Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The New Civil Rights Issue of the Century

An Alert by Anita Hoge

Alert: Is your child's data safe with these 3rd party contractors that were allowed to access the personally identifiable information (PII data) because of FERPA being "unlocked" by Obama? The answer is NO! Should PII be collected at school or in assessments to be shared without informed written parental consent? No! No! No!


Yesterday,  it was announced that AIR (American Institutes for Research), a major research and testing organization with a significant presence in K-12 education in the United States, suffered a serious data breach earlier this month within the companies business systems. AIR currently has the contract for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two major multi-state consortia developing online assessments aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, and the organization that provides educational program evaluation and value-added teacher evaluation services to a number of states and districts. It's worth noting that AIR is currently embroiled in a dispute with Pearson, over a lucrative contract being awarded by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Common Core data that is collected through assessments
are NOT protected.

Your child's profiles are NOT protected.

So, lets talk about how your child's personally identifiable information is NOT protected when 3rd party vendors, businesses, contractors, volunteers, etc., are allowed to have written agreements and MOU's (memorandums of understanding) with your state department of education, or state board, to disclose this personal data, because the data was unlocked by FERPA.

Just last week an article appeared in EdWeek that blasted inBloom's failure to protect student and family privacy. Is this the New Civil Rights Issue of the Century? Yes, yes, yes! Data collection and Privacy are the key issues in Assessment. 

Let's ask some deeper questions. So, when you read the article about the controversy with inBloom, why isn't anyone asking, "How did inBloom get this data in the first place?" Let's ask the question! 

Why can these companies have access to personally identifiable information, PII, that is collected from the local level? FERPA, Family Education Rights in Privacy, regulations were re-written and went into effect Jan. 2012? The regs were re-written without Congressional authority, and with a stroke of a pen in an executive order, data was unlocked from student records. (See link below)

The new definition of "school official" was changed to allow an authorized representative that had access to PII to be almost anyone. A "school official" could be a third party vendor, foundation, corporation, business, or even a volunteer, with a written agreement, memorandum of understanding, or contract, allowing access to PII to do research on testing, curriculum, software, or evaluate other school programs. So these 3rd party vendors have lucrative agreements and expansive authority to access the data. These "school officials" are raking in the cash at the education trough and usually get this data for free. Then, with validated curriculum or software or new tests, they sell them back to the school where the data was sifted out. 

The validated curriculum or software will correct deficiencies, or are used as "interventions" for students to meet Common Core Standards, or College and Career Readiness Standards, for personalized or individual plans for each student. (See your states' ESEA Flexibility Waiver for information on RTI, Response to Intervention or Instruction for how IDEA Special Ed funds are used for interventions in the regular classroom.) What is interesting are the following questions...
  • Who is overseeing this access of data?  
  • Who writes the written agreements? 
  • Is it regulated? 
  • Who is deciding what the standards will be in the affective domain? 
  • What?  Did you say Common Core Standards will be testing in non-cognitive or affective domain areas? Yes. 
FERPA also changed the definition of PII and included fingerprints, voice prints, iris scans, DNA strands, photo tool, and other biometric markers to identify the individual. 

What is interesting is that the CCSSO has also changed the definition of Common Core. They have added dispositions in the non-cognitive and affective domain of attitudes, values, and beliefs.  The new name given is "grit," however; College Career Citizenship Readiness Skills or 21st Century workforce readiness skills is the new catch-all. So can we assume, that the new standards being pushed by the Chiefs will include psychological, personality traits that must have interventions to meet these unorthodox subjective standards? And that curriculum or software will be researched and developed to change personalities? Yes, this was the agenda all along. See HERE.

NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) has set out an agenda, again, to test soft skills, affective domain, and workforce readiness.... just like when I blew the lid off of the Pennsylvania EQA years ago when my son took the EQA test and I exposed the psychological testing of NAEP in our state assessment. See HERE

The New Civil Rights Issue of the Century

Parents should be up in arms over this invasion of privacy. This is possibly the new Civil Rights issue of the century.
  • Can government align certain personality standards and force compliance to change individual students to some subjective identity traits like cooperation, respect, adapting to change, or responsibility? 
  • Who decides what those standards are? 
  • What are the cut scores for ethical behavior? 
  • What are the standards for 21st Century Skills? 
  • Are these the same Department of Labor, SCANS, Secretaries Commission of Achieving Necessary Skills, interpersonal skills back in 1992 when the School to Work laws were passed? Yes!
This is not only an invasion of privacy, but this goes beyond First Amendment Rights. Does personally identifiable information about YOU, belong to YOU?  You might even think about this data as being your reputation. It has your  name all over it. Data has value. 

This data has a child's name and biometric markers that could identify him/her in an instant, a blink of an eye. If a 'deadbeat dad' can be found, so could any one of our children in this national longitudinal data base. If this data has value, in that it is re-sold, then it is property. If it is property then it must be paid for. If these vendors are making a profit from student data, they must pay for the use of it from each parent.
  • Step 1. Our battle cry from parents across the country should be, "STOP FERPA from allowing our personally identifiable information from being released and re-disclosed to outside vendors."
  • Step 2. Let's stop the illegal collection of PII data from being collected and scored in testing and assessments in the first place. Period.
A federal investigation is in order. FERPA loopholes must be closed. Informed written parental consent and compensation for intellectual property must be required for student PII to be used for research. Your President allowed FERPA to be changed through Executive Order, and without Congressional authority.

Call your US Congressman and Senators to initiate an investigation and expose the data trafficking. See HERE.

See previous post for background information about this issue.