Browsing articles in "Data Collection and Data Privacy"
Apr 15, 2016
ELW

Robert Holland Describes Federal Psych Profiling in Town Hall Column

Robert Holland interviewed Dr. Karen Effrem about the growing dangers of federal psychological profiling in multiple federal education programs in an excellent article entitled  Do Parents Want Their Children on Uncle Shrink’s Couch?. He discussed how the US Department of Education is psychologically profiling our children in preschool programs like Race to the Top, Head Start, and now ESSA; via the reauthorization of the federal education research bill, SETRA (Strengthening Education Through Research Act – S 227), and planning to test subjective, non-academic, psychosocial “mindsets” via the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The government’s term for all of this is social emotional learning (SEL).  We have frequently discussed this topic in relation to child mental screening, Common Core, and preschool. Here are some excerpts:

One of the most influential ways the federal government is molding young minds is through “social and emotional learning” (SEL) programs, a prominent feature of the omnibus Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015.

SEL has no clear definition in federal law, but many education sites tout SEL as instilling in students the necessary attitudes and skills that will supposedly enable them to manage their emotions, which in turn theoretically helps them do good things, such as showing empathy for others.

Very much in the same vein is the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA), which is currently being considered by Congress and will likely be passed soon. SETRA is a reauthorization of a George W. Bush-era law that extended the U.S. Education Department’s research arm into the collection of personal data about students and also authorized the use of linked state longitudinal databases.

Proceeding so far with minimal debate in Washington, DC, SETRA would expand federal education research to pupils’ “social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively.”

This kind of subjective probing of children’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior amounts to psychological profiling that (thanks to electronic dossiers) could haunt an individual throughout a lifetime.

Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician who has tracked this trend for years as the president of Education Liberty Watch, laments, “Parents are expected to submit their children to this kind of government profiling and psychological experimentation with no explanation, no way to express concern, [and no way to] opt their children out.”

Effrem also says SETRA is incredibly problematic because parents are afforded “no way to see the federally mandated assessments or to find out what private, sensitive psychological data was collected on their children as part of some online assessment and shared with some third-party vendor without their consent.”

Starting with the 2016–17 school year, the exploration of what education theorists call “the affective domain”—meaning feelings and emotions, as opposed to actual thought—will spread to the fairly well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the Nation’s Report Card. A background survey accompanying NAEP will attempt to assess a child’s grit and motivation, among other qualities.

Holland goes on to describe the preschool programs and the family engagement rule draft that are both very heavy on SEL and what the effects would be:

In plain language, this means the government will assess children every single step (or crawl) of the way, from cradle to career, to be certain they acquire all the attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions the omniscient, omnipotent government deems they must have. SEL, baby, SEL.

The plan to assess children and have this life long dossier determine their futures has been the plan for a very long time – at least as far back as Mark Tucker’s infamous 1992 “Dear Hillary” letter:

His vision is “…to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone” that is coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

It has continued through the tenure of Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education:

 We must as parents stand together to protect the lives, privacy and futures of our children.

Jan 7, 2016
ELW

Education Liberty Watch Comments on Federal “Family Engagement” Policy

Detailed comments were submitted by Dr. Karen Effrem on January 4th in response to the US Departments of Health ad Human Services and Education’s Orwellian Family Engagement Policy Framework. The full document is available here: Family Engagement Policy Comments.  A summary of the four main points of contention are as follows:

  1. Parents are not just “equal partners,” they “own the store” when it comes to raising their children – Although the document says on page one that “Families are children’s first and most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers” on page 1, it does not clearly set forth the preeminent role of parents in the education and upbringing of their children.  Based on Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, Troxel vs Granville, and Meyers vs. Nebraska to name a few seminal Supreme Court decisions that have affirmed the constitutional right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, the pervasive language in this document that parents are mere partners with government or that government programs are to perform “parenting interventions” is extremely disturbing and unacceptable.
  2. Promotion of government home visiting programs – Based on this agency’s own research, these programs are extraordinarily ineffective in two of the major areas that they are alleged to help:

    Prevention of Child Maltreatment:  For primary measures in the studies reviewed where there was data listed, only 15/75 parameters (20%) showed a positive effect while 60/75 parameters (80%) showed no effect and there were many programs not studied.
    Child Development and School Readiness:  For primary measures in the studies reviewed where there was data listed, only 77/448 parameters (17%) showed a positive effect while 362/448 parameters (82%) showed no effect, 3/448 parameters (1%) showed a negative or ambiguous effect, and there were many programs not studied.

  3. Focus on social emotional parameters and data for young children – It is the epitome of destruction of parental autonomy to have the federal government via any agency tamper with, manipulate, set norms for, or otherwise deal with anything in this realm.  Psychiatric diagnosis and social emotional parameters are extremely subjective to begin with and are especially difficult to use for young children in particular. Having data and evaluations of these subjective and inaccurate parameters in children’s records that follow them for life is extraordinarily problematic.
  4. Data Privacy – The draft document is replete with references to expand data collection such as this recommendation on page 9: “Develop and integrate family engagement indicators into existing data systems.” Students, families, and teachers whose sensitive personal and family data about everything from “social and emotional” issues to genetic data in newborn screening is collected and shared between many federal agencies and private entities. According to an investigation by Politico, education technology companies are “scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.”  FERPA has been severely weakened via regulatory fiat to gut consent requirements and broaden access to data by federal agencies and private entities.  Given both the extent and sensitivity of the data that would need to be collected, the spectacular failure of the federal government to protect citizen data (Healthcare.gov, OPM and NSA data breaches), and the complete absence of the word “consent” in this document, this kind of data collection should be eliminated, not expanded

 

Jan 5, 2016
ELW

SETRA – The Federal Data Mining & Psychological Profiling Bill Returns

ACTION ALERT! THIS BILL CAN COME UP ANY TIME! Like the zombie movie character Freddie Krueger that refused to die, the federal psychological profiling and data mining bill, Strengthening Education Through Research (SETRA, S. 227) has been resurrected by Senator Lamar Alexander and it Big Data backers .  This bill that you helped us stop in February was rammed through by Senator Alexander on a voice vote after ESSA and the omnibus budget passed right before the holidays.  It expands psychological research on school children, strengthens state longitudinal databases that are or soon will be linked into the prohibited national student database and contains other privacy horrors.

Thanks to American Principles Project and the Pulse 2016 for publishing Dr. Effrem’s article on this very important topic excerpted here:

Here is a recap and update of what we wrote earlier about the extremely serious problems with SETRA:
SETRA reauthorizes the 2002 Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) that has been very problematic, because it started the concept of state longitudinal databases, evaded the prohibition on a national database by creating “national cooperative education statistics systems,”  allowed personally identifiable information to go to international agencies, and removed the  previous penalties of fines and imprisonment for misusing individual student data. SETRA continues or worsens all of that. Here are four major problems with SETRA (A detailed analysis of these points is available HERE):
1. SETRA seeks to expand federal psychological profiling of our children.
Section 132 of the bill (page 28, line 16-21) inserts the following:
“and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively…” (Emphasis added).
The US Department of Education (USED) is already in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment.  The amount of data collected on individual children, families, and teachers via USED through this law and the weakening . . .  of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) . . .  is appalling and [violates] the Fourth Amendment as well.  To then give the federal government the right to research the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors of free American citizens, especially innocent children, is completely unacceptable . . . .
2. SETRA only appears to prohibit a national database, but actually promotes it.
Section 157 of the bill takes out the word “national” and ostensibly prohibits a national database. While this appears to be an improvement, it unfortunately doesn’t do anything to stop the egregious loss of privacy that has happened since ESRA established the “national cooperative statistics systems” and “state longitudinal databases” in 2002.  These databases have become more invasive via The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, Stimulus), Race to the Top, and the America COMPETES Act.  In addition, they are relying on outdated and weak student privacy laws (FERPA and PPRA), there is no enforcement mechanism, and we have seen how the federal government repeatedly and flagrantly violates its promises not to extend its authority, as with Race to the Top, Common Core, and the national tests.
3. The bill continues to rely on a severely outdated and weakened Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(FERPA) to protect student privacy.Both ESRA and SETRA refer to FERPA (20 USC 1232g) . . .  and require data privacy to be handled according to that law.  However, FERPA passed in 1974 long before the presence of interoperable databases and cloud computing.  It also only discusses sanctions on entities that mishandle the data and those [sanctions], which used to include fines and imprisonment, were severely weakened when ESRA was passed in 2002.  Students, families, and teachers whose sensitive personal and family data about everything from “social and emotional” issues to genetic data in newborn screening data have no redress.  According to an investigation by Politico, education technology companies are “scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.” (Emphasis added) Finally, FERPA has been severely weakened via regulatory fiat to gut consent requirements and broaden access to data by federal agencies and private entities.
4. SETRA continues the large loophole that renders PPRA ineffective in preventing nosy social questions in curriculum and assessments.
PPRA, cited in section 182 as 20 USC 1232h, prohibits the collection of psychological, political, religious, and other sensitive data in surveys, but not in curriculum and assessments such as in Common Core.
In addition to the Rep. Tim Ryan’s gushing admission during ESSA floor debate, here is another of many pieces of evidence that a key purpose of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments is to psychologically manipulate and profile our children:
“ASCA [American School Counselors AssociationMindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level. (Emphasis added)”
SETRA is not listed on the House of Representatives schedule for the week of January 4th, but will likely come up very soon, probably on the consent calendar. Fortunately, if only one House member objects and calls for a recorded vote, we’ll see who in the House believes in the psychological invasion of our children. Please call your House member at 202-224-3121 and ask him or her to object to SETRA if it appears on the consent calendar. It should be removed from the consent calendar and, at the very least, the social emotional research language should be removed via amendment.  If it is to be passed regardless of these serious objections, it must be done via a recorded vote. Any politician who supports exposing our children’s psyches to the federal government should at least have to do so in the light of day.
Jun 29, 2015
ELW

Reasons to Support the Student Privacy Protection Act – S. 1341

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch & Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

The following is a more detailed analysis of why congressional members’ support of Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) privacy bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S. 1341[1] is so important. This bill is the culmination of many discussions and the attentive listening of Senator Vitter with constituents, parents, pro-privacy attorneys and physicians, and others who have spent years fighting the data collection[2] associated with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments and the mental screening of children. Here is important information that will show that this legislation is a major step forward in improving student data privacy and protecting students’ freedom of conscience and freedom from government directed psychological profiling.

SPPA Prohibits Psychological Screening:

One of the most exciting parts of SPPA, especially for analysts and activists like the author, who has been fighting mental screening and the over-diagnosis and drugging of children as young as infancy for more than a decade,[3] is the prohibition on psychological testing and the strengthening of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.  After defining various terms, the bill does not merely require consent for mental screening and assessment or surveying of psychological attitudes with federal funds (a completely inappropriate federal activity), it fully prohibits psychological screening and profiling. The only exception is for special education evaluations, which is already current law. Significantly, the bill extends the prohibition of psychological screening and profiling to assessments, and thus would also ban the more horrific features of the Common Core assessments.

Here is the key language of SPPA:

‘‘(2) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds provided to the Department or Federal funds provided under any applicable program shall be spent to support any survey or academic assessment allowing any of the following types of data collection via assessments or any other means, including digitally[4] (Emphasis added):

This language protects a long list of affectively related surveying and testing parameters,[5] and is much more protective of students in this area than any other legislation, state or federal, introduced anywhere.

SPPA Closes the PPRA Loophole that Allows Psychological Screening in Regular Classroom Curricula and Assessments:

PPRA, which requires parental consent before surveying or evaluating students on eight categories of sensitive information[6], contains loopholes that render the privacy protections moot in the case of curriculum and assessments:

(4) Exceptions

(A) Educational products or services

Paragraph (1)(E) [the eight areas of sensitive information requiring parental  consent for surveys] does not apply to the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the exclusive purpose of developing, evaluating, or providing educational products or services for, or to, students or educational institutions, such as the following:

(iii) Curriculum and instructional materials used by elementary schools and secondary schools.

(iv) Tests and assessments used by elementary schools and secondary schools to provide cognitive, evaluative, diagnostic, clinical, aptitude, or achievement information about students (or to generate other statistically useful data for the purpose of securing such tests and assessments) and the subsequent analysis and public release of the aggregate data from such tests and assessments. (Emphasis added)

The Vitter language to include assessments in the prohibition on psychological testing and screening was designed specifically to close this gaping loophole.  This is also especially relevant because of the very recent news that the National Assessment of Educational Progress plans to assess non-cognitive, social emotional parameters[7]:

The nation’s premiere federal testing program is poised to provide a critical window into how students’ motivation, mindset, and grit can affect their learning…

…The background survey will include five core areas—grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status—of which the first two focus on a student’s noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school.

SPPA is also vitally important because of already documented intent of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments to psychologically manipulate and profile students (see these statements from U.S. Department of Education (USED) and other national education organization documents[8]):

“[A]s new assessment systems are developed to reflect the new standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, significant attention will need to be given to the design of tasks and situations that call on students to apply a range of 21st century competencies that are relevant to each discipline. A sustained program of research and development will be required to create assessments that are capable of measuring cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills.” (Emphasis added).[9]

“There are important opportunities to leverage new and emerging advances in technology (e.g., educational data mining, affective computing, online resources, tools for teachers) to develop unprecedented approaches for a wide range of students.”[10]

In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass a range of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”[11] (Emphasis added.)

National model standards often contain elements of social and emotional learning. For example, 42 states and two territories are in the process of adopting the Common Core Standards in Math and English Language Arts, which contain standards on communication (especially speaking and listening), cooperation skills, and problem solving.”[12] (Emphasis added.)

“ASCA [American School Counselors Association] Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level.”[13] (Emphasis added).

“There are many other Common Core Standards that these social and emotional basic skills can be integrated with.”[14] (Emphasis added.)

SPPA Prevents Psychological Profiling of our Students through the IES/NCES Reauthorization (SETRA):

SPPA actually preemptively prohibits social and emotional research on school children to prevent expansion into socioemotional research by the Institute for Education Sciences and The National Center for Education Statistics in S. 227, the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA) by Senator Lamar Alexander, about which several organizations have warned.[15]

Here is the problematic language in SETRA:

”and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively. . . ”[16] (Emphasis added).

USED is already in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment and probably the Fourth Amendment with the amount of data collected and disclosed on individual children, families, and teachers. The Vitter language stops the federal government from researching the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors of free American citizens, especially innocent children:

‘‘(4) NO NATIONAL ASSESSMENT USING PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA

.—No funds provided to the Department or to an applicable program may be used to pilot test, field test, implement, administer, or distribute in any way any federally sponsored national assessment collecting any psychological data or any federally sponsored research on social-emotional data in education. (Emphasis added).

This bill stops the unacceptable expansion of IES and NCES into the realm of affective research in their SETRA reauthorization.

SPPA Adds Important Protection against 2nd Amendment Data Collection to PPRA:

SPPA contains all of the same important protective elements as the current PPRA statute, and adds “Personal or family gun ownership,” to prevent nosy bureaucrats from snooping into if and how students and their families are exercising their Second Amendment rights.

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