Non-profit inBloom, Inc., which is operating the database for the Common Core State Standards initiative, plans to have its system for sharing student data ready this fall, and New York State officials are expected to refuse allowing parents to opt out.
According to the New York Daily News, two of the three leading Democratic mayoral candidates, former Controller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, have openly said they will fight against student data being given to private companies.
The move against InBloom, a $100 million data-mining project funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which has provided heavy support for the Common Core state standards, could mean the end of the controversial information system should either candidate be elected.
“Like any parent, I know that private student data should never be bought and sold without explicit parental consent,” said de Blasio. “As mayor, I will protect students’ privacy and stop this needless invasion of privacy.”
Similarly, Thompson spokesman John Collins said that, if elected, “Bill Thompson will make sure parents consent before personal information about their children is shared with a private company.”
However, state officials say that the inBloom data-sharing system is required by law because participation in inBloom is a required part of the federal Race to the Top grants which the Obama administration used to incentivize states to sign onto Common Core.
“In order to fulfill the Race to the Top commitments, we will be providing a statewide data set,” said Associate Commissioner Ken Wagner, who added that the inBloom project aims to increase security standards for districts in the state.
The student “data” that will be formatted includes attendance, test scores, learning disabilities, and disciplinary records. The data will be provided in a way that can be used by educational technology companies to allegedly improve classroom learning. While parents have been told that the companies would not be selling student data, there is concern that student information could be compromised or stolen.
“Parents demand that their children’s personal information be pulled out of inBloom and that we should have the right to decide which companies have access to the information,” said public school parent Shino Tanikawa, with NYC Kids PAC, which has taken on the privacy issue.
In May, Education News reported that New York City Council candidate Jelani Mashariki issued a damning message to Department of Education deputy chief academic officer Adina Lopatin, declaring an expectation that the message be delivered to Lopatin’s superiors.
“You’re not going to give out my child’s information to a third-party corporation to do whatever it is they want to do,” Mashariki asserted. “The people are not going to have it and we are going to fight back.”
Sydney Brownstone of the Village Voice Blogs reported on the crowd of angry parents who grilled DOE officials over the sharing of private student data.
“Has New York City student data been transmitted to inBloom?” Lopatin was asked. “Yes, New York State has transmitted student data to inBloom as part of the process of building educational data portals,” she responded.
Lopatin added that there was no way for parents to opt out of having their children’s private data shared.
“According to state guidelines, there is no provision for parents to opt their children out of inBloom or the educational portal tool,” she confirmed.
“We want to protect the privacy of our children,” countered mother Lydia Bellahcene. “It is our God-given right. And I’m not signing that away because I put my daughter in public education.”
Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute confirms, “Under agreements every state signed to get 2009 stimulus [Race to the Top] funds, they must share students’ academic data with the federal government.”
Pullmann notes that the U.S. Department of Education is intent on “investigating how public schools can collect information on ‘non-cognitive’ student attributes after granting itself the power to share student data across agencies without parents’ knowledge.”
She states the DOE hopes to collect student information using the Common Core initiative and observes that according to a 2012 Pioneer Institute report and the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) the DOE is working to expand children’s databases to include “health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status and religious affiliation.”
In addition to inBloom, Achieve, Inc., a Washington, D.C. group that participated in the development of the Common Core state standards and is now the project manager of one of the Common Core consortia, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), is being criticized for pursuing student data sharing to meet its own personal agenda.
According to the Achieve website, its agenda is as follows:
States must collect, coordinate, and use K-12 and postsecondary data to track and improve the readiness of graduates to succeed in college and the workplace.
Longitudinal data systems should follow individual students from grade to grade and school to school, all the way from kindergarten through postsecondary education and into the workplace. Such systems would also provide more accurate measures of dropout and graduation rates, and provide the foundation for early warning systems.
For states to evaluate and understand the impact of particular policies around graduation requirements, assessments and preparedness for postsecondary, they must follow students through K-12 into postsecondary and the workforce and establish feedback loops to the relevant stakeholders [emphasis added] to make informed decisions that improve policies and practices around increasing student preparedness.
Johnnie-Ann Campbell at Capitol Hill Daily wrote Wednesday that Achieve hopes to track students and store their data using its P-20 Data Systems under the guise of enhancing learning and student preparedness.
You’re probably wondering what information the states plan to collect, and in fact the amount and nature of the data to be collected and stored is overwhelming and alarming. In addition to the traditional data points, the current P-20 longitudinal data system can collect more than 400 individual pieces of data on students. Some of it isn’t surprising: medical conditions, learning disabilities and behavior problems. But do you want states tracking your kids’ hobbies, their family income, religious affiliations and even their sexual preferences? I don’t think so.
And who are the “relevant stakeholders?” asks Campbell. “Achieve’s lips are tightly sealed on this little detail… Chances are it’ll be Common Core donors from corporate America, special interest groups and the government (big surprise).”
Sheila Kaplan of Education New York has initiated a national opt-out campaign that is encouraging parents to protect the privacy of their children’s school records. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Kaplan says that parents can restrict third-party access to their children’s information.
“Officials from the U.S. Department of Education have emphasized that FERPA protects the privacy of the education record and not the child,” said Kaplan. “Parents should keep that fact in mind and seriously consider their right to opt out and ask their schools how they are protecting student privacy.”