No Need to Worry Your Children’s Data is Safe From the Feds

Hey, feds … nothing to see here. Move on.

The breaking ed-tech news last week (January 24, 2014) came in the form of this headline: State Chiefs to Arne Duncan: We Won’t Share Student Data

Upon first glance at the headline, I was overjoyed. However, within seconds it hit me. Actually two things hit me:
1. Why didn’t the state ed chiefs first send this letter, or their concerns, to their own constituents? You know, the folks they work for within their own states.
2. If the state ed chiefs felt the need to pen this letter to US Education Secretary Duncan, does it mean that there was (is) a chance that personally identifiable student information and test scores would be sent to the federal government? After all, if there was never a chance of that happening, there would be no need for this letter, correct?

The urgency of the letter stems from the development and potential implementation of two new standardized testing systems: PARCC and Smarter Balanced. These are two federally funded multistate consortia setup to basically develop and implement new computer/tablet based tests. Nealry $330million from the Race to the Top funds was granted to both organizations (see details here.) I’ve been warning local NY folks about PARCC for the last year for a variety of reasons (technology needs, cost, time constraints, data-mining, do we really want the only technology time our kids get in school to be testing time, etc.), but now it appears there is a chance the state ed chiefs are also “worried” about these new tests.

– What happens to this “agreement” if any of these state ed chiefs no longer hold their current positions?
– Exactly what data could have been shared with the feds if this agreement was not signed and sent?
– Would the student results of the tech based PARCC/Smarter Balanced tests be electronically sent to the feds?
– Why does the agreement between the US Department of Education and the testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, have this clause (on PDF page 10 here):

The Grantee [the testing consortium] must provide timely and complete access to any and all data collected at the State level to ED [the US Dept. of Ed] or its designated program monitors, technical assistance providers, or researcher partners, and to GAO, and the auditors conducting the audit required by 34 CFR section 60.26.

– What school district has examined the NYS contract, or agreement, with PARCC? What is the district’s assessment of the agreement?

Please read more on the letter to Secretary Duncan and the data plans of PARCC/Smarter Balanced in the writeup from Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters below.
What privacy protections are there when states share data with the testing consortia or with the feds?

Also note that just last week as well Indiana withdrew as a partner in PARCC. Will state partnership in this new testing project deteriorate like we have seen with the inBloom, Inc. project?

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