"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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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FERPA Explained to Parents. A Crystal Ball Moment?

Will my child be successful in school?  Look to the data....or maybe not?

The Federal Government believes data is king and wants to track school children from birth through their lives for workforce development.  It's shrouded as education reform, but it is really for the establishment of state longitudinal data systems to connect with various federal agencies and approved private firms to collect data on your child to establish a managed workforce.

Data will set your child's educational/career path and the Federal government believes this data will dictate your child's future.  Don't worry yourself that you/your child will be faced with choices, responsibilities, teenage angst, etc.  By setting up these data systems, the future will be clear and the Federal government will direct your child.

To accomplish this data gathering, FERPA regulations have been relaxed so more entities have access to your student's information.  Worried about data being shared on your child with agencies/companies without your knowledge?  Never fear, taxpayer.  FERPA is soothing your fears and explaining how this data sharing is advantageous and necessary for educational success.  The government has created a document for parents to assure them this data will equip the government to ensure students receive a quality education:

It is important to ensure that all students have access to a quality education. Parents should be able to take an active role in their child’s education and know answers to some basic questions about their child’s likely future success.

We take exception to the last sentence when it states "parents should be able to take an active role in their child's education".  It should read "parents have the primary and ultimate responsibility in directing their child's education".  This is the difference between government taking responsibility for your child's learning via data gathering vs parents/children holding themselves responsible for their educational progress or lack of progress.  Since when did it become the prevailing thought that parents "should be able" to take an active role in their child's education?  When did parents need permission to have the primary responsiblity for their child's educational direction?

The document contains questions parents might theoretically ask about their child's future success.  The answers (according to the government) ostensibly can be obtained by computing the data gathered on children from birth.  MEW's editors (Gretchen in red; Anngie in blue) have answered these questions from a  parental/student directed view of education, not a data driven pronouncement of failure or success:

• When my son leaves his early childhood program, will he be prepared for kindergarten? We guess that depends on how willing he is and how able he is to learn.  A more important question is why is he in early childhood in the first place?  Do you want your child tracked from birth for the government's/workforce's interests? Do you even know what being prepared for kindergarten means? Your own past, where begin prepared meant you had on matching shoes  and knew not to eat paste, is not a good starting place. If you want to go on blind faith that some government sponsored program is giving him all he needs you can, but if he turns out to be unprepared, do you think you might have had a role in his unpreparedness?

• Does my daughter’s school have large achievement gaps between subgroups of students? Are the gaps closing?  That's a good question.  We (the Federal government) are solely concerned about achievement gaps between subgroups.  If your daughter is in a lower subgroup, we will have standards/assessments that will help her perform better.   

In fact, if your daughter is in Florida and is in a lower performing subgroup, she will not have to attain a high percentage of achievement. 

If your daughter is Asian or Caucasian, we really don't care about her.  Those achievement scores are high enough, we want to spend our resources on the lower groups.  And dear reader, notice we don't really care about individual achievement.  We are only concerned about tracking students as subgroups.  That's imperative for the data.  Forget about individualism.  It's all about the "community" and subgroups now.

• What are my daughter’s chances of graduating from high school?  As long as she keeps her grades up, doesn't get pregnant or become a drug/alcohol addict, she'll have a good chance.  And oh, by the way, strong parenting and sense of responsibility might just be a factor in her chances of graduating. Didn't we address this back in kindergarten? Whether she graduates or not depends on how high YOUR motivation for her to graduate is. Seeing as you haven't figured this out in 12 years we must say we have our doubts about your daughter's chances. Still expecting a government bureaucracy to guarantee this for you tells us she is fighting an uphill battle.

• What percentage of children at my son’s high school take the ACT/SAT and what’s the average score? This is important as well.  Don't worry about this.  Many schools are now paying for students to take the ACT/SAT even if the student doesn't want to go to college or is not intellectually equipped for college. Still concerned about average performance? Your children really do have a challenge don't they?

• What courses should my son take if he wants to be prepared for college?  If he wants to be an engineer, math/science.  If he wants to be a writer, literature/English courses.  Why ask such a question? Along with the usual English, math, and science, we would also recommend that he take a course in economics and one in personal finance. If he is going to go to college, he will need to understand the horrific debt he will start his adult life out with thanks to outrageous increases in college tuition over the last two decades. A basic economic course will show how the ready government supply of tuition loans has enabled universities to continuously increase their tuition, by much as a 400% in some cases.  If your son's high school or local community college offers a course in contract law, that would also be helpful so he can understand the terms in the contract he will be asked to sign for these loans which states they will never be forgiven thanks to sections of the 2010 Health Care Act.

• Is my son likely to need to take remedial courses in college to catch-up or will he be prepared?  We guess it depends on him and the school district.  You know, it's really about responsibility here.
• When my daughter graduates from college, will she be able to find a job and how much will she earn?  Well, as companies are depleting their workforce due to Obamacare, it is doubtful she will be able to find a job and if she does, it will probably be part time.  We remain optimistic as the current administration has attempted to turn our public school system into a mammoth jobs training program. However, they have also scaled down a full work week to 30 hours and consider any employment a success. As such her ability to earn will be limited. Our entire economy may be filled like Hollywood restaurants with waiters, waitresses and barristas with liberal arts degrees waiting for their chance at the career they really want.

The government still insists it has the ingredient necessary for educational success (I can't refer to it as "educational excellence"):

States have been working to establish longitudinal data systems to help answer these questions, and to determine what works and what doesn’t when it comes to our children’s education.

Leave it to data sets and data systems to determine what works in your child's education.  Take away personal choice, responsibility, inherent ability, family situations, unplanned pregnancy, drug use, recessions/depressions, lack of jobs, etc.  It's all about the data and this data will provide the answers to the questions above.  Don't worry your head (turn in your parent card) about your responsibilities and certainly don't demand responsibility from your student.  Personal responsibility isn't relevant on a data set.  

1 comment:

  1. Our school district used to (still does?) require parents to go thru 'volunteer training', which included background checks, before they could help at their child's school. Part of the 'training' was an introduction to FERPA. At that time (still?), if you did not want your childs name and info given to military recruiters (as an example), you had to put it in writing and then everything was off the table, including your childs picture in the yearbook. All or nothing.


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