States mismanage student information, study concludes
The Washington Post reports, citing a Fordham Law report “Children’s Educational Records and Privacy” in Oct. 2009
Collection systems for education appear vast and vulnerable
States often collect far more information about students than necessary and fail to take adequate steps to protect their privacy, a national study concludes. The dossiers go far beyond test scores, including Social Security numbers, poverty data, health information and disciplinary incidents.
. . .The movement toward statewide databases with unique student identifiers, rooted in the standards-and-testing movement of the 1990s, has grown significantly in this decade under the federal No Child Left Behind law and is getting a fresh push this year from the Obama administration. Federal officials want to link student test scores to teacher files to help evaluate instruction. They also envision systems that track students from pre-kindergarten through college, to help raise college completion rates.
From the Fordham Report;
Among state departments of education there has been a growing trend to establish statewide longitudinal databases of all K-12 children within a state in order to track students’ progress and change over time. This trend is accompanied by a movement to create uniform data collection systems so that each state’s student data systems are interoperable with one another. These two trends raised privacy concerns that we examine in this study.
. . .. Specifically, our goal was to investigate what type of data was being collected and whether children were protected legally and technically from data misuse, improper data release, and data breaches. Second, we were concerned with the ease with which individual interoperable state data systems could potentially be combined to create a national database of all K-12 children. (Emphasis mine)
I share these concerns. Unfortunately Fordham was unable to get much information on Oklahoma’s school data systems or practices but from a minor bit of digging on the subject, I do find some reason for Oklahoma parents to be asking some questions.
and in 2010;
SIF means Schools Interoperability Framework
SIF is an interoperability framework that enables the exchange of information between diverse data systems. Oklahoma is the first state to deploy SIF. How did we manage that?
We are also the first state to mandate compliance by law.
So, What sort of information is being collected and shared on students?
Broadly, the data collected on students includes their
- health, and
- family information
Those categories pretty much cover, well, just about everything and the SIF standards are internationally benchmarked.
Oklahoma is an active participant in the Common Core Standards Initiative, a consortium of 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. The Initiative is coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers. The standards that are being developed will be internationally benchmarked
Read More about international benchmarks
But wait, there’s more;
“at least 32% of the states warehouse children’s social security numbers, at least 22% of the states record children’s pregnancies, at least 46% of the states track mental health, illness, and jail sentences as part of the children’s educational records, and almost all states with known programs collect family wealth indicators.” says the Fordham report
The report states that “most states collected information in excess of what is needed for the reporting requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and what appeared needed to evaluate overall school progress”
Why would most states do this. Seems like this would be just more work for them. School administrators and teachers already have their hands full. If most states are collecting all of this excess data, you can bet there is a reason for it and it probably has something to do with funding.
“Oklahoma’s student information system, The Wave, is regarded as a state-of-the-art, real-time electronic system unlike any other state’s in the nation for student reporting and accountability efforts.”
In the May 2010 press release announcing Oklahoma’s award for its student information system, Sandy Garrett, Oklahoma School Superintendent remarks;
“This system was not developed overnight. We were diligent in taking the steps to make it sound, secure and reliable, and to ensure it was a platform that wouldn’t become out-of-date, but rather provide infrastructure for the inevitable advances in data collection and reporting.”
If you have followed my blogging even casually you will know that I am extremely opposed to the intrusive and ever increasing levels of surveillance being directed upon law abiding people and that state Fusion Centers are a major focus for me.
“They use their technology infrastructure to gather and analyze data on the factors that are most predictive of students who are in danger of school failure and/or dropping out. . . .As a result, the district has forged new partnerships with local law enforcement agencies”
Our schools and Fusion Centers both use Data Mining and Predictive Analytics, although for (somewhat) different purposes.
Predictive Analytics data and text mining, data collection and statistics software enables law enforcement agencies to anticipate criminal behavior by quickly analyzing massive amounts of incident data – along with current and developing conditions, such as weather, time of day, city events or even paydays – to ensure the safety of citizens and officers.
Fusion Centers incorporate a vast array of sources for information collection including law enforcement, public safety, transportation, education, health, agriculture and the private sector
My interest in what is going on in our public education system is directly tied to my concern about the Fusion Centers and I’ll tell you why. Because any and all information is being fed to them. Public schools are no exception. In fact, it is the tying of information that is the source of the problem. One database holding information is not what bothers me, it is the fact that these systems are being merged.
I have much more that I will be sharing with you about this issue but I think it is important enough to try and lay a firm foundation before I do. To this end, I will be having an expert on education & privacy law who will catch us up on the on the history and development of school information collecting on my radio show, AxXiom for Liberty, this Friday evening.
Beverly Eakman was an Educator, 9 years and a Science & Technical Writer/Editor-in-Chief of NASA’s official newspaper. She was the Chief speechwriter for: Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and a writer: U.S. Dept. of Justice from 1991-2004. She is also the author of several books on education policy including the recently released, Walking Targets and has written many feature-length articles: Education Week, Chronicles Magazine, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, National Review, The New American, Crisis Magazine, The Washington Post and served as the Executive Director of the National Education Consortium from 1994-2006.
I will be posting some of Beverly Eakman’s work between now and Friday and I hope that you will join me Friday at 6pm CST to find out more about what is happening in our schools and what we can do about it.
AxXiom for Liberty is heard in 18 different states around the nation on AM and FM stations. It can also be heard live over the internet every friday at Rule of Law Radio. http://www.ruleoflawradio.com
If you would like to call in with a question or comment, the number is 512-646-1984.