds student records must first identify the personally identifiable data elements that need to be protected. Personally identifiable information (PII) includes information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity either directly or indirectly through linkages with other information. In the case of education data, FERPA regulations (34 CFR § 99.3). (page 2)

The document delineates direct and indirect identifiers for student information:

The inventory should include all current and proposed data elements (National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST], Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), 2010 Special Publication 800-122, pg. 2-2). It should also identify both direct and indirect identifiers. Direct identifiers provide information that is unique to the student or the student’s family (e.g., name, address, Social Security Number, other unique education-based identification number, photograph, fingerprints, or other biometric record). Indirect identifiers are not unique to the student or the student’s family but can be used in combination with other information about the student to identify a specific student (e.g., racial or ethnic identity, date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, grade level, participation in a specific program, course enrollment).
(page 3)

Direct identifiers that might raise red flags for parents is the use of fingerprints or other biometric records. There are some indirect identifiers the Department of Education wants to gather that might bother those who are concerned with student privacy concerns (pgs 3, 4):

At the elementary and secondary level, an analysis of the indirect identifiers should also consider whether any of the data elements are protected under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR § Part 98). To protect the privacy and related rights of students and parents, the PPRA requires written parental consent before a minor student can be required to participate in any survey, analysis, or evaluation funded by the U.S. Department of Education that includes information concerning the following:

  • 1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
  • 2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
  • 3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
  • 4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
  • 5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
  • 6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
  • 7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or
  • 8. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).

The government realizes parents might have a bit of a problem with the request for information regarding political affiliations, mental problems, sexual behavior, etc:

The Pupil Protection Rights Act requires parental notification if a study to be conducted in a school includes any information or questions about the student or the student’s family related to the
eight identified sensitive topics: political affiliations or beliefs; religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs; mental and psychological problems; sex behavior or attitudes; illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior; critical appraisals of family members; legally recognized privileged relationships; or income. (emphasis added) (pgs 13, 14)

The document goes on to state if the survey is funded by the US Department of Education, the parents must be notified, approval must be given by the parents and the surveys must be shared before the survey is given if the parent requests perusal. However, under FERPA, data not deemed sensitive are handled in this manner:

The annual notification (FERPA) does not have to be made individually to parents. Instead, it can be done through any of the following: local or student newspaper, calendar, student programs guide, rules handbook, or other reasonable means. (pg 13)

does the needed approval for "sensitive information" pertain to surveys that are not funded by the US Department of Education, but perhaps surveys from other Federal agencies such as Health and Human Services (it funds school educational programs) or the EPA (it funds school environmental programs)? Will parents have those privacy assurances and right to refuse when their child is asked about his/her sexual behavior, mental problems...and critical appraisals of family members if not funded by the DOE? Who and/or what agency has the constitutional authority to make critical appraisals of a student's family members? Is this really about education?

Question: Why wouldn't ANY information gathered on students need direct parental permission? How can permission be granted by posting the notice in a school newspaper, rules handbook, etc.? Your child can't receive Advil without your written permission; neither should their information be given to the school or other agencies without your written permission either.

But at least the parent can opt out his/her child out of this "educational" experience:

Parents must also be notified of their right to decide whether or not their child will participate in any non-emergency, invasive physical examination or screening that is scheduled in advance and administered by the school as a required condition of attendance but that is not necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of students. (pg 14)

Why would a student have to undergo a "non-emergency, invasive physical examination or screening that is scheduled in advance and administered by the school as a required condition of attendance but is not necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of students?" Again, what does this have to do with education?

Contact the DOE and inform them you are against loosening student privacy regulations. You have until Monday, May 23, 2011 to register your comments.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

You Have Until Monday, May 23...to Object to DOE's Invasion of Student Privacy

Arne Duncan has invited taxpayers to make comment regarding possible changes in the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The Department of Education is attempting to change FERPA to allow private and invasive information to be gathered on students and families in order to supply the workforce. As we have stated in this blog many times, the information does not assist in delivery of providing better education for students, rather, the information is to provide data to the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services to provide the workforce.

We are circulating the information sheet (below) to inform taxpayers and American citizens in this extreme governmental effort to breach your child's and your family's privacy. Please read and if you are concerned about this overreach of the Department of Education, you have until Monday, May 23, 2011 to make public comment to the Department of your opposition of the broadening of governmental regulation.

At the end of the information sheet is the email address to use for your comments. Circulate this information to people you may know who value their privacy and object to the DOE's plan to profile your child from pre-school to age 20 and through the workforce.



The Department of Education (DOE) has proposed regulatory changes that would gut the primary federal student-privacy statute, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA imposes strict limits on how the government may use so-called Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collected on students by schools or government education agencies. Under the proposed changes to the regulations issued under FERPA, DOE would enable a system of massive data collection on students – potentially including such things as family income range, hair color, blood type, and health-care history – that could then be shared with other government agencies (both federal and in other states) for unspecified purposes. This disclosure of PII could be accomplished without parents’ consent, and in most cases without even their knowledge. And because the data-collection and sharing would begin when the student is in preschool and follow him even through his entry into the workforce, the possibilities of breach of privacy and unwarranted use of data are almost limitless.

The concept of “state longitudinal data systems” (SLDS) is the driving force behind the proposed regulatory changes. In its attempt to further federalize education through Race to the Top and other statutes, DOE wants to construct massive and interconnected data systems that will allow various government agencies – and even private entities, perhaps including employers -- to access students’ personal information without the knowledge or consent of the students or their parents. SLDS structures in some states, such as Illinois, already contemplate the sharing of PII for purposes far beyond effective education of children – for example, to create “a network of federal, state, and local offices that . . . facilitate the development of the United States workforce.” Indeed, DOE itself argues that “there is no reason why a State health and human services or labor department, for example, should be precluded from . . . receiving non-consensual disclosures of PII to link education, workforce, health, family services, and other data” for the purpose of “evaluating” education programs. The proposed changes to the FERPA regulations are a blatant attempt to bypass Congress, and therefore the American people, by weakening the privacy law to facilitate radically increased government control over individuals’ lives.

Listed below are some specific objections that can be made to the proposed changes. Comments can be registered at http://www.regulations.gov. (See below for more specific information for the comment process.) The deadline for commenting is Monday, May 23, 2011.

  • Authorized Representative – DOE proposes to define “authorized representative” (i.e., the individual or entity authorized to receive Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on students) in a way that greatly expands the universe of bureaucrats or even private entities that might be allowed to access PII. Throughout FERPA’s existence, DOE has interpreted the statute to allow nonconsensual disclosure of PII only to officials of state or local educational authorities, or to the agencies headed by certain federal officials (Secretary of Education, Comptroller General, or Attorney General). The proposed change would allow any of these people to designate other bureaucrats in other agencies – such as state employment or public-health agencies – or even private entities as “authorized representatives” for purposes of accessing PII. This is a radical change to the interpretation of FERPA, and a substantial limitation on its privacy protections.


  • Education Program – DOE proposes to define “education program” in a way that would further expand the reach of bureaucrats into private student data. The current interpretation of FERPA allows nonconsensual disclosure of PII during audits or evaluations conducted of federally funded “education programs” that are administered by educational authorities. The proposed changes would broaden this PII access to any program that could even be marginally considered “educational,” even if not conducted by an educational authority. The concern is that designating something as an “education program” to be “evaluated” becomes an excuse for gaining access to data from that program.
  • Research Studies – DOE proposes to greatly expand access to PII for use in “research studies.” Currently, FERPA allows nonconsensual disclosure of PII by educational agencies and institutions (with strict limitations) to companies that are conducting research on behalf of those agencies or institutions. The proposed changes would allow agencies further up the food chain – those that receive such PII from other agencies or institutions -- to disclose that data for their own research purposes, and to do so without express legal authority. Thus, for example, a school may turn over PII to DOE as part of regular procedure and not be told that DOE is disclosing that data to a research company. And if the school discovered, and objected to, the redisclosure, DOE would not even have to point to an express legal authority for its action. “Implied authority” would be sufficient.
  • Authority to Audit or Evaluate – DOE proposes to allow state or local educational authorities, or agencies headed by the Education Secretary, the Comptroller General, or the Attorney General, to conduct audits, evaluations, or compliance activity without establishing that they have legal authority to do so. The longstanding interpretation of FERPA is that any entity seeking to audit or evaluate a program must cite particular federal, state, or local legal authority for this activity, because FERPA itself confers no such authority. DOE proposes to allow such activities – with their consequent access to PII – to be conducted even by entities that can show no legal right to engage in them. Apparently, “I’m from the government and I’m evaluating this program” will be sufficient to access the data.
  • Enforcement – DOE proposes to extend its FERPA enforcement authority beyond “educational agencies or institutions” to include any other recipients of federal funds that may misuse PII. Such entities might include, for example, student-loan lenders. While DOE’s vast expansion of access to PII would greatly increase the potential for misuse of that data, and therefore would indicate the need for broader enforcement authority, the fact remains that Congress is the only entity that is entitled to make this change. FERPA spells out DOE’s enforcement authority, and DOE cannot change this statutory law merely by changing the regulations.

There are three key points to be made regarding these proposed changes: 1) DOE is weakening longstanding student privacy protections by greatly expanding the universe of individuals and entities who have access to PII, by broadening the definition of programs that might generate data subject to this access, and by eliminating the requirement of express legal authority for certain governmental activities; 2) DOE’s proposed interconnected data systems could be accessed by other departments, such as Labor and Health and Human Services, to facilitate social engineering such as development of the type of “workforce” deemed necessary by the government; and 3) DOE is attempting to evade Congress by pushing through these radical policy changes by regulation rather than legislation.


The document details and the specific language of the FERPA revisions the Department of Education is requesting may be found here:


Click on the "comment due" wording and it will take you to the comment form OR

The comment form may be found here:


Here is a summary from the Federal Register:


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The End of the Legislative Session and Education Reform Bills

The Missouri Legislative Session is over. The educational bills this year focused on school choice bills and reforms and many were similar to Race to the Top Missouri proposals as well as the Federal Race to the Top proposals:
  • The expansion of charter schools
  • Broadening sponsorship of charter schools
  • The trigger option
  • Open Enrollment
  • The expansion of virtual schools
  • Teacher tenure and merit pay issues
What the bills did not address were:
  • Blocking the implementation of the currently adopted common core standards in math and communication arts
  • Privacy legislation regarding the Longitudinal Data System and information to be required to send to the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services when those assessments are finished
  • Revisions to the Missouri Constitution taking away the authority of the appointed State Board of Education to sign away the sovereign right to set the educational standards of Missouri students
  • Revising the law to allow the election of State Board members and the Commissioner of Education (currently these positions are appointed by the Governor)
  • Blocking the adoption and implementation of the forthcoming science and history common core standards
Most of the education bills did not pass. The trigger option bill stalled in the House on February 16; but we will have the trigger option regardless. We received approximately $9,000,000 in School Improvement Grant (SIG) money to adopt the same turnaround methods for schools as described in RTTT. So, technically, even though the trigger option bill did not pass, we have it! This is one example of the Federal Government circumventing the legislative process and determining how our state delivers education. We have asked the sponsor and co-sponsors of the trigger option bill if they will refuse the $9,000,000 grant because of the strings, but we did not receive a specific answer from them about their intentions for this Federal money for state education.

Regarding charters, we put out the word on Wednesday about troubling language regarding charter sponsorship. We asked about the possibility of charter sponsorships being "foreign" (not based in Missouri). This would take away local or state ownership of charters and take taxpayer money out of Missouri to out of state companies. The expansion of charters would not necessarily increase the revenues of private Missouri companies if they are foreign owned. The bill did not pass, but this added provision caused some discussion about the bill. Why did we feel the expansion and the possibility of charters to be foreign owned egregious?

We believe charters were a good option IF THEY WERE ALLOWED TO OPERATE AS ORIGINALLY INTENDED. Now they will be under the same common core mandates and assessments as traditional public schools. The innovation is not present as it once was. The solution is to free charters from the common core mandates, make them innovative once again and make sure they are LOCALLY controlled. Parents used to be on the boards. Many of the charters throughout the nation are currently controlled by hedge fund companies and local board involvement is minimal.

The state needs to decide whether or not to accept the federal money and mandates and truly make state educational decisions...or it acquiesces and leaves it up to a Federal agency to make decisions. Other legislatures are crafting legislation to stop the IMPLEMENTATION of the standards. Our legislature has not made any movement toward ridding ourselves of the federal money and strings tied up with common core standards. Our constitutional duty to provide education is being given to the Federal Government and consortias and maybe foreign corporations to deliver education. The Missouri Constitution gives the STATE the power to make educational decisions and it is up to the STATE to deliver these directives; not outside companies or the Federal government. The federal government is not given the power to set educational policy. Where is the outcry of the legislators on the hand over of our educational system to the Federal government and special interests? When did legislators believe a centralized agency could deliver better educational results than a state, or had the authority to do so?

We at MEW believe in education reform. We believe in charters if they are performing and are locally run with Board Members from that particular community. Read Anngie's latest post (Education Debate Needs Reality and Focus) on the question of charters and how they could and should work. We would be tickled to death if we have a charter in St. Louis or Kansas City that performed as well as this charter does in Gwinnett County:

Indeed, every single one of its students met or exceeded state standards on the state English/Language Arts exam in 2010, a rate that surpassed Gwinnett County Schools, which itself is an extremely high-performing district and a recent Broad award winner as the nation’s top urban system.

We don't have that type of charter school performance yet in this state:

For example, in 2010 only 26.9 percent of the 25,000 students in St. Louis Public Schools scored proficient in math. Of the 10,000 students enrolled in city charter schools, 4,100 were in schools that did far worse in math, according to the study. Three of the schools had math proficiency scores of less than 10 percent. They compared even less favorably in communications arts proficiency.

And the study didn’t even consider two St. Louis charters schools that closed their doors in 2010 — schools that enrolled another 1,300 students. These schools didn’t just fail. They collapsed after stubbornly holding on after years of mismanagement.

Some St. Louis charter schools did marginally better than their St. Louis Public School peers. But only two — with a combined enrollment of slightly more than 300 students — had more than 63.3 percent of their students scoring proficient in math. That’s the state proficiency standard for schools.

We need accountability for charters before expanding them.

Now that is a show-me attitude that should be adopted not only for charter school expansion, but to all decisions for education.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Question: What Did You Learn in School Today? Answer: "How to use a Condom".

Our previous posting was about a father writing a book based on what his daughter learned in school: that capitalism was bad. What else do students learn in the classroom? Here's an article from American Thinker ("Planned Parenthood's Cobalt Blue Sex Education") about a Santa Fe, New Mexico charter school allowing "teen ambassadors" from Planned Parenthood to talk to other teens in class:

American philosopher Thomas Sowell wrote that "the vision of the anointed [has] achieved a sacrosanct status, hermetically sealed off from the contaminating influence of facts." There are few places in America with as dense a concentration of anointed critters as Santa Fe, New Mexico. The city is famous for its art and food scenes, pueblo-style architecture, and skies rendered deep blue by a seven-thousand-foot elevation and crisp, clean air. But something decidedly unclean is happening in Santa Fe.

The venue is
Monte del Sol Charter School. An eighteen-year-old demonstrates the use of condoms in class. The girl's expertise comes courtesy of Planned Parenthood's Peer Education Program.

Santa Fe Planned Parenthood "health educator" Denise Jennings, who wants to "normalize sex," trains teens to train other teens in "the five circles of sexuality." According to a local newspaper, Jennings
tours schools, teen trainees in tow, teaching about "sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity, sexual health and reproduction, and sexualization (...using sex to manipulate others)."

In class, a student
asks about the "right time to have sex." A teen trainee responds that people must be "emotionally and physically prepared to accept the consequences and accept responsibility" for having sex -- no mention of the inadvisability of children having sex at all. A Monte del Sol health teacher appreciates that Planned Parenthood conducts the sex discussions. After all, "they are the experts and they have props."

Planned Parenthood is shifting its "expert" skills into high-gear.
Sex Ed Camps and Santa Fe-style programs are multiplying. Traditional America is under siege by ideologues breeding if-it-feels-good-do-it narcissists. The Peer Education Program illustrates what happens when mission-oriented progressives take action. Thomas Sowell dubbed such ideologues, "the anointed."

Planned Parenthood's anointed sex missionaries received their first federal funding in the Lyndon Johnson administration. The sort of "sex education" now pushed in Santa Fe and elsewhere started in 1968 when the National Education Association Journal called for "sex education as an integral part of school curriculum beginning in early grades."
Planned Parenthood, the NEA, and herds of shrill progressives were following a behavioral pattern characteristic of the 1960s left.

An early example of the pattern emerged in the reactions to Rachel Carson's 1962 Silent Spring scare-book, which got DDT banned and still enables the malaria
deaths of about 3,000 children a day. Paul Ehrlich's 1968 Population Bomb -- turned dud -- warned of mass starvations unless humanity curbs its reproductive enthusiasm. Then also in 1968, the NEA Journal demanded solutions to imagined problems.

Imagined, because calls for sex education were based on "problems" that lived only in the minds of anointed ones seeking to spread agendas. "
Contraception education" would allegedly reduce unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate births. A "crash educational program" would arrest out-of-control venereal disease, while general sex education would address "the emotionally disastrous results of irresponsible sexual behavior." The claims shared a common thread: fictitious bases.

Not only were there no disease and illegitimacy crises, but indicators were solidly improving at the time of the alarmists' claims. As Sowell documents in The Vision of the Anointed,
teenage pregnancies and venereal disease declined during the 1950s and 1960s. Yet over skeptics' protests that sex education would increase sexual behavior, Planned Parenthood and public schools forged ahead to curtail behaviors that were already fading. Sex-ed was off and running.

And results followed.

During the 1970s, pregnancies among fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds jumped 41 percent.
Between 1970 and 1984, abortions among unwed fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds more than doubled and birth rates jumped 29 percent. By 1976, five years of data showed unmarried girls fifteen to nineteen having sex at increasing rates. And not only did venereal disease not subside, but teen gonorrhea rates tripled between 1956 and 1975.

In the 1950s, 13 percent of teen girls had been sexually active. By the late 90s, the figure had tripled. Premarital intercourse, approved by less than a third of women in the 1950s, was acceptable to
91 percent by the late 80s. By 2005, over two-thirds of Blacks and half of Latino high-schoolers were having intercourse, while over half of all teens fifteen to nineteen were performing oral sex. By 2006, babies born to unmarried women accounted for 37 percent of all births, 70 percent among Blacks. The Black illegitimacy rate reflected a 218 percent explosion over forty-five years.

Such realities have drawn dismissive responses from sex-ed advocates. Incredibly, the horrific trends of the 1970s and 1980s were offered as reason for more sex education.
Yet amid cover-ups and excuses, the sex-ed crowd's true motives were exposed in 1978, in of all places, Congress. One committee report noted that despite sex education's stated objective of reducing teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted disease, the real goal "of most sex educators appears to be encouragement of healthy attitudes about sex and sexuality." "Healthy attitudes" is sex-ed code for super-sized libidos in already hormone-ravaged kids.

By the early 1970s, Planned Parenthood and sex educators were already doing what John Goodlad called for in 1971 when the educational theorist wrote, "Most youth still hold the same values of their parents... If we do not alter this pattern, if we don't resocialize... our system will decay."
But in each instance in which progressive wisdom has been applied to "values"-based arguments, actions based on the wisdom have caused social decay. Sex-ed wisdom follows the pattern.

Planned Parenthood types in cobalt-blue Santa Fe and throughout red-white-and-blue America are cheapening America's young -- parents be damned. The Santa Fe health teacher's
appreciation for Planned Parenthood's "expertise" plays into the organization's hands. Sex-ed "experts" want parents to believe that sex has grown too complicated for amateurs to discuss with kids. And it's certainly not clear that parents are bothered by Planned Parenthood "training teens to teach sexuality to their peers."

Public schools are teaming with Planned Parenthood to perpetuate the myth that immorality and illegitimacy can be cured by showing high-schoolers how to use condoms. But for decades, sex education failed to achieve the originally-stated goals of reducing unwanted pregnancies and sex-related disease. Planned Parenthood-style sex education produces promiscuity and social decay. Teens teaching "sexuality" to other teens won't stop the rot. Reversing our youth's moral slide can only be achieved by parents with values despised by "experts" like John Goodlad and Planned Parenthood.


Talk to your children and ask them what they learned in school today. This program from Planned Parenthood sends teen ambassadors to children as young as 10 years old. (pg 7). What a deal. Teen ambassadors will come to your public or charter school and show your child how to use a condom correctly. In Philadelphia, they have to walk to a clinic or receive them in the mail. And in New Hampshire, condoms were passed out with condoms in observance of World AIDS day.

Is this an example of American education at its finest? Is this why you send your child and pay your taxes for students to learn about Planned Parenthood teachings and beliefs? Is this part of the plan to equip our children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) knowledge to make them globally competitive? That must be it since the reduction of diseases and unwanted pregnancies hasn't occurred with Planned Parenthood training.

Lesson for the Day: Capitalism is Bad. Teacher Tenure is Good.

Joe Kernen of CNBC's "Squawk Box" writes ' Your Teacher Says What?!' in response to his daughter Blake coming home and telling him what she learned that day in school.

Father and daughter are making the interview circuit and Blake, 11 years old, told the story of how she learned in school how factories pollute and should be shut down, regardless of the consequences to the employees becoming unemployed or products being produced. (Don't the voluminous number of EPA regulations ensure that factories aren't polluting?)

Blake related some of her experiences in class, and while she learned how capitalism is bad and little of the positive aspects of making money and being employed, she did learn the teacher's definition of teacher tenure:

Tenure protects teachers from unimportant boo-boos.

I wonder if teaching half-truths or skewed theories could be considered unimportant boo-boos.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Big Brother is About to Get Bigger if Arne Duncan Has His Way

Are you worried about your privacy? You should be. We've written stories about your privacy being tracked by private companies and breaches of this information.

The Federal Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is due to be to be changed and accommodations will be made for privacy data to include invasive personal information on your family and your student in the Longitudinal Data System (LDS)if Arne Duncan's plan is adopted.

The LDS will be connected not only to other states for educational information, but also to various federal agencies, such as the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services for information to supply the workforce:

The term workforce is defined as consisting of the workers engaged in a specific activity, business or industry or the number of workers who are available to be assigned to any purpose as in a nation’s workforce.

The public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local offices that function to support economic expansion and facilitate the development United States workforce. The system is designed to create partnership with employers, educators, and community leaders in order to foster economic development and high-growth opportunities in regional economies so that businesses find qualified workers to meet their present and future workforce needs. (Emphasis added)

The amount of personal information requested for your student can hardly be believed. But Arne Duncan is serious about expanding the information he wants from you and your student. He has insisted the information will be secure, but is that the core concern? You have until May 23, 2011 to make your comments.

I have a question that could possibly be taken as a comment. Does the government have the right to request over 315 data sets on your child to equip the government for its purposes? What does this have to do with education?

The Fordham Institute has similar concerns and here is what Joann Weiss from the Department of Education has stated about using your student data:

"In this new market, it will make sense for teachers in different regions to share curriculum materials and formative assessments. It will make sense for researchers to mine data to learn which materials and teaching strategies are effective for which students - and then feed that information back to students, teachers, and parents."

Here is some information and links from a reader on FERPA, the DOE and the LDS:

  • Proposed changes expand the list of who gets access to data, what constitutes an education program in the first place, and eliminates the putative reason why information is released without consent. Another proposed change violates statutory authority by expanding the types of entities subject to enforcement. The Department of Education does not have statutory authority to unilaterally extend jurisdiction. The administration chose not to seek Congressional review of FERPA, preferring to unilaterally change the privacy law through administrative action (to quietly accommodate the distribution of personal information).

  • In 2010 the Dept. of Education fired Paul Gammill, “the top federal official charged with protecting student privacy.” Mr. Gammill “maintains that he was dismissed because, on several occasions, he argued in internal meetings and documents that the department's approach to prodding states to expand their longitudinal student data systems violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the privacy of students' educational records.” Doug Lederman, Feb. 2010 http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/02/01/ferpa

  • Susan Hatton of the National Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities describes that organization's opposition, “Driving the proposal…is the Department's intent to facilitate statewide longitudinal data systems capable of tracking individuals from pre-kindergarten through employment. NAICU has long supported student privacy rights, and strongly opposed earlier efforts by the Department to establish a national student unit record system. The association is concerned that these new proposals represent a substantial and unwarranted erosion of student privacy.”

  • “The federal government has already invested over $500 million in state-level data systems, and the President's FY 2012 budget requests another $100 million for this purpose. In addition, the American Relief and Recovery Act (ARRA) requires that states adopt these statewide data systems as a condition of funding, and further specifies the elements to be included.

    Specifically, the new FERPA proposal would substantially increase the number of entities allowed to access personally identifiable student information without the student's or parent's consent.” Education Department Proposes Regs to Reduce FERPA Privacy Protections. NAICU Washington Update April 11, 2011, Susan Hatton

  • “Duncan is fully prepared to carry out President Obama's education agenda, limiting the role of parents in schools while giving more power to the federal government to control the education agenda in the classroom.” Chris Field

  • "That [schools] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes." (West Virginia State Bd. of Edu. v. Barnette (1943) 319 U.S. 624, 637)

It's not just states and schools that are sharing information on your child. It's also other various federal agencies tracking your student from preschool through age 20 through the workforce. If this seems just a tad bit invasive and unconstitutional to you, inform Secretary Duncan on your concerns. And you might just want to copy your state and federal politicians as well. When did we accept it was necessary or legal to be ordered to share personal information with the Federal Government to further its purposes?

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