Archives for category: Privacy and Privacy Rights

Well, here is a nice development for those of us who object to depersonalized learning. The data analytics firm called Knewton is going out of business. Knewton was acquired by Pearson and was supposed to be the ultimate refinement of data mining.

Peter Greene describes the rise and fall of Knewton here.

The founder and CEO of Knewton was Jose Ferreira, who believed he was bringing Big Data into the classroom. He claimed in a video that with his techniques, his company knew more about students than their parents did. Here is an article from 2013 in which his vision is portrayed as the wave of the future, one of those inevitable phenomena that would envelop us whether we liked it or not.

Here he is, extolling the virtues of data mining. 

Knewton sounded too much like Brave New World to me, and I resented the fact that investors were creating a technology to spy on our children.

Peter Greene writes:

Adaptive learning. Computer-enhanced psychometrics. Personalized learning via computer. Knewton was going to do it all. Now it’s being sold for parts.

Knewton started in 2008, launched by Jose Ferreira. By 2012, Ferreira led the ed tech pack in overpromising that sounded both improbable and creepy. In a Forbes interview piece, Ferreira described Knewton as “what could become the world’s most valuable repository of the ways people learn.” Knewton could make this claim because it “builds its software into online classes that watch students’ every move: scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs.”

Developments like this offer hope that other massive invasions of privacy, which are inherently dehumanizing, will fail. I’m on the side of flawed and fallible human beings. Teachers and parents, not machines.

This report is a 50-state analysis of privacy laws, compiled by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Its leaders are Rachael Strickland of Colorado and Leonie Haimson of New York.

Please join this free webinar on protecting your privacy and the privacy of students.


A few weeks ago, it was reported that the personal information of 500,000 San Diego students, former students and school staff was exposed in a massive breach. At about the same time, education institutions and organizations were rated as the worst sector for cybersecurity in a 2018 report.

We invite you to join us for a short webinar on Jan. 20, with important tips on how teachers and district/school staff members can better protect their students’ privacy of and their own.

We will be offering guidance along with Marla Kilfoyle of the Badass Teachers Association from our Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy, released this fall. Educators will receive a certificate of participation. Don’t miss out! Space is limited!

When? Sunday, January 20 from 6-7 PM EST (3-4 PST). We’re saving lots of time for questions!

How? Sign up here – it’s free!

We hope to see you on the 20th.

Leonie Haimson and Rachael Stickland
Co-Chairs, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

The New York State Allies of Parents and Education issued this “action alert”:

Dear Allies,

URGENT – PLEASE TAKE ACTION and DEMAND the Board of Regents and NY State Education Department RETURN the MISGUIDED Gates Foundation Grant.

Last month, NY Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia asked the Board of Regents to approve a new $225,000 grant from the Gates Foundation for enhanced communication efforts around the standards, testing and data collection — to convince parents that State Ed is on the right track in all these areas. The Board voted 14 -2 to approve this grant, with only Regents Cashin and Ouderkirk voting no and Regent Johnson was absent.

The Gates Foundation has been behind some of the most controversial — and unsuccessful — education policies in history, including persuading states to adopt the Common Core standards, evaluate teachers based on test scores, and expand the collection and disclosure of highly personal student information as part of its $100 million dollar inBloom project. .

Luckily, New York parents and educators across the state defeated inBloom, but the state is still planning to expand its collection of student data from early childhood through college. The new standards that NYSED has developed are still developmentally inappropriate and little different from the Common Core and there is still too much emphasis on flawed high-stakes testing. Moreover, NYSED has failed to enforce the state student privacy law, passed in 2014 in the wake of the controversy over inBloom — though the legal deadline for implementation was more than four years ago. Meanwhile, NYSED’s own data system has been audited twice by the NYS Comptroller, and found to be highly insecure and vulnerable to breaches.

PLEASE CLICK HERE to TAKE ACTION and DEMAND that the Regents give back the Gates funds and instead of trying to hoodwink us into accepting State Ed’s flawed policies, include parents in authentic decision-making on all issues affecting our children, including standards, teacher evaluation, and privacy. The State Education Department should also be barred from any effort to expand student data collection until the 2014 student privacy law has been fully enforced and the SED’s own data system made secure.

Thank you,

Susan Edelman of the New York Post reports that the NYC DOE is under investigation by federal and state officials for giving personal information about students to a marketing firm hired by charter schools.

Wait! What about the long waiting lists?!

She writes:

“The city Department of Education reduces its enrollment by giving student names and addresses to a private vendor that produces mass mailings to help charter schools woo families.

“The longtime marketing practice has now come under investigation by state and federal officials after a Manhattan mom complained it violates student privacy rights.

“Each year my family receives a large number of pamphlets and flyers from charter schools, promoting and marketing their schools and urging me to apply, ” Johanna Garcia wrote to state and US officials.

“While Garcia has three kids in public schools, flyers have targeted her daughter who qualified for a gifted and talented program, she wrote, but not two other children with special needs.

“The DOE says it gives only student names, grade levels and addresses to Vanguard Direct, a bulk-mailing company, and forbids the company to share the data with anyone else.

“Charter schools — which are privately run but get taxpayer funds based on enrollment — hire Vanguard to send out hundreds of thousands of marketing materials aimed at recruiting kids.

“Major customers include charter chains Success Academy, Uncommon, KIPP, and Achievement First, said DOE spokesman Douglas Cohen. The DOE receives no payment from Vanguard, he said.

“In response to Garcia’s complaint, the New York state and US education departments said they are probing whether the marketing deal violates FERPA — a federal law which requires schools to get parent permission before releasing student information, except in limited cases.

“But Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said the reasoning makes no sense: “School districts lose funding and space when students enroll in charters. Why would the DOE use its own employees for that purpose?”

“Garcia agreed. “Vanguard makes money. Charter schools make money. All on the backs of regular public-school students.”

“The practice began more than a decade ago under ex-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, when Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz said she needed the DOE data to market her charter schools. It has continued despite Mayor de Blasio’s less-friendly relationship with charters.

“Chancellor Richard Carranza told a town hall meeting in Harlem last week that DOE schools should better market themselves to stem the rise of charter schools, reported.

“But charter schools say they rely on the mailings to fill seats.”

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the BadAss Teachers Association collaborated to create this useful information.

We’re excited to let you know that today we released the Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy: A Practical Guide for Protecting Personal Data with the Badass Teachers Association (BATs).

The toolkit is a user-friendly guide to help educators make informed decisions about the use of ed tech and social media in schools to help them protect their students’ privacy and their own.

There is also a good article about the Toolkit in today’s Ed Week.

We hope you’ll download a copy and share it with the educators in your life.

Also please tune in this Saturday, October 20th at 10:50 AM Eastern on the NPE Action Facebook page for a livecast discussion from the Network for Public Education’s annual conference in Indianapolis, led by Leonie on Outsourcing the Classroom to Ed Tech & Machine-Learning: Why Parents & Teachers Should Resist, with panelists Audrey Watters and Peter Greene.

Later that day, at 2:40 pm Eastern, you’re invited to join both of us along with Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson of the BATS, when we will presenting our new Educator Toolkit to the public for the first time. To view the event on the BATs open Facebook page, click here.

For more information about the toolkit, please see our press release below.

Rachael Stickland and Leonie Haimson

Co-chairs, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy


Leonie Haimson is executive director and founder of Class Size Matters. In addition to advocating for reduced class size, Leonie is a nationally recognized defender of student privacy and has won notable battles against data mining. She is also the most effective education activist in the city of New York. I am a member of her board.

I hope you will join us on June 19 for the annual dinner to benefit Class Size Matters.

Please reserve your seat now for our Annual Skinny Award dinner on Tuesday June 19. We will be honoring four tremendous individuals who have given us the “real skinny” on NYC public schools:

Council Member Danny Dromm, Chair of the Finance Committee & former Education Chair

Norm Scott, retired teacher and
blogger/videographer extraordinaire

Fred Smith, testing expert and critic

And a surprise honoree who will be announced at the event!

Join us on June 19, 2018 at 6 PM at Casa La Femme, 140 Charles St. in Greenwich Village, for a delicious three course meal with a glass of wine and great company!

This is always one of the most joyous events of the year, where we celebrate our victories and gain strength for the challenges to come. Buy your tickets today.

Even if you can’t make it, please consider making a contribution at the above link in honor of these terrific awardees, and to support our work going forward.

Hope to see you at the Skinnies, and thanks! Leonie

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

Make a tax-deductible contribution to Class Size Matters now!


Leonie Haimson is a model of an activist who drives city and officials crazy, as well as the billionaires who think they can drive policy with their money. She has two passions: reducing class size and student privacy. She created two groups to fight for her causes: class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters. Leonie and her allies (the Parent Coalition for Studebt Privacy)  killed inBloom, the data mining program of students that Gates and Carnegie funded with $100 Million. (Full disclosure: I am a member of her board [Class Size Matters] and she is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.) With meager resources, Leonie writes, testifies, organizes, blogs, and is a force to be reckoned with.

This week, she and a coalition of parents filed a lawsuit against the state and the city to demand class size reduction. 

See the lawsuit here. 

“Advocates and city parents have filed a lawsuit calling on state Education Department officials and city schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to reduce class sizes in the public schools.

“The suit filed in Albany State Supreme Court Thursday was brought by advocates with Class Size Matters, the Alliance for Quality Education and nine parents from all five New York City boroughs.

“It claims the state and city Education officials have ignored a 2007 law called the Contract for Excellence that required the city to lower class sizes.

“Class Size Matters founder Leonie Haimson said the city has instead increased class sizes, with nearly one-third of all students in classes of 30 or more children.

“It is unconscionable that the state and the city have flouted the law and are subjecting over 290,000 students to overcrowded classes of 30 students or more,” said Haimson, citing a Class Size Matters analysis of city Education Department data.”

Deborah Abramson Brooks, a parent activist and lawyer in Port Washington, New York, wrote this excellent overview of the testing movement and the backlash to it. She originally wrote it in 2014, but updated it to the present.

Brooks is a co-founder of Port Washington Advocates for Public Education; and a member of the board of New York State Allies for Public Education and the National Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

You will find this interesting and informative.

Read the entire document here.


The National Education Policy Center recently released by this important report:

Press Release:
NEPC Publication:
Washington Post Answer Sheet:

Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261,
Faith Boninger: (480) 390-6736,

NEPC Resources on School Commercialism

BOULDER, CO (April 6, 2018) – In yesterday’s Washington Post Answer Sheet, Alex Molnar and Faith Boninger, Co-Directors of NEPC’s Commercialism in Education Unit, explored the invasive data mining and third-party targeting of users that is inherent in Facebook’s business model and that led NEPC to delete its Facebook account and remove Facebook from the NEPC website.

Molnar and Boninger have studied advertising directed at students in schools for three decades. For the past five years, they have tracked and reported on the evolution of digital marketing and the use of digital platforms in schools. In a series of annual reports, they have repeatedly called for statutory changes and regulations to ensure student privacy, protect data, require transparency, and ensure accountability. In their essay, they explain that the kind of data practices revealed by the Cambridge Analytica scandal are operating in schools and classrooms every day as students’ personal data are scooped up by digital platforms with little oversight or accountability.

Molnar, who is also NEPC’s Publications Director, warns, “Lack of public oversight has permitted the development of a surveillance economy in which corporations relentlessly, invisibly, and very profitably gather information and create profiles on hundreds of millions of people.” He adds that in the absence of public oversight over how digital platforms collect, store, and use data, “there is little or no clear recourse when personal data are used in ways that cause personal and social harm. This is true not only for adults, but also for students whose data are collected through their schools.”

Although Facebook is not alone in collecting data from its users, its business model and particular use of the data stand out. Facebook presents itself as dedicated to bringing people together in a radically transparent world and as serving as a new “public square” where users can express themselves freely. Boninger contrasts this image with reality, where Facebook limits and exploits the false public square it has created: “Rather than letting users engage freely in its environment, Facebook’s algorithms silo users and present them with a distorted reality that is then used by advertisers to influence and manipulate them.” “This is not a ‘mistake,’ she points out. “It is what Facebook is designed to do.”

In high schools, when school groups use Facebook as an organizing tool, students must maintain Facebook accounts in order to participate in school activities. The existence of these accounts allows Facebook to collect data about students every time they visit a page with a “like” button. It also allows Facebook to collect information about users’ friends. Via the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is using his fortune to promote the adoption of what they call “personalized learning” platforms in schools (i.e., using software to target digitally-provided lesson content based on students’ past responses) that facilitate further collection of massive amounts of educational data from children.

With respect to the Internet, it is often said that if you’re not paying for a product you are the product. That is, if the company is not making money selling a product to you, then they make money selling someone else information about you. Molnar notes, “We’re particularly concerned when this product is children, who are especially susceptible to manipulation because they are still developing. Targeted marketing, facilitated by Facebook, manipulates children and influences their developing worldviews and interests, as well as their understandings of their families, friendships, romantic relationships, environment, society, and selves. These practices are harmful to adults, and when deployed against children they are intolerable.”

Learn more about NEPC research on digital marketing and data gathering in schools at

The following organizations also have resources on data gathering from children and in schools: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.