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It’s time for a calmer debate about student data privacy – oped by Bill Duncan in today’s Seacoast Sunday
“Student data mining facts found on DOE Web site” screamed the headline on a letter to the Herald on Wednesday.
The letter itself claimed that someone is collecting “400 data points” saying, “The National Education Data Model is a comprehensive inventory of information that can be used by vendors and researchers.” And we hear more about how the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has been re-written.
The first point to make is that, although you will hear about data privacy as part of the Common Core debate, there is no connection between the two. All the same laws apply now as applied before. Common Core supporters want student data privacy as much as opponents do. If someone finds a real hole — and we should all look — everyone will want to plug it.
Extensive Portsmouth Herald article finds no risk to student data privacy. Stiles: “I’m not worried about the ‘big, bad wolf'”
Joey Cresta provided careful coverage of the bogus student privacy rights issue that Common Core opponents are riding as hard as they can. He brackets the fictitious claims by the Pioneer Institute, a free market advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers and the Walton Foundation,with accurate statements from his own knowledge of the issues and by Heather Gage of the NH Dept of Education and Senator Nancy Stiles.
My post, Student data privacy is not at risk, includes Heather Gage’s authoritative 11 pager that leaves no room for debate on the privacy issue.
Here’s a sample from the Herald:
There is no reason to fear for children’s privacy rights due to the implementation of the Common Core educational standards, a state education official said.
Here is a speech given by Marc Tucker, well known and widely respected education policy researcher (NCEE is his organization), at a legislative forum on October 29. If you would rather read the speech, here it is. It is definitely worth watching, all the way through the Q&A, which starts at minute 29:00.
At 32:38, Dr. Tucker answers the question about whether the Common Core supports Algebra in the 8th grade. The short answer is, “Yes.”
At 39:00, data mining and student data privacy, which I discuss here in the New Hampshire context.
At 41:10, what are the other countries to which the Common Core standards have been benchmarked? Dr. Tucker did not answer. Here’s my answer.
At 42:45, is more government needed to make education better?
At 46:35, since you have received Gates money, are you just a spokesman for Microsoft?
At 51:00, shouldn’t we adopt MA standards since MA scores well on international tests? Dr. Tucker uses this opportunity to talk more broadly about what it will take for U.S. education to become competitive globally.
At 55:14, Dr. Tucker discusses the fit between national standards and local control.
At 57:54, Dr. Tucker compares the new test to the old ones – Smarter Balanced to NECAP.
At 1:03:30, more on how states compare on international tests. And if we’re doing so well, why do we need the Common Core?
At 1:04:40, how does the Common Core compare to E.D. Hirsh’s concept of core knowledge?
At 1:06, aren’t the costs of the Common Core high?
At 1:08, shouldn’t you support charter schools?
At 1:12:20, what about STEM?
At 1:13:37, how will the Common Core improve education for our children?
Here’s the Monitor’s coverage of the upcoming Common Core legislation (emphasis added):
More than half a dozen Common Core-related bills will come before the Legislature next spring, nearly all of them coming from Republican lawmakers who are skeptical of the education standards and aim to limit their reach.
“I think it’s going to be the hot-button issue,” said Rep. Syndi White, a North Conway Democrat and Common Core supporter who also plans to introduce a bill on the standards.
Murotake will also introduce a bill to delay the tests by two years. [Here is our write-up on Dr. Murotake’s bill.] Teachers need more time to adjust to the content and teaching methods expected from Common Core, he said, and it’s unfair to begin the tests before people are ready. In states such as New York where the tests have already been rolled out, student scores have dropped dramatically.
Eagle Tribune reporter John Toole wrote a piece yesterday with a telling quote from Cornerstone:
Cornerstone, announcing a forum last month with AFP at St. Anselm College, said many parents, teachers and legislators are questioning and opposing Common Core.
“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students? What about all the data collection on students and their families? What will this cost taxpayers?” Cornerstone asked.
There it is. The Common Core debate in New Hampshire is being driven by homeschoolers and privatization advocates like Cornerstone out of concern for how improved public education standards might eventually affect voucher and home schools. Just stop and think about that for a minute. These folks are part of a national effort that would shut down public education and replace it with private and home schools but still want to set policy for New Hampshire public education. In case it might eventually affect them.
Here is Cornerstone advocating for vouchers last year, saying that New Hampshire standards are so bad that students need private tutors to be successful in school. Now the same folks oppose a improving New Hampshire academic standards because of “all the data collection on students and their families?” Where does this concern come from? There is no serious risk to student data privacy in New Hampshire. Nor does cost appear to be a serious issue. No. Cornerstone is clear about its real concern, asserting that “teachers” are concerned about the question:
“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students?”
Personally, I doubt it. But Cornerstone’s frequent advocacy partner, Jamie Gass, from the free market Pioneer Institute says he opposes the Common Core for the same reason: it might affect charter and voucher schools.
Adoption of the Common Core became a political issue in Manchester driven largely by a local radio talk show host who serves on the board of and sends his kids to the the libertarian Liberty Harbor Academy, an advocate for privatization of New Hampshire public education. Here is Manchester master teacher Selma Nacach- Hoff pleading with the school board to move beyond that political debate and exercise its responsibility for curriculum leadership. And the school board did do the right thing last week.
Homeschoolers and private and religious schools funded with vouchers operate with no accountability in New Hampshire. So advocates seem to want a public debate about the Common Core because, at some time in the future, they might feel cramped by the effort to improve New Hampshire public education.
As a result, we will have at least 5 bills in the upcoming legislative session and a number of school boards around the state are earnestly debating the merits of the Common Core, a clear step forward for New Hampshire public education, because homeschoolers and voucher advocates are concerned that their rights might eventually be infringed.
We pride ourselves on our open public debate here in New Hampshire. I hope that will never change. Common Core opponents should get a fair public hearing. But legislators and school board members should not allow themselves to be sidetracked by the Common Core red herrings offered by advocates for privatization of public education.
Maintaining the privacy of our personal data, especially student data, requires constant vigilance. However, the fears fanned by Common Core opponents are not justified. In the context of implementing the Common Core State Standards and the accompanying assessments, privacy need not be at risk.
Student data privacy is well protected in New Hampshire. Here is a detailed treatment of the issue prepared by the New Hampshire Department of Education. It answers most every possible question.
In summary, though, start with the Cooperative Agreement under which the federal education department funded the development of the Smarter Balanced assessment we will be using in New Hampshire. There are sentences in the agreement that, taken separately, could serve as fodder for the agreement that a student’s personal data could find its way into national databases. Here is one, item 3. on page 11, for instance:
Work with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that result from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies;1
But footnote 1., referred to in the document, reads:
1 Eligible applicants awarded a grant under this program must comply with the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act (FERPA) and 34 CFR Part 99, as well as State and local requirements regarding privacy
Rep. David Murotake has submitted a Legislative Services Request (#2097 – a request that staff work with the legislator to draft a bill for the next session of the Legislature) for which the one line summary is
“delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and relative to studying the feasibility of certain changes to the minimum standards for school approval.”
Dr. Murotake’s bill may not be available on-line to the public for months yet but, based on some on-line commentary I’ve seen, it has been in circulation for awhile. The bill now appears to have surfaced in the form of a draft resolution that Dr. Murotake hopes will be considered by the Nashua School Board. Dr. Murotake is in a contested (six candidates for four seats) school board race, however, and the board chair has put off discussion until after the election on November 5th.
The key feature of Dr. Murotake’s draft resolution and bill is that it,
“Requests New Hampshire Board of Education and Department of Education to delay mandatory implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) and other Common Core State Standards (CCSS) alignments required in the CCSS Implementation Framework for a period of two years…”