The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) held its third public hearing on February 9th. This is the organization put into place after President Obama signed a bill authored by Speaker Paul Ryan. CEP is hearing testimony and being urged to recommend lifting the prohibition on a student-unit record system and other issues in order to make longitudinal data on individual American citizens more accessible to government agencies and researchers. Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project previously testified about the dangers of this idea.
After covering the lack of constitutionality, the dangers inherent in the strong likelihood that subjective social emotional data will be added, the already large amount of evidence that government education programs are very ineffective, and that data security in the US Department of Education is very weak, these were her recommendations:
1. Retain the prohibition of a student unit-record system.
2. Strongly consider a moratorium on further federal research until programs already shown to be ineffective and harmful are transformed or eliminated and until effective measures are actually implemented.
3. Prohibit social emotional data-gathering and the use of data for predictive testing in the FERPA and Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) reauthorizations.
4. Put in strict data-transparency language and update the data-security language per the recommendations of technical experts like Dr. Joel Reidenberg or Barmak Nassirian in any FERPA reauthorization.
5. Require third-party software and testing vendors to notify parents of what data is collected on students and how it is used.
6. Find a way for students whose identity and privacy is compromised to be compensated, in addition to penalizing researchers or private vendors that breach data-security.
7. Close the curriculum and assessment loophole for invasive surveys in the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.
8. Demand that the US Department of Education immediately repair the federal data-security failures found in the Inspector General’s recent report and uncovered by the House Oversight Committee.
It will be important to monitor the recommendations of this commission to Congress and to speak out against any suggestions harmful to citizen, and especially student, data and psychological privacy. Stay tuned.
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