The US Department Of Education released a draft report last month that arrogantly says they believe they can determine what your success looks like and therefore what potential you must reach in order to be deemed successful. The report defines success as performing "for the benefit of everyone in society." Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, February 14, 2013 details the vision for collecting data to help the system help children become high achieving individuals. "There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors, attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability that high achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success."
To do this they will need to collect more data than just standardized test scores. The report goes on to spell out exactly where they see all this data collection going. If I've learned anything through my research it is to believe the academic intelligentsia ensconced in our government bureaucracies when they say they want to do something. One way or another, they will find a way to do it. That is what makes this report by the USDoEd so disturbing.
I credit our folks over in Oklahoma at ROPE for uncovering this. The report tells what data gathering tools the government envisions using in the future and what data on student learning those tools hope to collect. "Data mining techniques can track students’ trajectories of persistence and learning over time, thereby providing actionable feedback to students and teachers." Here is just a sample of what they envision collecting:
- "functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and physiological indicators offer insight into the biology and neuroscience underlying observed student behaviors.
- Researchers can examine consistency in participant’s ratings to determine the strength of the belief or skill. Self-report can also be used to measure process constructs; for example, in the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), participants typically carry around a handheld device that “beeps” them at random intervals, prompting self-report of experiences in that moment (e.g., Hektner, Schmidt, & Csikszentmihalyi, 2007). Such data can be used to make inferences about emotions, thoughts,and behaviors within and across specific situations.
- Sensors (attached to the student) provide constant, parallel streams of data and are used with data mining techniques and self-report measures to examine frustration, motivation/flow, confidence, boredom, and fatigue. [plan for the]... development of systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate aspects of human affect. Emotional or physiological variables can be used to enrich the understanding and usefulness of behavioral indicators. Discrete emotions particularly relevant to reactions to challenge -- such as interest, frustration, anxiety, and boredom -- may be measured through analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, heart rate variability, posture, and eye-tracking.
- The MIT Media Lab Mood Meter (Hernandez, Hoque, & Picard, n.d.) is a device that can be used to detect emotion (smiles) among groups. The Mood Meter includes a camera and a laptop. The camera captures facial expressions, and software on the laptop extracts geometric properties on faces (like distance between corner lips and eyes) to provide a smile intensity score. While this type of tool may not be necessary in a small class of students, it could be useful for examining emotional responses in informal learning environments for large groups, like museums."It's not a field trip. It's a data gathering session.
- Another source of data about students’ perseverance is school records about grades, standardized test scores, attendance, dropping-out, discipline problems, social services used, and so on.
They will examine your data to see where you are deficient (their definition of deficient) and provide additional resources so you can reach the level of proficiency they have decided in the time frame they determine. Sounds like they are just ignoring the Declaration of Independence, although that just makes sense. They are setting up a system to make everyone dependent on the government.
I wonder if the geniuses developing all these testing techniques and data gathering modes have stopped long enough to consider what their data may find. Because their collection scope is so all encompassing, their data may actually prove that not everyone is equal and some people have no hope of achieving the same level of "success" as others. They will prove there is an inferior human. What will they do then?