"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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Monday, March 25, 2013

Student Data Privacy Lawsuit Against DOEd. FERPA = Tracking from Cradle to Grave

From Washington Post and Lawsuit charges Ed Department with violating student privacy rights:

The U.S. Education Department is being sued by a nonprofit organization for promoting regulations that are alleged to undercut student privacy and parental consent. The rules allow third parties, including private companies and foundations promoting school reform, to get access to private student information.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has been fighting for the department over 2011 regulations involving the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA,  a law that is supposed to protect the privacy of student education records at all schools that receive federal education funds. FERPA was passed to give parents specific rights in regard to their children’s education records, rights which transfer to the student he/she becomes 18 or goes to a school beyond the high school level.

But in 2011, regulations issued by the department changed FERPA to allow the release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes. The rules also broaden the exceptions under which  schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents. And they promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records, according to EPIC, a nonprofit public-interest center based in Washington D.C.

Government officials have defended the regulations. A government notice in the Federal Register says the rules are necessary  

to ensure that the Department’s implementation of FERPA continues to protect the privacy of education records, as intended by Congress, while allowing for the effective use of data in statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) as envisioned in the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (COMPETES Act) and furthermore supported under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).   Improved access to data contained within an SLDS will facilitate States’ ability to evaluate education programs, to build upon what works and discard what does not, to increase accountability and transparency, and to contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement in education.  (MEW bolded)
The Common Core Initiative was funded by ARRA.  If the CCSS were not implemented, the need for intrusive data and the argument, Improved access to data contained within an SLDS will facilitate States’ ability to evaluate education programs, to build upon what works and discard what does not, to increase accountability and transparency, and to contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement in education, would not be a compelling reason to gather and disseminate student data. 

What type of student data is gathered under the FERPA regulations as redesigned by the Department of Education?

...privacy advocates oppose the rule change because student data can be shared by local officials with private companies and foundations. Some say FERPA was loosened to make it easier for third parties to get access to student data by funding initiatives such as student data bases. Stephanie Simon of Reuters wrote in this story about a new $100 million database built in large part with Gates Foundation money that:
…already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.
From an earlier post on MEW:

The question then must be asked, what does the government consider "high-value data sets on students, open data and more"?  The government does not provide a detailed idea on this site of what the datasets will contain but we have an idea on what to expect from the datasets from the National Education Model and the Illinois Data Warehouse report.  As the Illinois set is aligned with other state data models, you can reasonably expect this will be present in your Common Core state data set.

Read more here from the Washington Post on why Senator Buckley sponsored FERPA to protect student data.  Ironically, the rewriting of FERPA does not protect student data, it releases it to various federal agencies and private companies.  Arne Duncan might as well have renamed it "the tracking of students from cradle to career act" and abolished FERPA outright.  He orchestrated Race to the Top without legislative oversight.  He tweaked FERPA (without legislative oversight) to ensure it doesn't protect student/family privacy but rather opens the floodgate to gather student data for tracking purposes.  As one reader commented:

How did Arne and ED issue regulations that countermanded FERPA? I thought he was in the Executive branch. It appears that he is also in the legislative branch. If this is over-reach, when can we expected the hand to be slapped?

Please sign the petition from Missouri Coalition Against Common Core to rid Missouri of Common Core and the intrusive data gathering that will be done on your student/family.  


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