Browsing articles in "Data Collection and Data Privacy"
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 »