Browsing articles in "Data Collection and Data Privacy"
Sep 14, 2013

Problems with Data Privacy in Relation to Common Core Standards, The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, and The Education Sciences Reform Act

Karen R. Effrem, MD

President – Education Liberty Watch

The type and amount of personal, family, and non-academic data collected by the schools, reported in state longitudinal databases and used for research by the federal government was stimulated by the passage of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA) and has grown rapidly since then.  Loss of student and family data privacy has been accelerated by the proliferation of education programs funded by the federal government, especially in the early childhood realm and including home visiting programs that collect a plethora of medical, psychological, and family data and the effort to integrate standards, programs and data literally from “cradle to career” through P-20W education program integration and state longitudinal databases that were part of the Head Start reauthorization of 2007 and required by the Race to the Top and Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant programs starting in 2009.

ESRA is up for reauthorization. That law allows the National Center for Education Statistics to collect data “by other offices within the Academy and by other Federal departments, agencies and instrumentalities.” and “enter into interagency agreements for the collection of statistics.”  That data covers from preschool through the work life of every American citizen and includes “the social and economic status of children, including their academic achievement,” meaning every aspect of their lives and the lives of their families.  This combined with the weakening of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to be described below is a great danger to the privacy of American families and makes the data collection by the IRS and NSA look tame.

In addition, although ESRA makes an effort to prohibit a national database of individually identifiable student data in section 182 by saying, “Nothing in this title may be construed to authorize the establishment of a nationwide database of individually identifiable information on individuals involved in studies or other collections of data under this title;” that language appears to be negated by this language in Section 157:

“The Statistics Center may establish 1 or more national cooperative education statistics systems for the purpose of producing and maintaining, with the cooperation of the States, comparable and uniform information and data on early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, adult education, and libraries, that are useful for policymaking at the Federal, State, and local levels.” (Emphasis added).

That language is even more worrisome in light of the grants to fund and promote state longitudinal databases in section 208 of ESRA, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and even more heavily promoted in the Race to the Top K-12 and Early Learning Challenge programs. Continue reading »

Aug 12, 2013

Feds Resolute Yet Tone Deaf on Data Collection

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch

Attending the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)  STATS DC 2013 Data Conference “Discovering Through Data” was certainly an eye-opening experience for me.  Despite protestations that they are concerned about the public perceptions on privacy protection, it was very clear that they are not backing down on the amount and type of very personal private information they intend to collect on children and families from a young age and that gathering data is still a greater concern for them than individual student privacy.  Here is my report showing some evidence of that contention based on sessions that I attended.

NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley won the award for  most tone deaf presentation title, calling his introductory keynote speech (not kidding!) “We Are From the Federal Government and We REALLY Are Here to Help You.”  In that talk, while acknowledging that the” balance [between privacy and the government’s desire for data] is in a very delicate place, and that if we fail here in a very spectacular way, much of what we have done in the last ten to fifteen years could be undone,” he also spoke of “balancing the rights of our students & their families to keep their data confidential & secret as appropriate, but also to balance the needs that we have for the massive investment in education, of understanding its returns, of understanding how the system is working, how do we improve it, with the ultimate goal always of improving the educational outcomes of our citizens…” It is clear that the “massive investment” is more important than privacy.

That data privacy is a secondary concern is confirmed by this quote from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) website that says, “While state policymakers bear the responsibility for protecting student privacy, they need not do so at the sake of restricting the use of quality, longitudinal education data in support of their ultimate goal: improving student achievement.”  It is important to note that the DQC is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Alliance for Early Success,, AT&T, and Target, all entities that will profit heavily by having lots of data collected on our children.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also funding a very alarming student database project called inBloom that already  holds data that includes “name, address and sometimes social security number…learning disabilities…test scores, attendance…student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.”

Buckley also complained about he and his fellow federal data gatherers  being of accused of an “attempt to catalog students and track them for life based on their eye color or their genetic code…”  Apparently, he was not aware of the content of all the presentations planned for the conference.  Interestingly enough one of the sessions that I attended later in the conference was called P-20W Data Standards for More Successful Student Transitions and Life-Long Learning.  In that session, they spoke of the data collection from early childhood through the workforce, including health and developmental (mental health) data in early childhood.  Not even realizing that the early childhood presenter was from Rhode Island, I asked about that state’s plan documented in their Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Application to combine health data, including the newborn screening, i.e. genetic, data with their preschool and K-12 data.. [We reported on this outrageous government collection of the most personal of data in Preschool Government Tyranny – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”] saying:

Rhode Island’s proposed early learning data system will be linked to both the state’s K-12 data system and to the state’s universal newborn screening and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” This is a classic example of the rapidly expanding philosophy that the government owns every single bit of medical and education data about you and every family member from conception until after death. We are seeing this played out in the realm of DNA medical data and now private mental health data through these subjective and worthless assessments.   These assessments will then be added and linked to health data so that government bureaucrats will be able to label the young children they consider to be mentally ill or flag them for future evaluations.

The Obama preschool plan is largely based on the ideas of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. That plan is to also expand home visiting programs which are accompanied by even more data collection on infants and families.  Continue reading »