by Emmett McGroarty
In 2002, the Bush administration started incentivizing states to create massive databases of personal student and family information. The Obama administration – aided and abetted by a roll-over Congress — threw that effort into overdrive. It did so through, among other efforts, the 2009 Stimulus Bill and its Race to the Top grants. And through unauthorized regulatory changes, it stripped away vital privacy protections. (For details see the Pioneer Institute paper Cogs in the Machine.)
But now citizens are taking notice and are alarmed at these threats to their children’s privacy. They are pushing back with the same informed activism underlying the movements against non-instructive testing and Common Core (see here and here). The huge educational-technology-industrial complex is alarmed as well – not that children’s privacy is at risk, but that its cash cow may be roped in by data-privacy legislation.
Time for the corporate conglomerates to head this off at the pass.
An early preemptive strike was development of the Student Data Principles, a set of “foundational principles for using and safeguarding students’ personal information.” These principles are supported by private organizations such as the Data Quality Campaign and Common Core owner Council of Chief State School Officers, who believe fervently that education can be transformed if we just measure every conceivable aspect of a child and share those measurements with “experts” who can mutter incantations over them and create a 21st-century worker.
Given the predilections of the creators, it’s not surprising that the principles are specific about the wonderful uses of data but less so about what should be done to secure it. But they create the illusion that these data-mongers share parents’ concerns about privacy.
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education. Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.