Archives for category: privacy rights

Pennsylvania’s test scores dropped again. Rigor!

The curriculum is developmentally inappropriate, the tests are two grade levels above grade level. Class sizes are growing because of budget cuts. Money has been sucked out of public schools to fund privately managed charters.

Rigor was designed to fail more students and pave the way for privatization. It is working.

The National Science Foundation has awarded grants of $4.8 million to several prominent research universities to advance the use of Big Data in the schools.

Benjamin Herold writes in Education Week:

“The National Science Foundation earlier this month awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of prominent research universities aiming to build a massive repository for storing, sharing, and analyzing the information students generate when using digital learning tools.

“The project, dubbed “LearnSphere,” highlights the continued optimism that “big” educational data might be used to dramatically transform K-12 schooling.

“It also raises new questions in the highly charged debate over student-data privacy.

“The federally funded initiative will be led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, who propose to construct a new data-sharing infrastructure that is distributed across multiple institutions, include third-party and for-profit vendors. When complete, LearnSphere is likely to hold a massive amount of anonymous information, including:

“Clickstream” and other digital-interaction data generated by students using digital software provided to schools by LearnSphere participants;

“Chat-window dialogue sent by students participating in some online courses and tutoring programs;

“Potentially, “affect” and biometric data, including information generated from classroom observations, computerized analysis of students’ posture, and sensors placed on students’ skin.

“Proponents say that facilitating the sharing and analysis of such information for research purposes can lead to new insights about how humans learn, as well as rapid improvements to the digital learning software flooding now flooding schools.”

Whoa! The Gates-funded “galvanic skin response monitors” are back! Two years ago, it seemed to be a joke but it’s no joke. Researchers are still trying to gauge biometric reactions with sensors placed on students’ skin.

This really is Brave New World stuff.

Just think: Your tax dollars will help to fund a project to mine your children’s data and turn that data over to for-profit vendors to sell things to the children and their schools.

What can we do about it? Refuse to use digital learning tools in school. Don’t give them the data. Use pencils and pens. Now we understand why the two federally-funded Common Core testing consortia must be tested online and online only. This is the means of producing the data that will be mined.

This is all very sick. It has nothing to do with education and everything to do with violating the rights of families and children. No child will be better educated by mining their data, observing their posture, and monitoring their skin responses. this NOT ABOUT LEARNING. This is about money. Greed. Profits. And we are paying for it.

Race to the Top provides incentives for unprecedented collection of student data. Bill Gates and Rupert Myrdoch created a new corporation called inBloom to collect and store this data. They say it is good for students and teachers but it is hard to understand why the government and private corporations need so much confidential data about everyone.

Here is one article that creates a context.

It is about the huge new industry called data mining. Every time we open the Internet or swipe a credit card, our data are added to a profile.

“The industry of collecting, aggregating, and brokering personal data is known as “database marketing.” The second-largest company in this field, Acxiom, has 23,000 computer servers that process more than 50 trillion data transactions per year, according to The New York Times.1 It claims to have records on hundreds of millions of Americans, including 1.1 billion browser cookies (small pieces of data sent from a website, used to track the user’s activity), 200 million mobile profiles, and an average of 1,500 pieces of data per consumer. These data include information gleaned from publicly available records like home valuation and vehicle ownership, information about online behavior tracked through cookies, browser advertising, and the like, data from customer surveys, and “offline” buying behavior. The CEO, Scott Howe, says, “Our digital reach will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the US.”

Big data. The answer to everything except our privacy.

An antique concept: privacy.

Here is another reason to opt your children out of state testing. The state plans to collect data on every student throughout their lives, on the nutty belief that someone somewhere will figure out from this Big Data “what works.”

This massive collection of data reflects the NSA’s conviction that the best way to stop terrorism is to listen to every phone call and read every email of everyone in the U.S. and abroad.

Maybe these will be the jobs of the future: reading “private” emails, listening to “private” phone calls, reviewing the confidential information of students.

Sounds like East Germany’s Stasi, not America.

This powerful speech was written and delivered by Frank Sutliff to a crowd of concerned citizens and educators at the Oneonta (New York) Forum on January 18, 2014. Sutliff is a Principal and is also the President of SAANYS (School Administrators Association of New York State).

He said:

​I appreciate the opportunity I have been given to speak here today. Although I am the President of the School Administrators Association of New York State, better known as SAANYS, I am not here today representing this organization of over 7000 administrators. Instead, I am here as a veteran Principal with 26 years of experience running a junior-senior high school, as well as having been in education over 30 years.

​”here is one main issue for me with the APPR, the common core, and what I call the corporate takeover of American public education. That issue is the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on something that is of questionable benefit to children in any way, shape, or form. This hysteria over college and career readiness is a manufactured crisis based on data that compares apples to oranges, a crisis designed to enrich the coffers of publishing companies. The illusion that children in the United States are ill prepared and that they will never be competitive in a world market has manifested itself in many ways. I will concentrate on three of these issues today- the corporate takeover of education, high stakes testing, and the questionable data gathering in New York State via InBloom.

“Recent announcements out of the Governor’s office state how students are being “put first” in improving and reforming education and that education funding has been increased by $1.8 billion over the last two years.

​Let me talk about how students are being “put first” in my district the last two years. I am sure that many of you here in the audience have seen the same thing.

• Is cutting 14 courses so that some students sit in so called “study halls” or the senior lounge for five periods a day “putting students first”? We no longer offer Computer Graphic Design, Construction Systems, World War II, or History and Digital Media just to name a few courses lost to cuts to teaching positions.

• Is the end of all professional development, including curriculum mapping and data analysis “putting students first?”

• Is cutting a guidance counselor as students’ academic and emotional needs increase “putting students first”?

• Is the cutting of numerous sports, clubs, and activities “putting students first”?

In this state and across the country, where we have been sold a bag of goods with Race to the Top, we are supposedly “putting students first”. In my district, we could “put students first” by providing them with needed and desired courses, providing their teachers with professional development, and providing these students with services and activities. Instead, on the Friday before Christmas, I received yet another huge shipment of common core modules where kindergarten students can learn about Mesopotamia, fifth graders can do close reading of passages from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and high school students can close read documents from the Federal Reserve Bank. As I sorted and distributed these boxes of material, I could see my senior lounge where students sit period after period due to the lack of course offerings. However, the millions and millions of dollars for Expeditionary Learning and Common Core Inc. continue to flow unabated.

“I am encouraged by the efforts of groups such as yours and I feel that grassroots efforts such as those done by the “Oneonta Area for Public Education” are well worth the effort in trying to effect change.

“I would like to share an email that I wrote about these issues and then sent to my teachers a few months ago. I believe my email sums up where we now are in this fight to restore sanity to our schools and how groups such as yours came to be.

“As the wasteful APPR system came into being with hundreds of millions foolishly allocated through Obama’s Race to the Top, there was little public outcry against it. Any objections were mainly from educators and the public could have cared less due to the disdain spewed against teachers and administrators by our governor and others. When the common core came in with it, there was little outcry against it, as no one understood the implications- a few “shifts” here and there and a few billions for testing and publishing companies. Again, no one outside of education really cared as criticisms were viewed as just those of whiny teachers and self serving administrators.

During this time, various educational groups formed to fight back against these initiatives, particularly on Long Island and in Western New York. However, these were isolated pockets and the public took little or no interest, nor did the legislators.

However, when students returned to school and began to have hours and hours of homework with the expectation that parents would help with things they did not know and when young elementary students started saying that they hated school, things began to change quickly. The final straw was when the test results were sent home; parents who had previously been told that their children were above average and doing well found out that their children were instead, barely achieving and in need of AIS. This is when the heat got turned up, resulting in common core forums where parents (“special interest” groups according to Commissioner King) got involved and heatedly voiced their opinions. As we know, this resulted in the cancellation of these forums by King and a public outcry.

What Commissioner King does not understand and has not dealt with in his limited experience as a school administrator is the vehemence of parents when it comes to defending their children. Any administrator with experience understands this and this is when the top down and forced compliance of the APPR/common core debacle thankfully went off the track. When parents got involved because their children were treated as lab experiments and started to voice their opinions as well as contact their legislators, the “revolt” against this nonsense found its voice.”

​This is the voice with which you are all now speaking- speaking out against all of the testing, all of the squandered resources, and the decisions being made by corporate leaders with no experience in public schools. I look at my own district and try to find one positive thing about the APPR and the common core and I find none. However, when I look at the negative impact it has brought us, I see morale at an all time low, teachers reluctant to share their practices with colleagues due to concerns about their “score” and money spent on purchasing tests that could be spent on students. This is my own experience; to be fair, I know colleagues in other districts and within my own professional organization who appear to be quite pleased with the so called reform agenda, particularly the common core. My question to them would be the same- could these hundreds of millions have been better spent by providing services and opportunities to students instead of being spent in a top down experiment?

​I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the testing. I have been giving 3-8 assessments (in my case 7-8), as well as Regents exams for years and years. I never had a problem with these tests before, other than a few blips along the way (a 2004 fiasco with Algebra being a prime example). Overall, it was an excellent system with tests of relatively high quality administered from district to district. What we did at my school with the 3-8 assessments in particular was to invite K-12 teachers as a group to scrutinize and study them in the following year. We looked for strengths and weaknesses, not to get better test scores, but to inform instruction. In fact, leading these data groups was one of the highlights of my professional career- to have 3rd grade teachers discussing math standards with the trig teacher is a wonderful use of educators’ time. However, with no money for professional development and the secretive nature of the tests now, this activity no longer occurs.

​Now as part of “putting students first” and the mantra of college and career readiness, we give 3-8 tests that are longer than the law boards and include concepts and topics never taught. This is part of the now famous State Ed analogy of “building the plane in the air.” However, as we “build the plane in the air”, we not only fail children, we fail their teachers in the quest to make teaching an activity that can be assigned a number.

​Another thing associated with testing that I find truly disingenuous is the notion put out from Albany that all of the additional SLO testing is the fault of districts and the APPR plans they adopted. The fact that we spend money purchasing these tests for the so called non-core courses and then waste students’ time giving them came directly from State Ed as they instituted the APPR. This testing, given for no other reason than to give teachers who do not get a NYS growth score a number, comes right out of Albany’s directives and their inability to answer simple APPR questions with one consistent and correct answer. To suggest otherwise and to blame districts for this is disingenuous.

​I am not going to go into specifics about the common core due to time limitations today; I will leave that better said by others. However, as a former librarian, it is hard to see the little regard with which fiction is held as we are given mandated acceptable levels of nonfiction. As a child growing up in Gloversville, my books came from the Gloversville Free Library and so did much of my education. I know that I loved reading due to the worlds that it opened; I also know that our so called close readings of prescribed documents and passages will not open up that same love of literature in today’s students.

​Everywhere I turn the common core rears its head. One of the most disappointing recently was on the Kindle Free Time product that offers. My soon to be four year old granddaughter enjoys this feature of the Kindle with all of its games, activities, books, and videos; it really is a wonderful product. Recently Amazon tweeted out “Kindle Free Time launches Learn First and Bedtime Educational Features.” I saw the tweet and thought great, a good product getting even better. I clicked on the link and saw the following- “Now with thousands of educational titles- hundreds of common core aligned level readers and supplemental readers.” Enough is enough- preschool?- can’t kids just have fun?

​Finally, I want to discuss one other area of Race to the Top that is very concerning to me and should concern you as parents and educators- InBloom. This is the data system New York State has bought into where students’ confidential information is stored by private companies in the cloud. In fact, this data system is so concerning that some districts are returning Race to the Top funds in an attempt to not have their children’s private data stored in this way. One example is the Pearl River School system; on October 31 they voted to opt out of Race to the Top, due to concerns about privacy. Their Superintendent, Dr. John Morgano, was quoted as saying “However, we learned from the State Education Department that they will be collecting individual student discipline data and sending it to InBloom. There is no need for a private company to possess a child’s disciplinary history so that it is potentially available to prospective colleges and employers. I will not be a party to this infringement of privacy rights.” Kudos to Superintendent Morgano and I second this, as should each of you. I have handled all the student discipline in my school for the past 26 years. I send a form or letter or a certified letter home, depending on the incident, and then put a copy in my desk for future discarding, never in the student’s permanent file.

​Although I know my way around data, computers, and student systems, I do not put discipline in digital form in our student system for just that reason. I have no problem reporting out to State Ed that I suspended 20 students out of school last year; however, I can think of no reason why they or a private company needs the name of these students. This assault on privacy, which is all too commonplace in our country today, should concern each of you.

​In closing, I received a memo dated October 24, 2013 from our Education Commissioner, as did most of you working in schools. This memo detailed changes in testing, continued the illusion of our failures as educators, and ended with the statement “Teaching is the core.”

​Of course, “teaching is the core” but making a difference in the life of a child should be more of the core. Learning and motivating children to develop their full potential is the core art of teaching. I could stand here the rest of the afternoon as could each of you and mention a teacher or adult who has impacted our lives. For me it was Zane Peterson from Gloversville High School, Dr. Wayne Mahood at SUNY Geneseo, and Esther Tasner, Children’s Librarian at the Gloversville Free Library. For you, the names are different but the idea is the same.

​An anonymous public school teacher in Delaware wrote the following which appeared in a blog site on; it was then quoted in an article by Valarie Strauss and I would like to share it with you. “They assume the best teaching and best learning can be quantified with tests and data. Yet I’ve never once had a student compliment me on my academic knowledge or my data collection skills. I’ve never had a student thank me for writing insightful test questions or staying up late to write a stunning lesson plan. But students HAVE thanked me for being there, for listening to them, for encouraging them, for believing in them even before they could believe in themselves.”

​In our field of education, these stories happen every day. Just a few weeks ago, my ninth grade English teacher spent hours of each day helping a young lady who had previously met with very little academic success in her life. This teacher worked with her as she prepared her speech for a local oratorical contest, and this same student placed and went on to the next levels. To see the hugs and the high fives for this girl’s success and to see her beaming with pride is really what it is all about. This young student, years from now, won’t recall her close reads or the scripted lessons that have resulted from the state’s fabricated illusion of our failing students and failing educators. However, she will recall the kindness of this teacher helping her to be successful; this kindness is not quantifiable, data driven, or able to be reported to the state. Really, at the end of the day and at the end of a career, isn’t it all about helping a child to be successful?

​Thank you for allowing me to share some thoughts with you this afternoon and I thank you for your efforts on behalf of all of our children.

This is very odd. The public schools of Douglas County, Colorado, are controlled by one of the most conservative school boards in the nation, which just retained its majority in a closer-than-expected election. Conservatives usually are zealous about privacy rights and protect traditional institutions. But there is a new strain of ideologue who wants the free market to rule, and the market demands data.

This reader–noting that Colorado pulled out of inBloom–says Douglas County will create and market its own data system:

“Douglas County School District in Colorado has hired consultants to create their own form of Inbloom. The BOE members have publicly stated they wish to market and sell the program to other districts. They have called it InspirEd. Read about it on the DCSD website,”

This is from Leonie Haimson, who has been the national leader in the fight to derail the collection of confidential student data via inBloom, the Gates and Carnegie-funded program.

Read this:

They are not collecting blood type, voter status, and religious affiliation
(of course.)

They are collecting:

Students’ name, addresses, unique ID;
Their parents’ telephone number, email, and nature of their relationship
(i.e. whether mother, father, stepfather, foster mother, guardian etc.)
The date the student was born and if not born here, when entered the US;
Their family’s economic situation, including whether they participate in
public assistance programs and whether they get free lunch;
Their race, their ethnicity, their home languages, and whether they are
limited English proficient;
Their disabilities, and what services they receive (including special
education services, counseling, etc.)
What their 504 status is, which can include a wealth of medical and health
When any of these conditions was first identified and when it was removed;
Every day the student was absent, and whether this was due to an
out-of-school, or an in school suspension, an unexcused or excused absence,
and the reason why;
Every course they took in every year, how many credits they accumulated,
and what grades they received;
Any and all assessments they were given, including achievement tests,
“attitudinal tests” and “cognitive and perceptual skills tests”;
The results of any and all those tests, including their scores and
performance levels;
Any subtests or assessments that relate to specific learning objectives
(or SLOs), and the assessment “response” (ie “a student’s response to a
stimulus on a test”, whatever that means)
The learning standards tested, the content standards and the grade levels
for which the learning objective is targeted.

Mercedes Schneider here examines the Data Quality Campaign.

Why is there so much demand for student data? Why now?

As she explains,

Corporate education reform is designed to turn profits for privatizers. That said, in corporate reform, there are two huge money makers that will ”outprofit” all other profiteering: standardized testing, and data sales and storage.

The two are inextricable. Consider the mandates for state participation in Race to the Top (RTTT). In order to compete for RTTT funding, states were required to demonstrate both a standardized testing dependence and establishment of a “statewide longitudinal data system.”

While the federal government insists that reform is being driven “by the states,” it is clear that the USDOE is actively clearing the way for reforms that it supports, one of which is the collecting of an unprecedented amount of data on America’s school children.

There are many funders of this unprecedented effort to collect data about the nation’s children.

But why?

When I was Assistant Secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Innovation in the early 1990s, I was often called upon to respond to parents who wrote to ask why the federal government was collecting data about their children. They thought that NAEP was the vehicle. I responded by saying that there was no such data collection, and all this was rumor and speculation and untrue.

But now it is fact. It is real. There will be a national database in which children have unique identifiers, and in which the uses of this information are unclear.

Again: Why?

This is an issue that transcends political parties or ideology. Teachers are not permitted to disclose personal information about their students. Why is it being collected? For what purpose? For whose purpose? Shouldn’t parental consent be necessary?

The number of suburban districts in New York State dropping out of the state’s Race to the Top program continues to grow, largely because of parent concern about the data-mining of their children’s private records. These districts received relatively small amounts of money in exchange for accepting many mandates.

This article sums up the current situation:

Twenty-eight school districts in the Lower Hudson Valley have dropped out of the Race to the Top program in recent weeks, largely due to state plans to share student records with a privately run database, a survey has found.

Four more districts will consider the move within a week, and several others may do so in time.

The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents surveyed 76 districts, including special act districts, in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties. Of the 53 districts that responded, more than half have pulled out of Race to the Top since last month — forfeiting mostly small federal grants. Another 10 districts never took part in the program.

“Our concerns have to do with how the state can guarantee thedata will be secure in the future,” said South Orangetown Superintendent Kenneth Mitchell, president of the superintendents group.

The state Board of Regents wants to send about 400 categories of student records, starting with names, to inBloom, a nonprofit group, so that educators can better analyze student needs. But local school officials and parents have expressed grave concerns over how the encrypted data — from disciplinary to health to income records — could be used down the line.

In addition, the following information comes from the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents:

Opting out

Districts that dropped out of Race to the Top: Bedford, Brewster, Byram Hills, Carmel, Croton-Harmon, Dobbs Ferry, Eastchester, Elmsford, Garrison, Greenburgh Graham, Hastings, Hendrick Hudson, Hyde Park, Irvington, Lakeland, Mahopac, Mamaroneck, Mount Pleasant, Pearl River, Pelham, Pleasantville, Pocantico Hills, Rye Neck, Somers, South Orangetown, Spackenkill, Tuckahoe and Yorktown.
Districts that never joined RTTT: Ardsley, Blind Brook, Briarcliff Manor, Bronxville, Chappaqua, Edgemont, Harrison, Putnam Valley, Rye City and Scarsdale. 
Source: Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents

Twenty-eight school districts in the Lower Hudson Valley have dropped out of the Race to the Top program in recent weeks, largely due to state plans to share student records with a privately run database, a survey has found.

Four more districts will consider the move within a week, and several others may do so in time.

The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents surveyed 76 districts, including special act districts, in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties. Of the 53 districts that responded, more than half have pulled out of Race to the Top since last month — forfeiting mostly small federal grants. Another 10 districts never took part in the program.

“Our concerns have to do with how the state can guarantee the data will be secure in the future,” said South Orangetown Superintendent Kenneth Mitchell, president of the superintendents group.

The state Board of Regents wants to send about 400 categories of student records, starting with names, to inBloom, a nonprofit group, so that educators can better analyze student needs. But local school officials and parents have expressed grave concerns over how the encrypted data — from disciplinary to health to income records — could be used down the line.

“We haven’t gotten real clear answers,” said Hendrick Hudson Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter, whose district opted out Wednesday night. “In the absence of certainty, districts are opting out and losing trust.”

On Wednesday, lawyers representing a dozen New York City parents filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the state from shipping records to the inBloom.

Illinois is the only other state fully committed to inBloom, which is struggling to find support for a national database of student records.

Districts have dropped out of Race to the Top to avoid having to choose a state-sponsored data “portal” that will connect to inBloom’s database. But state officials insist that districts have to contribute much of the same data.

“There is a sense that the student privacy issue has awoken a sleeping giant in parents, even more so than testing,” said Susan Elion Wollin, president of the Bedford school board, which withdrew Wednesday, and president of the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association. “We all want what’s best for the kids, but people need to hear what the state is doing to accommodate concerns.”

Districts that dropped out of Race to the Top still have to use the Common Core learning standards and tests.

Source: Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents


Colorado has severed its ties with inBloom, the data storage project financed by the Gates and Carnegie Corporation, which intended to aggregate 400 data points on every student, including confidential information, and store it on a “cloud” managed by Parents are fearful that the data cloud may be hacked and that the ultimate purpose of the data warehouse is to use their children’s information for marketing purposes.

A reader sent this message:

“I was fortunate to be with a large group of parents united against inBloom and Common Core yesterday, when the CDE announced to us that they have severed ties with inBloom statewide! Please spread the word that Colorado will “Bloom no more”! Cheri Kiesecker”

Here is further confirmation.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163,104 other followers