"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, August 11, 2012

Look Who Else Is Concerned About Data Collection and Privacy

We have been warning parents about the potential for their child's personal data to be widely shared across government agencies and with private interests who claim some link to education. Now teachers are beginning to realize that they will be part of the data collection process and their entire teaching careers will be tracked, assessed, and possibly publicized.

Anthony Cody at EducationWeek Teacher posted a great piece a couple months ago summing up the concerns with the longitudinal data systems.
What will it mean for every one of the nation's 50 million students to have a unique ID number, and be included in a national database that tracks every test they ever take? And teachers will get ID numbers as well, so the database can track the test performance of our students over our entire careers...

The core of the technocrats' push to reshape education is the all-powerful DATA that they believe ought to be driving all of our decisions...
The Gates Foundation has been funding an organization called the Data Quality Campaign, which operates to pressure states to develop "longitudinal data systems" to track student and teacher test performance in fine detail over time. In much the same way the NCTQ is in the process of rating schools of education across the country, and the Media Bullpen is acting as self-appointed "umpires" to "hold the media accountable," the DQC has developed a system to give "grades" to states for their educational data systems. To get their seal of approval, state data systems must have the following ten features:
  1. A unique statewide student identifier that connects student data across key databases across years.
  2. Information about each student's demographics and participation in programs like Free and Reduced lunch.
  3. The ability to match individual students' test records from year to year to measure academic growth.
  4. Information on untested students and the reasons they were not tested
  5. Statewide Teacher Identifier with a Teacher-Student Match. This enables the use of VAM systems, and also the comparison of teachers from different teacher preparation programs.
  6. Student-level transcript information, including information on courses completed and grades earned.
  7. Student-level college readiness test scores
  8. Student-level graduation and dropout data
  9. The ability to match student records between the P-12 and higher education systems
  10. A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity and reliability
As usual, Arne Duncan's Department of Education is in lockstep with these ideas. They have made the expansion of data systems a central feature of Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers. States are being asked to develop systems very much along the lines laid out by the Data Quality Council, and the DQC's recent summit in Washington featured Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee - that expert on quality data -- as speakers..
It seems as if we will then have, in effect, a nationwide data system with detailed information about every single person enrolled in a public school. (emphasis added)
If the data collected were only used in accordance with its true value, we might not have such a reason for concern. But as we are seeing with the VAM fiasco in New York, where dedicated teachers are being pilloried in the press because of a flawed system.
Mr. Cody correctly points out in his piece that once the collection system itself is put in place, even its designers lose control of the data within. And with DoEd's new broad distribution powers there can be no serious guarantee of the data's protection.

Rupert Murdoch's Wireless Generation received $7.65 million in seed money from The Gates Foundation to support the creation of a special LLC, which will then funnel $44 million to Wireless Generation to create a national student and teacher database.  Why invest so heavily in a system that currently has no access to district data? Because all the requirements of RTTT will force districts into providing this data. Once Wireless Generation has it, they can "crunch" it and sell it back to districts which is a nice revenue stream. Once the national standards and uniform assessments have been forced into every district, it will make manipulation, oops sorry, analysis of this data much much easier.

Cody writes,
This is the trouble with technology. You can create tools, but often the tools themselves wind up only leading you towards solutions that they can provide. If our data consists of test scores, we seek ways to boost them, even if they only represent a fraction of what truly matters.
It would be one thing if this data was the magical tool its adherents claim. They suggest that low performing districts do best when they "become obsessive over using data to drive instruction." But we have collectively obsessed over data for more than a decade now, thanks to NCLB, and we have very little progress to show for it. 
The national obsession with data seems more like a business development model than a bonafide tactic to improve education. Teachers have been evaluating student progress for more than a century.  The good ones, who have the time because they aren't busy collecting the next sector of data, can work with students who seem not to be getting it. Teaching requires time and care. You have to have the time to teach what you want to pass on the students and you have to care about each of them learning and developing. A business is only concerned with efficiency, data and profit. Why are we trying to apply one model to the other field?

To read more on data collection go to:

The National Education Data Model website, which reveals the incredibly detailed data that the technocrats would like to assemble.

The Department of Education rules designed to protect student privacy. It's good because rules are never broken.


  1. Excellent article and follow-up on the Ed Week reporting. The proponents are silent on the problem this massive collection of data solves. There are obvious business opportunities ahead: (1) companies and consultants to make meaning of the data for teachers and students;(2) teachers with x,y,z in their data become candidates for marketing of specific training or teaching materials; (3) students with x, y, z are candidates for educational materials that will "help" them.

  2. a link that describes the changes (last link above)
    has been moved?

  3. patriotsoul, try it again, they work for me.


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