Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want...



After studying the Common Core State Standards as thoroughly as had been widely studied previously in 2010, ROPE came to the conclusion - after even further study - that various and sundry public school entities wanted way too much data on our kids.  

The types of data fields we found (and continue to find) in the two major education data models (InBloom and NEDM - National Education Data Model) was beyond unsettling.  After all, what in the world does blood test type and base salary or wage have to do with education anyway?  Can you - as a teacher - connect better with your student once you know his parents make 50k a year?  What about blood type?  There is a diet marketed to work for specific blood types, but does an O+ student learn the Periodic Table of the Elements better than an AB-?




Of course not.  There is no reason for any kind of data like this to even be attempted to be collected on any child, but yet this is what is happening in school after school across Oklahoma and the rest of the nation every year school is in session.

We have brought this to the attention of several legislators over the course of the last two years without gaining much ground.  This is a hard topic to digest to be sure, but as many as are sure to be thoughtful on the topic, many take the department of education's line, "there's nothing to see here; drive on".

Representative David Brumbaugh is one of the few who saw our concerns and consented to run a bill (HB1989) that would require parental permission (usurped for us by the change in FERPA laws instigated by our federal education secretary Arne Duncan January of 2012) for the State Department of Education to collect data and/or send it across state lines.  It was a simple bill.  He took the bill created in the senate to form the Oklahoma P20 Council (necessary for the 'free money' Race To The Top grant Oklahoma legislators were panting over) SB222, and simply added the phrase "With parental permission" at the end.

We were fine with that and it was heard in the General Government Committee where it passed unanimously.

After its passage, Representative Jason Nelson approached us and informed us he had found model student privacy legislation which he thought would be a wonderful substitute for our simple bill which he thought had no real chance of passing either House.  We looked at it, and other than the fact that Representative Nelson had added language giving the gutted FERPA (which doesn't really help parents at all anymore) too much of the final authority for accountability, we found it palatable and moved forward.

The course of a bill is oftentimes long and convoluted - nothing at all like School House Rock would have you believe.  NO legislation I have ever been involved with has been straightforward or produced in a manner easily understandable by the people the government is creating the law ostensibly to serve.  

Those of you reading this who like to be informed about your government from your easy chair because you simply can't make the time to get involved in the process, let me be clear - THIS IS NOT A PROCESS THAT FAVORS THE LITTLE GUY.  If you as a taxpayer/citizen do not show up to protect your rights, they will be stripped from you in some ad hoc backroom Senate committee meeting by the 'powers that be' (Senator Clark Jolley, for example) in favor of the organization with the most political clout/money, or an agency of the state (Department of Education) where the absolute experts on education reside.

Unfortunately, very late in the process, we learned that John Kraman - (the Executive Director of Student Information for the Department of Education) - the man spearheading the State Longitudinal Database - the man hired from Achieve (where he assisted in forming the Common Core State Standards) at the highest salary paid a Department of Education employee  other than our Supt. - had been brought in to confer on the bill with Reps. Brumbaugh and Nelson.

I'm sure John Kraman is a great friend, father and all around great guy - heck, he said "hi" to me in Best Buy recently while we were both there with our daughters, so he's obviously friendly - but that isn't my business.  My business is the data he's collecting on children in the state through his office, without specific parental permission, to satisfy a 5 million dollar federal State Longitudinal Database Grant to the state of Oklahoma.  None of us at ROPE agree with the notion that "data driven decision making" will create the change in education PARENTS want, but all of us at ROPE agree with the notion that excessive and intrusive data collection will create the change in education the government wants - a change in which every aspect of the system and in turn, our children, are controlled by the state.

We were very clear about our concerns with Reps. Brumbaugh and Nelson from the beginning, providing them with every piece of information we have collected on this issue to help them better understand our reasoning.

When we were finally able to see the bill again after this meeting, we were shocked.  No longer was this piece of legislation about parental consent or student privacy as we had pictured, it was about outlining the methods in which the Department of Education would collect data on children.  This was extraordinarily concerning to us because we had gone to a number of freshman Representatives and asked them to sign onto this bill under the auspices that it would protect student privacy.  This new iteration seemed to provide scant amounts of that.  We didn't want any legislator who had signed onto the bill believing we had led them down some sort of Primrose path about the effects of this bill, so we informed the legislators who had originally signed on with us of our concerns.

After a lengthy discussion with Representative Nelson in his office, I came to understand his perspective on the bill; namely that once the State Department of Education had to produce an inventory of all the data they were collecting and make it available to the legislature and the public, the door on the process would open, allowing parents to see in and establish accountability for the security of their child's/children's data. 

A number of measures were described in the bill toward that end; describing what student data is and isn't (pg 2), creating a data inventory (pg 3), developing policies regarding data (pg 4), notification of parents of their right to privacy (pg 5), prevention of transmission of student data across state lines (pg 5), develop a detailed security plan (pg 5), producing compliance audits (pg 6), protection of outsourced data (pg 6), and notification of the governor and legislature for any new data collection or changes in data collection (pg 6).

This all sounds great.  Really.  But I want to examine this a bit more closely.

Section B7b (defining student data) states, 
"Unless included in a student's educational record, "student data" shall not include:"
(1) juvenile delinquency records,
(2) criminal records,
(3) medical and health records,
(4) student Social Security number, and
(5) student biometric information.
This is troubling.  What does, "Unless included in a student's educational record" mean?  I think the answer to this first question is important before hats fly into the air.  But wait, there's more...

Section C2 says the State Board of Education will, 
"Develop, publish and make publicly available policies and procedures to comply with the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other relevant privacy laws and policies, including but not limited to: 
a. access to student and de-identified data in the student data system shall be restricted to:"
Number 4 in the list below states, 
"the authorized staff of other state agencies in Oklahoma as required by law and/or defined by interagency data-sharing agreements,"
This one number removed any good this law could have done toward stopping the P20's proclivity to follow your child from birth (P=preK) through the workforce (20=20yrs of age) by sharing information with all the authorized entities in SB222 (pg4).  So, though parents may now be entitled to a list that fully describes what data is being shared, your child's data will be shared with;
the State Department of Education, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education,Legislature, other policymakers and executive agencies, and the general public 
As always, the only thing missing on that list is my dog Max.

Please note that the wording says, "as required by law AND/OR...".  

Besides the list provided there, we know of interagency data sharing agreements with the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor and DHS.  How private is ANY data from a child or family shared with Department of Corrections or DHS?  What if your child's data cannot be determined inclusive in its aggregate form and it is decided that it's necessary to attach personal information in order for the data to be usable?

Letter b of that same section provides even more trouble for those concerned with student privacy:
the State Department of Education shall use only aggregate data in public reports or in response to record requests in accordance with paragraph 3 of this subsection,
This would be sweet excepting the fact that Oklahoma has applied for and received a State Longitudinal Database System grant of 5 million dollars.  The grant states (pg13), 
"Resolving discrepencies across such aggregate data collections without sudent-level data places incredible burdens on the data staff at the state and local levels." 
In other words, if we can't figure out aggregate data, we'll just add back in the personal information and move forward.  Yikes.

Section B3 says, 
"Unless otherwise approved by the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education shall not transfer student or de-identified data deemed confidential "
There are two problems here:
1.  The Board can approve the sharing of confidential information.  The Board is an extension of the Governor and the Superintendent.  Though several board members have taken the time to speak with us (one of whom has left her position to take on Janet Barresi in the 2014 elections), neither the Governor nor the Superintendent have been friendly to parents that do not support their education reform measures.

2.  The SLDS grant specifically sets up a School Information Framework (SIF - a Bill Gates idea) based upon the Common Education Data Standards model, (that includes such fields as "dental screening status" so that states can share information back and forth through their computers on exactly the same level.  This was the whole idea and John Kraman explains it beautifully in his grant application.  The grant WILL trump what the state legislature says because we are on the hook to the feds (YET AGAIN) for taking money and having to provide a service (our children's data) in return.  Consequently, this whole section is meaningless.

Finally, there is section E:  
E. Upon the effective date of this act, any existing collection of student data by the State Department of Education shall not be considered a new student data collection in accordance with subparagraph a of paragraph 7 of subsection C of this section.
Just to be clear, any data being collected BEFORE this act is not included in the act.  John Kraman has been employed with the Department of Education and collecting data on kids over 2 years now with access to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE from his past life as a Marc Tucker acolyte working at Achieve.  

Again, whether or not this person is a nice man is not at issue.  Our concerns focus on his actions in the areas of education and government.  We here at ROPE all feel quite certain that Mr. Kraman has done a stellar job piecing together what data fields are needed by the feds (using the CEDS as described in the grant) and has done his darned-level-best to put these in place BEFORE HB1989 was even a thought in anyone's head.

We appreciate that Reps. Brumbaugh and Nelson have acted in good faith and have done what they believed to be right.  We appreciate their efforts this last session.  We just don't believe that the myriad legislators/employees written up in this press release should lead parents astray by trumpeting the notion that this bill protects student privacy.  

Yes, it is better than the zero amount of protection we had before and yes, there are processes that once put in place will allow parents to determine the kind of data being collected on their child, but for now, this bill should NOT be considered (nor certainly lauded as) a 'student privacy' bill.

In closing, ROPE believes education should be local - that government itself is always best at the level closest the people - none of the education reforms instituted by Dr. Janet Barresi fall into that category.  This fact in and of itself is a reason to stop data collection on students, but it is this quote from a P20 meeting about following kids throughout their lives as described by John Kraman himself that invokes the greatest concern:
“… trying to find a way to follow, to help data follow the kids across state lines and allow us to find data and bring to them. If they are so we are moving in the direction, so that in a few years we might be, or in a couple of years, able to tell you where they went to college, but I can tell you where they went to high school, so where they grew up, where their parents are , when they left … the goal now you have the data follow the kids, the K-12 system where they were living in every state and once you know that, of course, you can go backward and ask questions.“
This thought process represents a clear and present danger to student privacy over a long period of time.  

Now that you know what ROPE knows, what are you going to do about it?


IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND WEBSITES THAT AFFECT YOUR CHILD'S EDUCATIONAL PRIVACY:

CEDS Data Model:  https://ceds.ed.gov/elements.aspx?v=3&ex=

Oklahoma State Longitudinal Database System grant:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/135509962/Oklahoma-State-Longitudinal-Database-Grant

What Oklahomans Need to Know About The P20 Council:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/124766370/What-Oklahomans-Need-to-Know-About-the-P20-Council

How Much Data Is Enough Data (ROPE's interim study document): http://www.scribd.com/doc/110458572/How-Much-Data-is-Enough-Data-What-happens-to-privacy-when-bureaucracies-exceed-their-scope


Data, Data Everywhere:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/110361334/Data-Data-Everywhere-CCSSO-Presentation-at-National-Conference-on-Student-Assessment


*I was working very fast when I posted this today, so I went back to correct some misspellings and difficult passages (6/13/2013 pm)
*Removed a line of text (6/14/2013 pm)