by Karen R. Effrem, MD
Despite Bill Gates tacit admission that his Common Core experiment failed (which is true of every other education experiment he has tried), he and his data grabbing grantees in academia and foundations along with allies in the federal government are still after our children’s data like a crack addict after his next hit. Last week, Gates announced that the next $1.7 billion he will spend on education will be heavily focused on student data collection.
Now, Professor Morgan Polikoff — an education professor and researcher whose work on implementing Common Core and developing assessment-based teacher accountability systems (a huge failure) is funded by a Gates grant as well as the U.S. taxpayers — is teaming up with the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) — which has received nearly $19 million from Gates — to go to Washington to further weaken an already quite weak update to the nation’s student privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
FERPA desperately needs to be updated because it was passed in 1974 — way before interoperable and longitudinal databases and all of this online curriculum and affective data gathering. To make matters worse, the Obama administration severely gutted the privacy protections that were present via regulatory fiat, making data far too widely and easily available.
The bill that Polikoff and the DQC want to further weaken is HR 3157, introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), chairman of the House’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. Although the legislation does make some positive changes, it has numerous other grave concerns for parents and privacy advocates:
Polikoff and DQC want to make the bill even worse by:
Related to that last item, there is also a push to pass the College Transparency Act that gets rid of that annoying barrier to womb-to-tomb data collection called the prohibition on the student unit record system. Emmett McGroarty, Jane Robbins, and I have all written extensively about the dangers of this idea in analyzing the bill and in testimony to a national data commission. Besides the initial loss of privacy, the bill’s supporters want to share data with multiple federal agencies, many of which have had major data security breaches. The bill would also create the opportunity to review and expand what data is collected every five years, opening the door to even more sensitive SEL and personality data.
Polikoff justifies his not well-concealed effort to continue making his living by grabbing our children’s sensitive data with the following statement:
Families, educators, and the public must be able to trust that student data is used ethically and protected. Well-designed FERPA improvements can help build that trust and ensure that schools, districts, and states are able to use data to improve learning and strengthen education without compromising student privacy.
Here are the cold, hard facts of which Polikoff is either unaware or in denial, as outlined in our national coalition’s letter to Congress:
1.) Americans already don’t trust that student data is used ethically and protected. The parent takedown of inBloom and the blockage of Strengthening Education Through Research Act that federalizes social emotional research for an entire session of Congress are prime examples of that distrust.
2.) Parents believe that student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent over the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.
3.) The federal government should not be using any data — and especially SEL data — to “improve learning,” because the federal government has no constitutional authority whatsoever to be involved in education.
4.) There is no need for more data collection and invasion of privacy, because the research is already conclusive that federal education programs “protected” by FERPA are disastrously ineffective. This is true of ESEA, Race to the Top/Common Core, Investing in Innovation, Head Start, and home visiting, to name just a few.
5.) The government has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to collect highly personal and sensitive social emotional data on our children.
Therefore, it is imperative that you contact your Representative, Senator, and President Trump immediately and in uncertain terms tell them that you want the following done to protect student privacy:
Feel free to remind them that close entanglements with Big Data were politically harmful both to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, that privacy is an extremely important issue to parents of all political persuasions, and that you will be watching closely as the 2018 elections approach.