Testimony regarding Race to the Top funds for Seattle and student privacy


The following is testimony that I will be giving at the Seattle School Board meeting on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 regarding the approval of Race to the Top funding that is to be approved by the school board.

Good evening.

As many districts around the country have discovered, Race to the Top money comes with strings attached. Many districts have been loath to meet their part of the bargain after understanding what the price would be. States and districts have pulled out of the race after discovering that their part of the bargain could not be paid for, literally.

I understand the importance of funding education but this easy money has come with a price. For us, the payment for this funding is the loss of privacy for our students.

There are 38 items of information that we are to provide to the US Department of Education about our students. This list can be viewed on the home page of the Seattle Education blog. This information will in turn be uploaded into a data bank such as inBloom, a platform created with $100M of Gates money to store data ultimately on every student in every state. The protections of FERPA have been peeled away through amendments that were made to it in 2008 and 2011 by the Obama administration so that any interested third party can have access to this data.

Besides the loss of privacy, another promise that we have made is to have all students, starting in pre-Kindergarten, be assessed with no end date agreed to. Assessments means testing, possibly as much as three times each year as is done with the MAP test. This information will also be available to any third party with an interest in making a profit by selling everything from software to books and lesson plans to districts and marketed as customized to those students. This information will stay in place for an unlimited amount of time because without the previous FERPA protections, a parent now cannot request that this information be erased out of the data bank.

Assessment testing of this magnitude will cost millions of dollars and before the board approves this proposal, there should be an understanding of how much we will have to pay in terms of assessments and the gathering of information and for how long this is to continue.

Some of the highlights of the 38 “indicators” that are to be provided, besides test scores, is as follows:

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds
% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs
% of families reading to their children daily
% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool
% of students absent 20 or more days per year
% of students who make a non-promotional school change
% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school
% of females age 15-17 giving birth
% of students exhibiting 21st century skills
% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program
% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

By the time all of this information is mined and correlated, there will be no money left for the programs that the Road Map Project promised will diminish the self-professed achievement gap.

Please take a look at the promises that we have made to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in terms of the information we are to provide to ensure that we are not burdened with a bill we cannot pay.

Thank you

Post Script:

A must watch by all parents is this video of Parents Across America Co-Founder Leonie Haimson discussing inBloom and data security in Chicago on November 22, 2013, at a forum hosted by Parents United for Responsible Education and More Than A Score:

To follow are links regarding the issue of student privacy and the pushback by parents:

CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy

Privacy concerns grow over Gates-funded student database

NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom

From Politico:

INBLOOM OFF THE ROSE? — Another state has pulled out of using the Gates Foundation’s $100 million technology service project, inBloom. The withdrawal further shrinks the project after other states pulled out in part because of concern about protecting students’ privacy. Guilford County, N.C. told POLITICO on Wednesday that the state decided to stop using the service, which is designed to hold information about students including names, socioeconomic status, test scores, disabilities, discipline records and more in one place, and ideally, help in customizing students’ education.

Guilford schools’ departure doesn’t put the project in any kind of jeopardy, inBloom said, although Louisiana withdrew in April and other states once affiliated with the project no longer are. That leaves New York, two Illinois districts and one Colorado district as firm participants for now; Massachusetts is on the fence. At first inBloom will be free, but by 2015 states and districts using it will be charged $2 to $5 per student for the service.

InBloom and the need to protect student privacy: Overview for parents, teachers and students

Chicago School System Decides Against Partnership With inBloom

Parents say no to sharing student data

Parent Opposition Slims Student Data Collection

Submitted by Dora Taylor

10 thoughts on “Testimony regarding Race to the Top funds for Seattle and student privacy

  1. I want to add something about Banda. The Road Map Project started in 2009 when Goodloe-Johnson was our superintendent. I remember when she mentioned it in a board meeting. The ball was rolling before Banda got here so I don’t fault him for it now being a noose around our necks. I do fault him for not sounding some alarm about the price that we will have to pay for the measly amount of money we receive relative to what we are giving in return.


  2. Sorry but there is no excuse for not “getting it” by now.

    At this time even the mainstream press is writing about inBloom and the data collection scandal.

    It is difficult for me to comprehend how an “educator” and administrator these days can’t figure out what’s going on.

    I’m a parent of a student who briefly participated in public schools and I got it before my daughter even started school in Seattle.

    I would consider it my responsibility to stay current on what was going on in the country and in our state as a well-paid professional and a concerned party responsible for the welfare and well-being of my charges.

    You are as good as the people you surround yourself with. Again, no excuses. This wouldn’t go down in my profession, why should we make allowances for someone responsible for the education of our children?

    At this time, there is only one nationwide database and that is inBloom. Parents in New York and other states, as pointed out in my links, have fought back and protected the privacy and therefore the future of their students. There is no reason why the parents in Seattle shouldn’t do the same.

    My daughter, gratefully, is now out of the school system otherwise I would be raising hell with my legislators, the district and my principal.


  3. Banda hit the jizz storm like every other district administrator who comes to Seattle after the BCG/A4E/MGJ/MGJ Jr. circus. He’s been aided and abetted by the Alliance and the junior staffers he’s promoted because everyone else either fled or was seduced by Enfield to Highline.

    I don’t stomach excuses that endanger our students. Yeah, he should have NOT signed away our students’ privacy. At the same time, we know the fix was in for years to grab at the corrupt Duncan/Gates golden ring.

    My point is that, what is called InBloom on the East Coast is, essentially, CCER or XYZ nonprofit somewhere else. Further, that the giant loopholes in the revised FERPA regs let giant BMGF’ing trucks drive through.

    I’m mad too.

  4. Actually, the DOE is not getting the data. A Gates-funded non-profit the Community Center for Educational Results (CCER) is getting the data, on the pretense that they are somehow doing research or studies on behalf of SPS and the other six So. King County school districts in the Road Map Project. Note, they are not the actual granting authority, the PSESD is. In exchange for this dubious service, CCER gets to use the data for Road Map related stuff and issue reports to miscellaneous third parties who, in my view, have no “legitimate educational interest” in my child’s private information.

    1. Big Picture is that CCER was created by Gates using solely Gates money so I think you can see where this is going. Gates sank $100M into inBloom to gather data from every town and hamlet across our country. Do you think he’s just going to sit back and not channel this into inBloom?

      PSESD is simply representing the districts.

      Once it became apparent that RTTT funding was not being accepted by every state, Duncan and the DOE decided to bypass the states and go to the districts. That’s how Seattle got sucked into it.

      This is still Federal money we are accepting.

      Gates has figured out how to get around all of the hurdles. Now he has the board backed against the wall. Do they want to look like the bad guys and not accept the money or take it and look like the heroes?

      Looking like heroes will backfire on them and us later though.

      The fix was in a long time ago.


  5. Loss of privacy for students is just one of the issues with Race to the Top money. It would be good to say that, while this is your primary objection in this particular testimony.

    1. I’ll try to fit it into my testimony. Two minutes is not very long. I’m used to the three minutes which was tight but two minutes!?

      We need to lobby to extend the period that people can address the board.


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