The following comment was posted on the blog by Laura H. Chapman, who has been a teacher, author, and curriculum designer in the arts, now retired. We are very fortunate to have such a brilliant person regularly commenting here. In 2011, the U.S. Department altered regulations governing student privacy to make it easy for third parties to access confidential student data.
I have been looking into issues of data use and privacy. The US Department of Education has a new privacy czar… sort of.
If you want to register a complaint about the loss of privacy due to holes punched in the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) by Arne Duncan and his tech buddies, why not go to the top privacy official at the US Department of Education, Kathleen Styles? She is USDE’s first Chief Privacy Officer—Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or go to Michael Hawes, Email: email@example.com who is her advisor and the person who oversees USDE’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).
What is PTAC? PTAC is supposed to be a “one-stop” resource for learning about “data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices related to student-level longitudinal data systems and other uses of student data. PTAC provides timely information and updated guidance on privacy, confidentiality, and security practices through a variety of resources, including training materials and opportunities to receive direct assistance with privacy, security, and confidentiality of student data systems.” This technical assistance is targeted to meet the needs of state and local education agencies and institutions of higher education.
What fascinates me is that these PTAC services—the production and review of “privacy technical assistance products”—are outsourced to an unnamed contractor. The contractor works under “the guidance of the Chief Privacy Officer and in close collaboration with the FERPA Working Group, which consists of representatives of the Office of Management, the Family Policy Compliance Office, and the Office of General Counsel.
PTAC also “regularly consults with the USDE’s Privacy Advisory Committee, whose members include Chief Statistician of National Center of Education Statistics, the program officer of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS), and representatives from the office of Federal Student Aid, the Office of Civil Rights, and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (among others).
Because the unnamed contractor is smack in the middle of this administrative and “technical assistance” architecture on privacy, I wanted to discover who had that contract.
It is a for-profit company, Applied Engineering Management Corporation (AEM). Since 2010, (AEM) appears to have been awarded about $12 million to set up the resources at PTAC.
AEM also has contracts with other federal, state, and local governments and agencies.. Their work for USDE includes management of data gathering required to support the “No Child Left Behind” legislation including the 180 data descriptions for EDFacts. EdFacts is the destination for AYP reports, all of those disaggregated test scores, and so on. That is heavy-duty data warehousing.
AEM has also operated the National Student Loan Data System receiving data from every college, university, and agency that participates in Title IV loan guarantees and related programs. AEM also designed the management system to track funds allocated to school districts for the National Math and Science Initiative.
AEM’s website also says it helps “educators in developing high quality longitudinal P-20 data warehouses and business intelligence solutions that stand the test of time and enable data-driven decision making.”
I could not find any of the full contracts with AEM. I suppose they are available somewhere. I am sure this company has expertise in data management.
The part that bothers me is the idea that “business intelligence solutions” might well be made with all of that P-20 data that is being warehoused, especially since AEM is functioning as if it is major branch of USDE and AEM’s name is not disclosed as the contractor that designed and operates the “Privacy Technical Assistance Center.”
AEM–the go-to corporation for USDE’s data management and privacy–has managed to suppress it’s identity as the conduit for USDE’s “big data” projects and guidance to state and local agencies on privacy. Use this phrase to get to the PTAC resources “Privacy Technical Assistance Center.”