Proposed student data privacy bill does little to protect privacy (update)
By Valerie Strauss March 23
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is one of the sponsors of the new House student data privacy bill. (David Zalubowski/AP)
(Update: legislators did not introduce legislation on Monday as planned).
Two U.S. legislators are set to introduce a bill in the House that they say is aimed at limiting the way education technology companies can use data that they collect about students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. It’s called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, and its chief sponsors say it is meant to address a growing concern among students, parents and educators about the use of the oceans of data being collected about America’s young people. But a new analysis of the legislation, which you can read below, concludes that it doesn’t do much to protect the privacy of student data — and that it doesn’t stop the actual collection and mining of data by companies, which can use it to make money.
Student data privacy has become a big issue in the era of standardized testing, with education companies collecting a seemingly endless amount of information on public school students, some of it incredibly detailed.
Last year, a controversial $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates Foundation and operated by a specially created nonprofit organization called InBloom shut down after concerns about privacy led states to withdraw. The information was to be stored in a data cloud that would hold incredibly detailed data points on millions of schoolchildren with the stated mission of allowing education officials to use the information to target educational support. Activists led by New York’s Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, raised alarms that InBloom could not provide a 100 percent guarantee that the data could be stored securely.
The House sponsors of the proposed bill are Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also is expected to introduce student privacy legislation. In February, the White House issued a statement about its efforts to improve data privacy that said it was working with these legislators on advancing student data privacy. Polis and Messer were expected to introduce the bill on Monday but did not; a spokewoman for Messer said in an e-mail that a draft bill had been released and the sponsors were working on technical details before formally introducing it.
The draft Polis-Messer bill is called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act. But Haimson said in a piece on the Student Privacy Matters Web site that the bill addresses virtually none of the concerns that parents have about what is being done with data about their children. She said:
“The bill doesn’t require any parental notification or consent before schools share personal data with third parties, or address any of the current weaknesses in FERPA. It wouldn’t stop the surveillance of students by Pearson or other companies, or the collection and sharing of huge amounts of highly sensitive student information, as inBloom was designed to do.”
“All the bill does is ban online services utilized by schools from targeting ads to kids – or selling their personal information, though companies could still advertise to kids through their services and or sell their products to parents, as long as this did not result from the personal information gathered through their services. Even that narrow prohibition is incomplete, as vendors would still be allowed to target ads to students as long as the ads were selected based on information gathered via student’s single online session or visit – with the information not retained over time.”
Rachael Stickland, Colorado co-chair of the Parent Coalition, said:
“The bill doesn’t bar many uses of personal information that parents are most concerned about, including vendor redisclosures to other third parties, or data-mining to improve their products or create profiles that could severely limit student’s success by stereotyping them and limiting their opportunities.”
Here are other weaknesses of the bill, as identified by Haimson and Stickland:
- Parents would not be able to delete any of the personal information obtained by a vendor from their children, even upon request, unless the data resulted from an “optional” feature of the service chosen by the parent and not the district or school.
- Vendors would be able to redisclose students’ personal information to an unlimited number of additional third parties, as long as these disclosures were made for undefined “K12 purposes.”
- Vendors would be able to redisclose individual student’s de-identified or aggregate information for any reason or to anyone, without restrictions or safeguards to ensure that the child’s information could not be easily re-identified through widely available methods.
The Conservative Problem With the Latest Version of No Child Left Behind
This week, the House of Representatives will vote on an ambitious rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most far-reaching K-12 federal education law ever created.
Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.
But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that.
“This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law,” said Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education. “As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.”
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The Obama administration also opposes the legislation, fearing that it would be detrimental to schools nationwide. If the bill were to reach his desk, the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, suggested that Obama would issue a veto.
“As of today, this isn’t something we could support,” he told a group of reporters on Monday.
The Student Success Act would consolidate dozens of programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) and grant states more flexibility in how they use roughly $2.3 billion federal education dollars.
The problem, conservatives say, is that the legislation only gives states flexibility within a limited range of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and more importantly, it does not allow states to completely opt out of the law, which has long been their goal.
In an effort to fix that, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the Student Success Act that would allow states to withdraw completely from almost every aspect of No Child Left Behind—if they so choose.
“Innovation starts locally—not in Washington,” said Walker of the conservative amendment, called Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS).
Teachers and parents know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students, and we have seen time and time again that Washington’s top-down approach does not work.
A-PLUS has been introduced in various Congresses and was intended to provide an alternative to states that did not want to participate in No Child Left Behind. For years, states have pushed back against No Child Left Behind due to its mandates and unworkable policies.
DeSantis said the amendment “liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”
Infographic: Kelsey Harris
In addition to allowing states to withdraw from the 80-plus programs created under No Child Left Behind, conservatives are also advocating for policies that expand the concept of portability, which is perhaps the opposition’s biggest point of contention with the Student Success Act.
As it’s currently written, the Student Success Act would allow states to make Title I dollars allocated to low-income school districts to be portable to public and charter schools.
In a perfect world for conservatives, students could use Title I dollars in a private school of their choice.
In doing so, money could follow a student to an education option that best suits his or her unique learning needs, which proponents argue provides students who are trapped in failing schools a way out.
“Title I formula funding is some of the most complex in education law and all too often, does not reach the students who it was intended to help,” said Burke. “Portability would move towards funding students instead of districts and empower families with control over education policies that affect their children every day.”
Democrats believe portability robs funds from vulnerable, low-income school districts, and instead directs them to wealthier school districts that don’t need Title I dollars.
Duncan said the current portability provision included in the Student Success Act would be “devastating” to the nation’s poorest schools, stripping them of education funding they can’t afford to lose.
“Rather than helping improve the schools that need it most, the Republican bill would actually cut investments in these schools while increasing funds for some of the wealthiest areas in the country,” he said in a statement.
That approach is backward. We can’t just cut our way to opportunity. Our kids deserve better. Every child—no matter his or her ZIP code—deserves a quality education, including access to high-quality preschool and a fair shot at getting ahead.
As an alternative, the Senate Education Committee is drafting their own version of the Student Success Act, one that they believe could pass with bipartisan support.
“Bipartisan discussions between [Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,] and [Sen. Patty Murray’s, D-Wash.,] staffs on fixing No Child Left Behind are moving along well, and Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues,” an aide for Alexander, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told The Daily Signal yesterday.
“Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues. [He] hopes to fix this broken law to help states, school districts, and schools better serve all students,” she added.
Alexander and Murray have not released details of the proposal.
With the Obama administration already suggesting that the president would veto the Student Success Act—and the Senate working on their own bipartisan version—the chances of enacting any legislation that includes the conservative A-PLUS solution are bleak.
But that won’t stop Walker from trying.
“The president has threatened to veto practically everything under the sun and yesterday’s veto of Keystone clearly showed he is more interested in playing politics than working with Congress,” said Walker, adding:
Parents and teachers—not government bureaucrats—should have the ultimate say in education. They know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students. A-PLUS further empowers states and offers greater flexibility in federal education spending. It is smart, conservative education reform that strengthens the broader goal of the Student Success Act to remove the federal government from classrooms.
ACTION ALERT: STOP HR 5
Parents Against Common Core
Congressional Leadership Is Bull-Rushing Through HR5, the 600 Page Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (rebranded the “Student Success Act”)
The House votes this week. Call your Representative and call the Speaker of the House and tell them to vote “NO” on HR 5! 202-224-3121.
Below are just a few of the problems.
1. HR5 Denigrates Parental Rights and Seizes State Sovereignty
- No program shall “operate within a State, unless the legislature of that State shall have . . . waived the State’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance.” (Sec. 6561) (emphasis added).
- Federal requirements will trump the rights “reserved to the States and individual Americans by the United States Constitution” to lead in the education of their child. (Sec. 6564)
- Requires states to change laws and regulations to “conform” to HR5. (Sec. 1403)
- Alters the governance structures of states by requiring them to form “Committees of Practitioners” to whom the state must submit rules and regulations. (Sec. 1403)
2. HR5 Does Nothing to Relieve Children From No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) Oppressive Testing Requirements.
3. Feds Will Effectively Direct State Education Policy through Enhanced Continuation of Heavy-Handed NCLB Policies
- Requires states to demonstrate to the federal government that their standards, assessments, and state accountability systems meet the goal of “prepar[ing] all students to graduate high school for postsecondary education or the workforce.” (Sec. 1001)
- Requires states to submit comprehensive state plans, which the Secretary can disapprove. (Sec. 1111)
- States had to make the same showing and meet the same definitional goal to receive NCLB waivers and Race to the Top grants.. HR5 allows for a Common Core “rebrand.” (Sec. 1001) and (Sec. 1111(3)(A))
- Prohibitions against the Secretary forcing states into adopting Common Core are meaningless.
4. Increases Federal Data Collection To Control Curriculum
- Empowers the Department of Education to request individual student and teacher data from State and Local Education Agencies.
- Authorizes substantial new funding to use this data to evaluate whether schools are using “effective” instructional methods. (Sec. 2111(b)(1)(A)) and (Sec. 2132)
Michelle Malkin – Guest Columnist
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round, just like the endless cycles of big, bad government programs to federalize preschool and daycare.
On Wednesday, the White House Summit on Early Education will unveil nearly $1 billion in new “investments” to “expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America” from “birth and continuing to age 5.” It’s a retread of President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union school-spending plan, which was a repackaging of his 2011 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge program.
Those Obama initiatives are knockoffs of moldy-old Democratic policy chestnuts, such as former Vice President Al Gore’s push to fund preschool for all 3-year-olds at a cost to taxpayers of at least $50 billion over 10 years, left-wing actor/director Rob Reiner’s “I Am Your Child” campaign for universal preschool and child care, and Hillary Clinton’s various “It Takes a Village” schemes to expand Head Start from womb to work. With age comes fiefdom.
How could anybody be against tax-subsidized Pre-K for all, you say? Let me count the ways.
Every one of these Big Babysitter boondoggles rests on “progressive” junk science. The Obama White House asserts that “studies show that for every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more.” Balderdash. This discredited claim rests on results of the tiny Perry Preschool Project in Michigan, run at a cost of $19,000 per child more than a half-century ago, and a similar program in North Carolina called the Abecedarian Early Intervention Project.
As David Armor of the libertarian Cato Institute noted in a thorough review of the scientific literature this fall, the “groups studied were very small, they came from single communities several decades ago, and both programs were far more intensive than the programs being contemplated today.”
More recent research by the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst found that the vaunted academic benefits of full-time Pre-K in Georgia and Oklahoma “have had, at best, only small impacts on later academic achievement.” In fact, Georgia elementary school students’ test scores are mediocre, and Oklahoma test scores have been on the decline for the past decade. A 2010 Department of Health and Human Services report, which assessed approximately 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds who were randomly assigned to either a control group or a group that had access to the federal Head Start program, concluded that “at the end of kindergarten and first grade … the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied.”
In 2012, government researchers reported “little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.” The federal investments in early childhood programs keep ballooning, yet the educational impacts are dubious at best.
Then there’s the alarming encroachment of data miners into the lives of parents and their young children. As I’ve reported previously, Common Core-aligned assessment systems such as Teaching Strategies Gold in Colorado and California’s “Desired Results Developmental Profile” are stockpiling massive amounts of information on preschoolers’ social, emotional, physical, language and cognitive development. The collection of data and accompanying assessment inevitably dictate the content in the classroom. TS Gold, which integrates its results into the vast network of statewide longitudinal data systems, raked in $30 million in federal Race to the Top subsidies in 2012. The latest round of Obama’s “Preschool Development Grants” and “Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Awards” require applicants to plug into this insatiable data machine, as well as “linking” and “partnering” with a plethora of other government programs.
After attending TS Gold training sessions last year, Cindee Will, principal of the James Irwin Charter Academy in Colorado Springs, calculated that compliance, not including taking and uploading photos of students as required, would soak up at least 16.5 hours of kindergarten class time per week or 640 hours a year of instruction in class. Test administration four times a year for an average of 25 students, she told me, would mean “150 hours per year or 2.5 months: one quarter of our time. And this equation is done with the knowledge that our K program is a half-day program!”
As you might imagine, the administrative and financial burdens on small, privately run part-time preschool programs would be even more onerous. Fatal. And exactly as planned.
Think ObamaCare is bad? Well, welcome to TotCare. The goal of the educational central planners, you see, is the elimination of competition. The fact is that the vast majority of Pre-K kids are already happily enrolled in early childhood programs outside of Fed Ed’s clutches. The “problem” isn’t most families’ lack of access to preschool. It’s Washington’s lack of access to your kids for their institutionalized warehousing, data mining and pedagogical propaganda schemes. The Nanny State’s ceaseless quest for control keeps creepily rolling along.
The wonderful thing about America is that even in what seem like our darkest hours, there are occasional rays of hope. These are what keep people in all fifty states going, determined to continue the fight to protect and restore the liberties upon which this great nation was founded. One such ray of hope has broken through the clouds here in Indiana. It is a small step in what ultimately must be a long march to reclaim control of policy-making from the federal government.
As the federal government has ballooned over the last several decades, its appetite to exert influence, power, and ultimatums on the states has become insatiable. On most every issue, it is the federal government that charts the course of state executives and legislatures, rather than “the people” and those they elect to represent them in their statehouses. In state after state, legislatures have almost been relegate to the status of being mere subcontractors, tasked to execute and carry out state policies set by the feds.
So powerful is the lure of federal funding that, far more often than not, it’s difficult to find a governor of either party who is willing to say “no.” And yet, that is exactly what is needed – governors who are willing to stand at the constitutional line and reclaim the right of the states to govern themselves – to be responsive to their citizens rather than to the federal government.
This week Governor Mike Pence took a step forward in this fight. He had the good judgment and courage to walk away from millions of potential federal dollars, by refusing to apply for the federal Preschool Development Grant. Of course, there continues to be much work that needs to be done to return control of education to Indiana, but turning down this federal grant is a welcomed first step. We applaud and thank Governor Pence for this decision, and hope that it is the beginning of a new day in Indiana.
We also applaud and thank the many Hoosiers who rallied to make their voices heard, afterwe wrote about this issue last week. In a matter of days, people from all across the state called and emailed their concerns, which allowed them to be heard by Governor Pence. We are proud of the role we played in making this happen, as well as to stand with groups such as the American Family Association, the Indiana Association of Home Educators, the Indiana Family Institute, Indiana Eagle Forum, and the numerous Tea Parties across the state, all of whom alerted their members.
May this small victory and the light of hope it shines be a sign of good things for Indiana that are yet to come.