Last week, Florida Senator Bill Galvano sent the following email to a constituent who had called and visited his office with very legitimate concerns regarding Florida SB 878 (See detailed analysis ). Dr. Karen Effrem offered a point-by-point response which hopefully will be instructive to other states as they fight the imposition of a very alarming set of Common Core Standard linked assessment and data collection system that will affect students, families, and teachers. (Dr. Effrem’s responses are in italics below each point from the senator). Education Liberty Watch and the statewide coalition of Florida citizens thank Senator Galvano for being willing to consider these concerns as the bill moves forward.
From: GALVANO.BILL <GALVANO.BILL@flsenate.gov>
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2013 17:46:10
Subject: SB 878 – Education Accountability
I appreciate you taking the time today and sharing your views with my office regarding Senate Bill 878, Education Accountability, which requires performance accountability for public schools by strengthening the definition of co-located schools and establishing protocols for access to existing quality data. SB 878 strengthens, streamlines and establishes protocols for access to existing data maintained by the Florida Department of Education.
With all due respect, there is too much data collected and too much access to this data to entities that do not have the privacy or best interests of our children and families in mind. The last thing we want is to strengthen or stream line that process.
The bill does not expand data that is collected.
Yes the bill does expand data that is collected. Lines 115-117 say, “To promote adoption of a common set of data elements identified by the National Center for Education Statistics to support the effective exchange of data within and across states.” This NCES list contains hundreds of data points including very personal items, such as “religious affiliation”, “voting status”,” parental income”, and “Disease, Illness, or Health Condition” . (See http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentElementarySecondary) If the FL DOE is already collecting this amount of data, then this bill should be seriously limiting what the state and federal governments collect on innocent children and if it is not, this current bill language will allow expansion to the full NCES model to happen. In addition, according to the US DOE, the plan is to use the Common Core Assessments to measure for“21st century skills” of grit, tenacity, and perseverance, and key psychological resources (mindsets, learning strategies, and effortful control) for a range of purposes that the Common Core standards are supposed to teach. (See US DOE report Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century)This is rank psychological manipulation.
The bill simply creates a web-based interface to serve as a single location for access to aggregated data from the K-20 warehouse.
There are actually two portals created by this bill: 1) The public portal does a decent job of making the data anonymous in lines 272-274. 2) However, the “Research Portal” contains no such restrictions in the bill or mentions any in current law or regulation.
The bill also formalizes procedures for accessing and reporting data pursuant to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
FERPA student privacy protection has been significantly weakened via regulation by the Obama administration, so much so that the Electronic Privacy Information Center is suing the U.S. Department of Education. One of the biggest concerns is the expansion of who may have access to individually identifiable student data without parental consent to “A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph…” Therefore, FERPA protections are not very comforting to parents that wish to protect their children’s and family’s sensitive data. Parents, the PTA, and ACLU in nine states are loudly protesting this situation in combination with a new national database called inBloom developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify Education Company. (See the Reuter’s story K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents ). SB 878 uses the term “authorized agent, ” which means this long list of outside entities that has data access , 12 times in the text of the bill. The bill also mentions the phrase “FERPA exception,” which means all the excuses that the government uses for allowing access to individual data, three times and the term “personally identifiable data” seven times. Again, there is no stipulation for anonymizing data accessible to researchers in this bill.
Before providing student data to researchers, DOE strips personally-identifiable information from student data and assigns a random, annonymized ID to each student record. The bill does not change this.
There is no reference to statute or regulation stipulating that this is the procedure that is carried out. That reference should be put in the bill or language requiring such procedures should be written into the bill at a minimum. Anonymization is a help, but does not answer the basic question of why so much sensitive student and family data is kept by the state and is now or will be linked to the federal NCES databases. The other issue is that the government still has the link to the anonymized ID numbers and there is no real way to assure parents and the public that this data is safe.
Additionally, there is a provision in the bill that prohibits the commercial sale of a child’s information.
This language prohibits the direct sale, but does not necessarily prohibit the use of this data for research for developing commercial products be they software, assessments or even pharmaceuticals based on all of the psychological data that will be measured, collected, and given to entities that have “a legitimate educational interest” in that data. There is also nothing in the bill that limits any of the parameters in the “written agreement,” only that entities with access to our children’s data have to follow the agreement.
As a father of 3 children in the public school system, I am very concerned about protecting their private personal information.
We are glad to hear that you are concerned about your children’s privacy. Hopefully the information in this email will spur you to continue to protect that privacy as well as that of all of your constituent’s children as you no doubt intended to do but may not have had enough information to fully accomplish with this legislation.
Notwithstanding the above, I will review the bill again with your concerns in mind.
Thank you for your willingness to do so. We hope that this information will help you decide to withdraw or delay you bill until it contains language that rolls back the significant government surveillance of and access to the sensitive data of our children.
State Senator, District 26
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