A Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy


With software being used in classrooms and installed on laptops provided to students, there is the risk of companies culling personal information of students. The weakened FERPA laws are little to no help in providing student privacy protection so it is up to teachers, administrators and parents to ensure that no personal information gets into the hands of commercial enterprises.

Two organizations, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, have put together a toolkit for parents that is free and available to all.

To follow is a repost of the information originally published at Student Privacy Matters.


Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy

We understand that protecting your child’s sensitive data at school can be pretty overwhelming and it’s often difficult to know where to begin.

To get you started on the right track, we’ve created the  Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy: A Practical Guide for Protecting Your Child’s Sensitive School Data from Snoops, Hackers and Marketers in collaboration with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. We offer clear guidance on what privacy rights your child has in federal law, what to look for in school vendor’s Privacy Policies, and tips on how to advocate for your school or district to adopt best practices in ensuring your child’s sensitive data isn’t breached or abused.

Learn how to protect your child’s privacy today; download the toolkit HERE.

You can also join our webinar, co-hosted with CCFC and Parents Across America, on Tuesday, May 23rd at 8:00 p.m. Eastern to learn how to use the toolkit. Register here today!

You may also download individual sections of the toolkit below:


Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform


Summit charter schools  opened a location in Seattle last year. The school calls what they do “blended” or “personalized” learning which means placing a student in front of a computer during most, if not all, of their learning time.

As of now, Summit has opted in Washington State to offer its services to homeschool students rather than be under the charter school umbrella. Charter schools have been legally challenged once again and a lawsuit is pending review by the court.

Summit charter schools has developed a platform with Facebook. The program is titled Summit Basecamp. Leonie Haimson and other parents have formed the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and recently published an article on the issue of student privacy and the use of this platform.

From the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy:

Serious privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform, used in 100 schools across the nation

Our concerns about the open-ended data sharing of the  washington-post-front-page-10-12-16 Summit/Facebook software platform was featured on the front page of today’s Washington Post. This software is in 100 schools nationwide, about two thirds of them public schools. The list is here. Two of the schools are in NYC: the Bronx Writing Academy in District 9; and J.H.S. 088 Peter Rouget in District 15 in Brooklyn.

Summit is sharing the student personal data with Facebook, Google, Clever and whomever else they please – through an open-ended consent form that they have demanded parents sign.  A copy of the consent form is here.

I have never seen such a wholesale demand from any company for personal student data, and can imagine many ways it could be abused.  Among other things, Summit/Facebook claims they will have the right to use the personal data “to improve their products and services,” to “conduct surveys, studies” and “perform any other activities requested by the school. ”

Here is an excerpt:

Summit may collect information that you provide or your child provides directly to Summit, such as contact information, coursework, testing, and grades. Summit also may collect information automatically from browsers, computers, and devices (such as information from cookies and browser and device identifiers in order to remember your preferences)….. Summit may use your child’s information to conduct surveys and studies; develop new features, products, and services; and otherwise as requested by your school or consistent with your consent. … Summit also may disclose information to third-party service providers and partners as directed or authorized by the school. For example, Summit uses Clever, Facebook, and Google to help develop and improve the personalized learning plan software or to provide related educational services on Summit’s behalf.

big-eye-data.jpgThey claim they won’t use the child’s personal data for targeted ads (as would be banned anyway in the CA law called SOPIPA) but this is among the only restriction. They say they can sell the data “in connection with a corporate transaction, such as the sale of our Services, a merger, consolidation, asset sale.” The one-sided Terms of Service is here; the Privacy Policy is here.

The Summit platform has never been independently vetted for security protections – or shown to yield any educational benefits, and I believe is a very radical way to outsource instruction and student data to private companies.

Other reasons that teachers as well as parents should be concerned:

The Terms of Service claims the right to use the intellectual property of teachers in these schools, intellectual-property-brain.jpgincluding course assignments, etc. and even student work without any recompense: “You Grant Us a non–‐exclusive, perpetual, transferable, sub–‐licensable, royalty–‐free, worldwide License to use content that you post on or in connection with the Services in any manner, media, form, and modes of uses, now known or later developed.”

–Though I’m not an attorney, the Terms of Service seems to explicitly and repeatedly waive any liability  that Summit or FB or any of its partners may have for protecting the data against breaches, complying with state or federal law,  or abiding by their own Terms of Service;

— As the Washington Post article points out, the TOS would force any school or party to the agreement (including teachers) to give up their right to sue in court if they believe their rights or the law has been violated, and limits the dispute to binding arbitration in San Mateo CA – in the midst of Silicon Valley, where Facebook and Google presumably call the shots.  This is the same sort of abuse of consumer rights that that banks and credit card companies have included in their TOS and that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now trying to ban.

–The CEO of Summit charters, Diane Tavenner, is also the head of the board of the California Charter School Association, which has aggressively tried to get pro-privatization allies elected to California school boards and state office, and has lobbied against any real regulations or oversight to curb charter school abuses in that state.

– –  Summit says they won’t sign individual contracts with school districts or schools, for the    following ostensible reasons, and suggests a legal loophole for states and districts that require such contracts:

Summit Public Schools is unable to sign contracts, MOUs, or other legal documents from other districts, CMOs, or individual schools. Straying from our Summit Partnership contracts would add immeasurable risk to our organization as we are unable to acquire third party validation on different contracts in the way that we did for our own participation agreement. It would not be legally sound for us to enter into two legal contracts with two sets of potentially conflicting commitments for one program.

Some districts that have policies where all third party vendors need to sign one designated contract were able to bypass that requirement given the status of Summit Public Schools as an educational organization rather than a vendor and the nature of the partnership as a free exchange of ideas and services rather than a paid service relationship.

And then they add – presumably to assuage the fears of parents or school administrators:

In order to ensure that our legal agreement meets the high quality demanded by school organizations across the U.S., Summit Public Schools has gone the extra mile to work with one of the best legal teams in the country to draft this agreement. We worked with Jules Polonetsky – CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that seeks to advance responsible data practices – and his team to review our privacy policies and provide his 3rd party stamp of approval. Straying from the language in our participation agreement would add risk as we are unable to also acquire third party validation on different contracts.

What they don’t reveal is that the Future of Privacy Forum is largely funded by the technology industry and the Gates Foundation, and Polonetsky was a big supporter of inBloom.  (Nevertheless, the sample contract they apparently offered to Kentucky schools did not include the binding arbitration clause, though it limits Summit’s liability to $10,000.)

For these and other reasons, I think parents and students should be VERY concerned.  

In my view and that of many other parents, the explosion of ed tech and the outsourcing of student personal data to private corporations without restriction, like this current Summit/Facebook venture, is as risky for students and teachers as the privatization of public education through charter school expansion.  In this case, the risk is multiplied, since the data is going straight into the hands of a powerful charter school CEO – closely linked to Gates, Zuckerberg and Laurene Powell Jobs, among the three wealthiest plutocrats on the planet.

Gates has praised Summit to the skies, has given the chain $11 million, and has made special efforts to get it ensconced in his state of Washington; Zuckerberg is obviously closely entrenched in this initiative, and Laurene Powell Jobs has just granted the chain $10 million to launch a new charter school in Oakland.

I sent the following list of questions to Summit at info@summitbasecamp.org nine days ago, but have received no response.  Others — especially parents at these schools and/or privacy advocates — might like to send their own questions or resend mine as well.  And if you are a parent or a teacher at one of these schools, please contact me ASAP at leonie@classsizematters.org  Thanks! Leonie

Questions for Summit:

1. What is Summit’s definition of “reasonable and comprehensive data protection and security protocols to protect student data”?  What does that specifically include in terms of encryption, independent audits, security training, etc?  And where is that in writing?

2. If my child’s data does breach, what rights would I have as a parent to secure damages?

3. Does Summit claim unlimited rights to share or utilize my child’s homework and intellectual property without notice or compensation that they are claiming with teacher work in the TOS?

4. Can Summit specifically itemize the companies/organizations that they will share my child’s data with, aside from those mentioned below?

5. Are each of these third parties barred from making further redisclosures of my child’s data?

6. Are each of these third parties, and any other organizations or companies or individuals they redisclose to, legally required to abide by the same restrictions as listed under your TOS and PP, including being prevented from using targeted or non-targeted advertising, and/or selling of data, and using the same security protections?

7. Does Summit promise to inform parents over the course of the year all the additional third parties the company plans to disclose my child’s data to?

8. What is the comprehensive list of personal data Summit is collecting and potentially sharing from my child?  You mention a limited list below, but does it also include my child’s homework, grades, test scores, economic status, disability, English proficiency status and/or race as well?

9. The TOS mentions survey data.  Is there any personal data from my child that Summit promises NOT to collect via a survey or otherwise?  Will parents have the right to see these surveys before they are given and opt out of them, or does signing this consent form basically mean a parent is giving up all their rights under the PPRA?

10. Why can’t Summit simply give the software platform to schools to use if it is beneficial, along with links to instructional materials, rather than demand as “payment” in the form of all the student information as well?

11. Do you promise not to use the information gained to market products directly to students and/or their parents, and are all your partners and/or those they disclose the information to barred from doing so as well?

12. The PP says you will use my child’s personal data to develop new educational “products” – what does that mean?  Why can’t you use de-identified data for this purpose

13. It also says you will use this data to “communicate with students, parents, and other users.”  What does that mean? What kind of communications will you engage in with my child or with me

14. The PP states a parent can “review, correct or have deleted certain personal information”.  Which kind of personal information can I delete, how will I be able to do that and will that stop my child from using the platform?

15. The PP also says you will share the data with anyone “otherwise directed or authorized by the school.”  What does that mean? Does my signing a consent form mean that the school can authorize to share this information with ANYONE else, without specifying the sort of third party, for what reason, or without limitation, without informing me or asking for my further consent?

16. It says it will send notice of proposed changes to the PP ahead of time to the participating schools; why not parents if you have their contact info?  Shouldn’t they hear this directly from you and immediately if you are considering changes?

17. Does Summit consider this parent consent form to mean that parents are waiving the privacy rights of their children under all three federal student privacy laws, including FERPA, COPPA and PPRA?

18. The PP says that “FERPA permits schools to share students’ information in certain circumstances, including where the school has gotten a parent’s’ consent or where the organization receiving the student data operates as a “school official.” Summit Public Schools operates as a “school official” consistent with the Department of Education’s guidance under FERPA.”  If this is true, why does Summit need to ask for parental consent?  What additional rights does my consent afford Summit that you would not have without consent in terms of the collection, use and disclosure of a student’s personal information

19. Summit says that “Participating schools and individual teachers own, and are responsible for, student data provided through the Summit Personalized Learning Platform.” Why don’t students own their own data?

20. This raises another related question: the Summit Privacy Policy and Terms of Service grants schools and teachers some rights (however limited.) What rights do parents and students have under these conditions?

21. The TOS says that if schools believe Summit has violated its promises or complied with the law, instead of suing they must submit to binding arbitration in San Mateo CA and are barred from filing class action complaints.  This type of provision has been heavily criticized when banks and credit card companies have included in their consumer agreements, and the Consumer Financial Protection Board is considering restricting their use. Why is this clause any more acceptable in your TOS?

22. What legal recourse do schools, teachers or parents have if Summit violates the law or its TOS, for example if Summit decides to sell or give away or carelessly store the data given that the TOS  says “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, NEGLIGENCE, WILL SUMMIT, ITS AFFILIATES, OR ANY PARTY INVOLVED IN CREATING, PRODUCING, OR DELIVERING THE SERVICES BE LIABLE FOR DAMAGES OR LOSSES” in any case?

23. In yet another clause of the TOS, Summit requires schools to “agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend Summit, and its affiliates, licensors, and service providers, and each of their respective officers, directors, contractors, agents…etc.et. against any and all demands, claims, liabilities, judgements, fines, interest, penalties… etc. including attorneys’ fees etc.” Why the need for so many layers of self-protection and disclaimers of liability?

24. What rights does a parent have in general if Summit violates the TOS or the PP?  Are they bound to the binding arbitration clause in the TOS that the school must agree to?

25. In another FAQ here, Summit says that it will not sign contracts or written agreements with individual school districts, and if the state requires this under law, districts or schools should try to “bypass that requirement” by claiming that a) Summit is not subject to the law because it is not a “vendor” but an “educational organization” and b) that they should not have to sign a contract because of the “nature of the partnership as a free exchange of ideas and services rather than a paid service relationship.”  But if you are gaining potential economic and programmatic benefits from your access to student data, including using it to build new and better “products” as the TOS states, why isn’t this a commercial relationship bound by state law?  And if this relationship is truly a “partnership” with a free exchange of ideas, why is the TOS so one-sided and seems to protect Summit from any possible liability, and not the school?

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Releases Study on Student Data Privacy… or lack thereof


Originally posted on the EFF website:

EFF Releases Spying on Students Ed Tech Report

EFF Survey Reveals Gaps in Protecting the Privacy of K-12 Students Using School-Issued Devices and Cloud Apps

“They are collecting and storing data to be used against my child in the future, creating a profile before he can intellectually understand the consequences of his searches and digital behavior.”

This was the response of one parent to an online survey EFF conducted to learn more about the use of mobile devices and cloud services in K-12 classrooms across the country—so called education technology or “ed tech.” Today, EFF released a report entitled “Spying on Students: School-Issued Devices and Student Privacy” that summarizes the results of this survey.

While there are educational advantages to incorporating technology into the classroom experience, the survey results reflect an overarching concern that children as young as kindergartners are being conditioned to accept a culture of surveillance. EFF maintains that children should not be taught that using the Internet or technology requires sacrificing personal privacy.

The survey, launched in December 2015, elicited responses from over 1000 students, parents, teachers, librarians, school administrators, system administrators, and community members.

We organized the survey results into eight themes:

  1. Lack of transparency: Schools and districts do not provide adequate notice and disclosures to parents about what technology their children use in the classroom, including devices and online applications that require transferring student information to private companies.
  2. Investigative burden: Parents and even students themselves put in significant effort, sometimes over many months, to get information from both schools/districts and ed tech companies, about technology use in the classroom and its implications for student privacy.
  3. Data collection and use: Parents are concerned about the specific data about their children that ed tech companies collect, and what companies do with that data, particularly for non-educational, commercial purposes and without written notice to and consent from parents.
  4. Lack of standard privacy precautions: Survey participants reported 152 apps, software programs, and digital services being used in classrooms. Only 118 of these have published privacy policies online. And far fewer address important privacy issues such as data retention, encryption, and data de-identification and aggregation.
  5. Barriers to opt-out: Many schools and districts do not provide the ability for parents to opt their children out of using certain technologies. Or if administrators are open to providing an opt-out option, many parents and students have found it difficult to make alternative technologies and teaching methods a reality.
  6. Shortcomings of “Privacy by Policy”: Survey participants expressed doubt that the privacy policies of both schools/districts and ed tech companies actually protect student privacy in practice.
  7. Inadequate technology and privacy training for teachers: Survey participants emphatically reported that teachers, those who interface most directly with ed tech and students, lack adequate training to move from “privacy by policy” to “privacy by practice.”
  8. Digital literacy for students: Survey results revealed that there is a ripe opportunity and need to educate students about how to protect their privacy online, operate safely online, and generally be savvy users of technology, which are skills that they should carry into adulthood.

A goal of the “Spying on Students” survey was to highlight the struggles of average people trying to navigate the student privacy issue. So throughout the discussion of the survey results, we present the case studies of a parent, technology director, system administrator, and school librarian.

In addition to summarizing the survey results, the “Spying on Students” report includes an overview of relevant student privacy laws, including the federal laws FERPA and COPPA, and a sampling of state laws from California, Colorado, and Connecticut.

The report also discusses the inadequacy of the leading ed tech industry self-regulatory effort, the Student Privacy Pledge.

Finally, the report includes privacy recommendations and best practices for school/district administrators, teachers, librarians, system administrators, parents, students, and—of course—ed tech companies.

Today’s report is part of our larger student privacy campaign, which aims to educate students, parents, and school officials about digital privacy—and to encourage ed tech companies to institute better privacy policies and practices that actually protect the privacy of minor students, while enabling them to benefit from technology in the classroom.

With the right awareness and will—particularly from an $8 billion dollar industry—technology can be both educationally beneficial and privacy protective.

Opposition to the Common Core now has bipartisan support in Washington State

From Truth in American Education:


Washington State GOP Supports Student Privacy, Opposes Common Core

The Washington State Republicans passed a student privacy resolution at their recent state convention last month in Pasco, WA.  They also passed language opposing Common Core into their state party platform. Opposition to Common Core has crossed party lines, and is truly a bipartisan issue in Washington State. Last year, you may recall, the Washington State Democratic Party passed a resolution opposing Common Core.

Here is the resolution language which was written by our own J.R. Wilson.

Student Privacy Resolution

Whereas, privacy rights of students and parents are not forfeited upon public or private school enrollment and attendance or providing home based instruction; 

Whereas, non-cognitive factors include, but are not limited to, such things as attitudes, beliefs, attributes, feelings, mindsets, social and emotional learning, metacognitive learning skills, motivation, grit, tenacity, perseverance, self-regulation, and social skills; 

Whereas, the collection and retention of personal and non-cognitive data about students and parents is contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution;

Whereas, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) intends to begin assessing non-cognitive factors which may be in violation of federal law;

Whereas, the proposed federal Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA S227) expands research and the collection of student level data to non-cognitive factors and social emotional learning and allows for sensitive data prohibited in surveys to be collected in curriculum and assessments;

Be it resolved that parents and eligible students shall be informed of the student level data that is collected and who will have access to it; 

Be it resolved that parents and eligible students shall be entitled to and guaranteed free access to any and all information collected about their child by a local school, the state of Washington or contracted entities with provisions for correcting inaccurate information; 

Be it resolved that local public or private schools or the state of Washington or other entities shall not collect and retain student level personal and non-cognitive data through surveys, curriculum, assessments, or any other means without informed prior written parental consent.

Below is the pertinent language in their platform supporting local control of education and opposing Common Core:

We support the elimination of the Federal Department of Education and returning its control and funding to the States. Teacher performance should be monitored and rewarded at the local level. We recognized the educational needs of students vary throughout the country, which cannot be met with a single mandate requiring one size to fit all. We support the elimination of Common Core standards.

What everyone else knows about your child


So, there is the NSA which is creepy (an unconstitutional) enough spying on every citizen in this country who has an email account or cell phone, but what about all the people who know about your child’s personal information?

With every policy that goes through our city, state and national legislatures regarding public school education, your child is losing more and more of their private information to third parties and beyond.

This was spelled out in CCER, the Road Map Project and student data collection and with the mayor’s preschool program, it will now begin with 2 year olds and follow them through 18 years and beyond.

FERPA, a student’s right to privacy act, was weakened with Obama and his sidekick Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when they amended the law. See Diane Ravitch’s post Why is the US Department of Education Weakening FERPA?

Leonie Haimson has taking on the battle of protecting student privacy for several years now and established The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

To follow is a recent article Ms. Haimson wrote for the Washington Post:


The astonishing amount of data collected about your children

Remember that ominous threat from your childhood, This will go down on your permanent record?” Well, your children’s permanent record is a whole lot bigger today and it may be permanent. Information about your children’s behavior and nearly everything else that a school or state agency knows about them is being tracked, profiled and potentially shared.

During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

Most student data is gathered at school via multiple routes; either through children’s online usage or information provided by parents, teachers or other school staff. A student’s education record generally includes demographic information, including race, ethnicity, and income level; discipline records, grades and test scores, disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs), mental health and medical history, counseling records and much more.

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

Many parents first became aware of how widely their children’s personal data is being shared with third parties of all sorts when the controversy erupted over inBloom in 2012, the $100 million corporation funded by the Gates Foundation. Because of intense parent opposition, inBloom closed its doors in 2014, but in the process, parents discovered that inBloom was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the federal government and the Gates Foundation have been assisting the goal of amassing and disclosing personal student data in many other ways.

Ten organizations joined together, funded by the Gates Foundation, to create the Data Quality Campaign in 2005, with the following objectives:

  • Fully develop high-quality longitudinal data systems in every state by 2009;
  • Increase understanding and promote the valuable uses of longitudinal and financial data to improve student achievement; and
  • Promote, develop, and use common data standards and efficient data transfer and exchange.

Since that time, the federal government has mandated that every state collect personal student information in the form of longitudinal databases, called Student Longitudinal Data Systems or SLDS, in which the personal information for each child is compiled and tracked from birth or preschool onwards, including medical information, survey data, and data from many state agencies such as the criminal justice system, child services, and health departments.

A state’s SLDS, or sometimes called a P20 database (pre-K to 20 years of age), P12, or B-20 (data tracking from birth), have been paid for partly through federal grants awarded in five rounds of funding from 2005-2012. Forty-seven of 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have received at least one SLDS grant.

Although Alabama, Wyoming and New Mexico are not included on the site linked to above, Alabama’s governor recently declared by executive order that “Alabama P-20W Longitudinal Data System is hereby created to match information about students from early learning through postsecondary education and into employment.” Wyoming uses a data dictionary, Fusion, that includes information from birth. New Mexico’s technology plan shows that they moved their P-20 SLDS to production status in 2014 and will expand in 2015. This site run by the Data Quality Campaign tracks each state’s SLDS.

Every SLDS has a data dictionary filled with hundreds of common data elements, so that students can be tracked from birth or pre-school through college and beyond, and their data more easily shared with vendors, other governmental agencies, across states, and with organizations or individuals engaged in education-related “research” or evaluation — all without parental knowledge or consent,.

Every SLDS uses the same code to define the data, aligned with the federal CEDS, or Common Education Data Standards, a collaborative effort run by the US Department of Education, “to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.”

Every few months, more data elements are “defined” and added to the CEDS, so that more information about a child’s life can be easily collected, stored, shared across agencies, and disclosed to third parties. You can check out theCEDS database yourself, including data points recently added, or enter the various terms like “disability,” “homeless” or “income” in the search bar.

In relation to discipline, for example, CEDS includes information concerning student detentions, letters of apology, demerits, warnings, counseling, suspension and expulsion records, whether the student was involved in an incident that involved weapons, whether he or she was arrested, whether there was a court hearing and what the judicial outcome and punishment was, including incarceration.

This type of information is obviously very sensitive and prejudicial, and often in juvenile court, records are kept sealed or destroyed after a certain period of time, especially if the child is found innocent or there is no additional offense; yet all this information can now be entered into his or her longitudinal record with no particular restriction on access and no time certain when the data would be destroyed.

Expanding and Linking Data across States

Nearly every state recently applied for a new federal grant to expand its existing student longitudinal data system, including collection, linking and sharing abilities. You can see the federal request for proposals. Pay special attention to Section V, the Data Use section of the grant proposal, requiring states to collect and share early childhood data, match students and teachers for the purpose of teacher evaluation, and promote inter-operability across institutions, agencies, and states.

The 15 states and one territory, American Samoa, that won the grants were announced Sept. 17, 2015, and are posted here. President Obama’s 2016 budget request has a number of additional data­ related provisions, including a near tripling in funding for State Longitudinal Data Systems ($70 million) and Department of Labor Workforce Data Quality Initiative ($37 million) aimed at attaching adult workforce personal data with his or her student records.

Though the federal government is barred by law from creating a national student database, the U.S. Department of Education has evaded this restriction by means of several strategies, including funding multi-state databases, which would have been illegal before FERPA’s regulations and guidance were rewritten by the Department in 2012.

The federal grants encourage participation in these multi-state data exchanges. One existing multi-state database is WICHE, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which includes the 15 Western states that recently received an additional $3 million from the federal government. This WICHE document explains that the project was originally funded by the Gates Foundation, and that the foundation’s goal of sharing personal student data across state lines and across state agencies without parental consent was impermissible under FERPA until it was weakened in 2012:

 Upon approval of WICHE’s proposal by the Gates Foundation, the pilot MLDE (Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange) project began in earnest in June, 2010, and the initial meeting to begin constructing the MLDE was held in Portland, Oregon, in October, 2010. It is worth placing the launch of the MLDE pilot within an historical timeline of events bearing on the development and use of longitudinal data. As the project got underway, the federal government’s guidance on the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was still fairly restrictive. Indeed, based on a subsequent conversation with a member of the Washington State Attorney General’s office, our plans to actually exchange personally identifiable data among the states would be impermissible under the FERPA guidance in effect at that time. Though we were told we would have been able to assemble and use a de-identified dataset, which would have shown much of the value of combining data across states, not being able to give enhanced data back to participating states would have been a serious setback. Changes in the federal government’s guidance on FERPA that went into effect in January, 2012 resolved this problem.

The new guidance permitted the participating states to designate WICHE as an authorized representative for the purposes of assembling the combined data, while also allowing the disclosure of data across state lines and between state agencies.

Since 2010, the Gates Foundation has funded WICHE with more than $13 million. Just to underscore how powerful this organization has become, Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia just stepped down from his post to head WICHE. Here is a helpful chart showing how student personal data is to be shared, among state agencies and across state lines.

Existing multi-state databases include not just WICHE, but also SEED, formerly Southeastern Education Data Exchange, now called the State Exchange of Education Data, including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

This North Carolina PowerPoint from 2013 describes what detailed information is to be shared among the states participating in SEED: data aligned with CEDS, including demographic information, academic and test score data, and disciplinary records. Here is a Georgia document, explaining how SEED will be “CEDs compliant” and describes in even more detail the sort of information that will be exchanged.

In addition, the two Common Core testing multi-state consortia funded by the federal government, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are accumulating a huge amount of personal student data across state lines, and potentially sharing that information with other third parties. Under pressure, PARCC released avery porous privacy policy last year; Smarter Balanced has so far refused to provide any privacy policy, even after requests from parents in many of the participating states.

What Parents Can Do

Ask your State Education Department if they applied for this new grant to expand their SLDS, and if so, ask to see the grant proposal. You can also make a Freedom of Information request to the U.S. Department of Education to see the grant application. Ask what methods your state is using to protect the data that the SLDS already holds, and if the data is kept encrypted, at rest and in transit. Ask what categories of children’s data they are collecting, which agencies are contributing to it, and what third parties, including vendors and other states, may have gained access to it. Ask to see any inter-agency agreements or MOUs allowing the sharing education data with other state agencies. Ask if any governance or advisory body made up of citizen stakeholders exists to oversee its policies.

You should also demand to see the specific data the SLDS holds for your own child, and to challenge it if it’s incorrect – and the state cannot legally deny you this right nor charge you for this information under FERPA.

This was conclusively decided when a father named John Eppolito requested that the Nevada Department of Education provide him with a copy of his children’s SLDS records, and the state demanded $10,000 in exchange. He then filed a complaint with the US Department of Education, which responded with a letter on July 28, 2014, stating that the state must provide him with the data it holds for his child, as well as a record of every third party who has received it; and that they cannot charge a fee for this service.

Parents also have the right to correct their child’s data if it is in error. Apparently Mr. Eppolito found many errors in his children’s data. Even if it is accurate, the data that follows your child through life and across states could diminish his or her future prospects. As this Department of Education studypoints out,

“…imagine a student transferring from another district into a middle school that offers three levels of mathematics classes. If school staff associate irrelevant personal features with mathematics difficulties, the representativeness bias could influence the student’s placement… educators have been found to have a tendency to pay more attention to data and evidence that conform to what they expect to find.”

Schools could use this data to reject students, push them out, or relegate them to remedial classes or vocational tracks.

There is also abundant research that shows that a teacher’s expectations play a significant role in how a student performs – especially for marginalized groups. This is called the Pygmalion effect in the case of a teacher’s positive expectations, and the Golem effect in the case of negative expectations. These studies reveal that if teachers are provided with positive or negative information about their students before having a chance to form their own opinions based upon actual experience, this prior information often tends to bias their judgments and perceptions of that student, creating self-fulfilling prophecies.   Parents should be legitimately fearful that positive or negative data may be used to profile their children, and potentially damage their chance of success.

What Else Can You Do?

If you send your children to a public school, under current federal law you have no way of opting out of the P20 profile that has been created by your state and potentially shared with others. You also have no right to refuse to have your child’s data disclosed to testing companies and other corporations in the name of evaluation and research. Researchers have legitimate interests in being able to analyze and evaluate educational programs, but any sensitive personal data should be properly de-identified and there must be strict security provisions to safeguard its access and restrict further disclosures, as well as a time certain when it will be destroyed. You do have the right to see that data, and challenge it if it is inaccurate.

You should also advocate for stronger state and federal laws to protect your child’s data and laws that give parents and students the right of ownership, including the ability to decide with whom it will be shared. You should urge your state Education Department to create advisory or governance boards that include stakeholder members, to provide input on restrictions on access and security requirements.

Any federal and state student privacy legislation should embrace five basic principles of student privacy, transparency and security, developed by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Ask your elected officials to support TRUE data privacy and transparency legislation, to protect children. Parents deserve to know the data collected and shared about their children, and they should be guaranteed that their children’s data is safe from breaches and misuse.


Great website on student privacy issues and opting out


Student Privacy Matters

This is on their homepage:

Federal Privacy Rights

How can parents exercise their rights to protect their children’s privacy under federal law?


How FERPA has changed over time

Directory Information Opt-Out Form

Instructions on how to exercise your COPPA rights

COPPA Disclosure Request Form

COPPA Opt-Out Form  (submitted to online vendors/service providers)

COPPA Opt-Out Form  (instructing school/district to contact online vendors/service providers on your behalf)

There is lots more. Check out Student Privacy Matters.

Dora Taylor

New Coalition Urges Congress to Listen to Parents and Strengthen Student Privacy Protections




A new coalition called the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released a letter today to the leaders of the committees of the House and Senate Education Committees, urging Congress to strengthen FERPA and involve parents in the decision-making process to ensure that their children’s privacy is protected.

Many of the groups and individuals in the Coalition were involved in the battle over inBloom, which closed its doors last spring.  They were shocked to learn during this struggle how federal privacy  protections and parental rights to protect their children’s safety through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)  had eroded over the last decade.

The letter below calls for Congress to hold hearings and enact new privacy protections that would minimize the sharing of highly sensitive student data with vendors and among state agencies and would maximize the right of parents to notification and consent.  The letter also asks for strict security requirements, that the law be enforceable through fines, and that parents have the right to sue if their children’s privacy is violated.


 Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

 July 23, 2014

Dear member of Congress:

We write on behalf of a broad coalition of parents across the country to urge Congressional review of emerging threats to student privacy rights and to request legislative action to address significant shortcomings in current law. Specifically, we are alarmed about ill-thought-through federal policies that, instead of providing safeguards against non-consensual disclosure and downstream uses of children’s personally identifiable information, actually promote policies in which a child’s highly sensitive personal data is disclosed to third-parties for purposes that go well beyond reasonable educational uses and deny parents the right of notification or consent.

First, we respectfully urge Congress to hold hearings on why the U.S. Department of Education has abdicated its historic role as the guardian of educational privacy rights. In responding to interest groups that included Big Data enthusiasts, influential foundations and their grantees, and educational technology firms, the Department has re-interpreted (and, in effect, unilaterally amended) the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 to nullify many of its most important privacy protections. This radical re-invention of FERPA is at the root of much of the data free-for-all that has resulted in massive amounts of personally identifiable student data being collected and divulged to third parties, including for-profit vendors.

As the controversy over one such third party, inBloom, has revealed there is a wide gap between the view of most parents that they should be able to control access to their children’s personal information to protect their privacy and safety, and the perspective of various governmental agencies and private corporations that are intent on collecting and using that data without informing parents or providing them with the right to consent.

The inBloom data-mart, funded with $100 million from the Gates Foundation, sought to capture records of millions of children to enable the creation of a market in technological learning tools that would utilize and data-mine this information in name of “personalized learning.” Parents mobilized in opposition because they justly feared that the transmission and storage of their children’s most personal data on data clouds, as well as inBloom’s stated intent to provide it to a large number of for-profit vendors, was both a security and a privacy threat.

We are pleased to say that parental concerns and protests won the day over the poor judgment of state and district education officials, resulting in inBloom being driven out of business. But sadly, many other vendors seek to take inBloom’s place or to sell their wares directly to schools and districts with inadequate protections for security or privacy, and very little respect for parental rights.

Second, we respectfully urge Congress to review privacy and security practices of the multiple state longitudinal data systems created in direct response to various federal programs in recent years. These data systems are designed to collect, store and share an increasing amount of children’s personal information among a variety of state agencies and to track students over time without sufficient oversight and protections for privacy.

Finally, we respectfully urge Congress to review and strengthen both FERPA and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), to roll back the harmful provisions of the 2009 and 2011 FERPA regulations, and to update both laws in light of new and unforeseen threats to privacy rights. Particularly with the growth of the educational technology industry, there has been a huge push to expand the access to personal student data with little or no federal restrictions to slow down this trend. We are dissatisfied with the recommendations of the recent White House report on privacy that evades most of the important issues and simply asserts that any student data disclosed to third parties should be used only for “educational purposes.” This generic statement is far too vague to be reassuring.

The push for greater access to educational data is motivated by the desire of the educational technology sector to develop new products and grow their market, as well as by advocates who claim that big data will revolutionize education. We believe parents—not school officials—should be in charge of deciding whether or how much of their children’s information may be shared with vendors. The benefits of big-data and data-mining software in the area of education are still highly hypothetical and cannot be used to justify the massive amount of personal data that is being collected and shared with third parties without parental knowledge or consent.

Many parents do not want their children to spend hours more each day in front of a computer and do not believe that the model of mechanized instruction that is being promoted can deliver true personalized learning. We certainly do not want our children’s disability, health and disciplinary records shared widely with third parties.

We believe that any legislation should uphold the following principles:

Minimize the collection by governmental agencies of highly sensitive student data and their ability to share this data with third parties;

Maximize the opportunities for parental notification and consent;

Except in very limited circumstances, restrict non-consensual access to personal student data to education authorities and roll back the 2012 “authorized representative” loophole, by which nearly anyone can be designated as an authorized representative of officials entitled to its access;

Mandate strict security provisions for the storage and transmission of personal student data, regular audits, and the training of education personnel about the need to maintain robust privacy and security provisions;

Ensure that the law is enforceable, including but not limited to the ability of the federal government to impose fines and families to sue if their children’s privacy is violated.

We urge you to open up a dialogue with parents as soon as possible. Since inBloom’s demise, much has been written about the importance of including parents in the debate over how to protect their children’s privacy yet very little has been done to involve them in the discussion. We thank you for your leadership and stand ready to work with you on this important issue.


Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters, co-chair Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Rachael Stickland, founder, School Belongs to the Children (CO), co-chair Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Diane Ravitch, President, Network for Public Education

Dora Taylor, President, Parents Across America

Julie Woestehoff, Executive Director, Parents United for Responsible Education

Cassie Creswell, organizer, More Than a Score (Chicago)

Lisa Rudley, Director of Education Policy, Autism Action Network, co-founder of NY State Allies for Public Education

Josh Golin, Associate Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, American Principles Project, Washington, D.C.

SOS Oregon

Lisa Guisbond, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Schools (MA)

Robin Hiller, Executive Director, Voices for Education (AZ)

United Opt Out

Lourdes Perez, HispanEduca

Change the Stakes (NYC)

Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

Helen Gym, Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia, PA.

Julia Sass Rubin, co-founder, Save Our Schools NJ

Jean Ann Guliano, Parents Across Rhode Island

Ilana Spiegel on behalf of SPEAK (Supportive Parents, Educators and Kids)for Cherry Creek (CO)

Deb Mayer, Great Schools for America 4


Rachael Stickland, a leader in the fight for student privacy in Colorado and co-chair of the Coalition to Protect Student Privacy points out, “inBloom’s egregious attempt to siphon off massive amounts of sensitive student information and to share it with for-profit vendors took parents by surprise.  Once we learned that recent changes to FERPA allowed non-consensual disclosure of highly personal data, parents became fierce advocates for their children’s privacy.  We’re now prepared to organize nationally to promote strong, ethical privacy protections at the state and federal levels.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education said: “Since the passage of FERPA in 1974, parents expected that Congress was protecting the confidentiality of information about their children. However, in recent years, the US Department of Education has rewritten the regulations governing FERPA, eviscerating its purpose and allowing outside parties to gain access to data about children that should not be divulged to vendors and other third parties. The Network for Public Education calls on Congress to strengthen FERPA and restore the protection of families’ right to privacy.”

“The uprising against inBloom demonstrated the extent to which parents are will not tolerate the misuse of their children’s sensitive personal information,” said Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s Associate Director Josh Golin. “But parents cannot be expected to mobilize against each and every threat to their children’s privacy, particularly if they’re not even aware of which vendors have access to student data. It is critical that Congress take real steps to protect schoolchildren from those who see student data as a commodity to be exploited for profit.”

“Parents Across America, a national network of public school parents, emphatically supports this call for hearings as a first step toward reversing federal actions that have eroded parental authority over student data, and including even stronger privacy protections for our children,” said Julie Woestehoff, a Chicago parent activist and PAA secretary.  She added: “PAA recommends restoring parental authority over student data that was removed from FERPA by the US Department of Education, enacting state laws that include parental opt out provisions in any statewide data sharing program, strictly regulating in-school use of electronic hardware and software that collect student information, and including significant parent representation on any advisory committees overseeing student data collection.”

Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, a Massachusetts public education advocacy group, said, “Citizens for Public Schools members, including many parents, are deeply concerned about threats to the privacy of student information. We support hearings and strong legislation to protect the privacy of this data. Parents are increasingly left out of important education policy discussions. In this, as in all crucial school policy discussions, they must have a voice.”

“Parents will accept nothing less than parental consent, when it comes to their child’s personally identifiable sensitive information. As a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the devastation that confidential information used without my consent could have on my child’s future.  As a long-time advocate for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, I implore the U.S. House and Senate to put the necessary language back into FERPA to protect students and uphold the right of their families to control their personally identifiable data,”   said Lisa Rudley, Director of Education Policy, Autism Action Network and Co-Founder of NYS Allies for Public Education.

Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said, “Regardless of intention, the collection of an individual’s personal information is a source of discomfort and intimidation.  Government’s broad collection of such information threatens to undermine America’s founding structure:  if government intimidates the people, government cannot be by and for the people.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Coalition, concluded, “Since inBloom’s demise, many of the post-mortems have centered around the failure of elected officials and organizations who support more data sharing to include parents in the conversation around student privacy.   We are no longer waiting to be invited to this debate.  It is up to parents to see that we are heard , not only in statehouses but also in the nation’s capital when it comes to the critical need to safeguard our children’s most sensitive data – which if breached or misused could harm their prospects for life.  We are urging Congress to listen to our concerns, and act now.” www.studentprivacymatters.org



The Weekly Update: More on the Common Core, push back and opting out of high stakes testing, the FTC steps in to protect student privacy, a gag order on teachers and more

Let’s start off with this gem:

kindergarten show
Annual Kindergarten Show Canceled to Allow Kids to Focus on College

A beloved annual kindergarten show at a New York school was canceled this week by administrators in an apparent effort to prepare the five-year-olds for college, probably by teaching them that you can’t trust anyone.

Administrators at the Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, New York, recently sent out a series of letters alerting parents that the annual song-and-dance show their children had been preparing for wasn’t good enough for their looming college applications.

“The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills,” the letter says.

The administrators further explain that the five-year-olds would be better off learning to become “strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers,” all of which, ironically, are skills required to put on a show.

Yep, that’s education today.

Besides cancelling kindergarten performances and placing children in front of computers instead to take their tests, a lot has been happening in the wide world of education.

CCS in a nutshell

We’ll start in Chicago:

Chicago Teachers Union joins growing national opposition to deeply flawed Common Core Standards

Today, members of the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) passed the following resolution that enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.

Now that the resolution has passed, the CTU will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core for teaching and assessment; and be it further and will work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.

Common Core’s origins can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus Bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core  with the added incentive that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.

“I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher.  “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”

The official text of the resolution follows:

Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that –teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.

And a Chicago public school teacher describes the process of developing the resolution:
Michelle Gunderson: How Chicago Teachers Union Decided to Oppose Common Core

Gunderson Wednesday evening I stood before my brothers and sisters at the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates to speak in favor of our resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards. When I finished speaking, there was a call for the vote. It was unanimous. It was resounding – not a single voice raised in opposition.

There are times when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) seems like an engine; that we are able to accomplish great and difficult work seemingly overnight. I would like to pull back the curtain for a moment, and help others understand the purposeful and deliberate process we take in order to form our decisions and actions at CTU.

There are those in the media who contend we are being reckless and blindly following Karen Lewis, the president of our local. Nothing could be further from the actual case.

As much as we admire Karen Lewis and are grateful for her talents, this work was not generated from her. In fact, characterizing this event in such simplistic terms denigrates the social justice transformation of the Chicago Teachers Union, a long and hard-won struggle that involves many. We do not act on Karen Lewis’ behalf or her wishes. She acts on ours, with our guidance, and we love her for it.

It is hard to imagine a union in existence where a full democratic process is expected by everyone involved – leadership, rank and file, and union staff. Yet, in Chicago, we hold this ideal in such high regard we cannot imagine a union working any other way.

Several months prior to the passing of the resolution, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators began discussing and debating the Common Core in our open meetings. We read Diane Ravitch’s book The Reign of Error in small study groups. And many of us followed Anthony Cody’s work on this blog. Through conversations and study we came to a strong conclusion. The authors of the Common Core view the purpose of education as college and career readiness. We view the purpose of public education as a means for educating a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives.

With our philosophical underpinning so drastically divergent from that of the Common Core we did not see any room for common ground.

That is why we say no to Common Core.

Some union locals have asked for a longer roll out of Common Core implementation. Others ask for the standards to be re-written. We say no. We are not asking the Bill Gates and Rahm Emanuels of our world to do a better job controlling the curriculum of our schools. We want them gone from the process.

Once we decided that we could not support Common Core Standards in any form, it was time to do the difficult work of taking action. I made a motion at our caucus meeting that we prepare a resolution fully opposing Common Core. It was approved after debate and careful consideration.

I wrote the first draft, but there is no way that I can be considered the author. It is crafted through conversations with dozens of educators in Chicago. It is an outcome of a movement among educators to countermand the negative impact of corporate education reform.

After a general resolution was in place, the tedious work of writing draft after draft, presenting the resolution through several union committees, and bringing the finished version before the CTU executive board and House of Delegates began. This process took months.

And there we have it: RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning.

As we move forward, we need to come together to fight for what we do believe in. We have it in us to build a better education system for our children. Let us all consider saying no to Common Core and reclaiming our classrooms.

censored money (2)

And teachers are to see no evil and speak no evil about Common Core. From Politico’s Morning Education newsletter:

UNION PROTESTS STATE TEST ‘GAG ORDER’: Representatives from the American Federation of Teachers will deliver a letter of protest from AFT President Randi Weingarten to Pearson shareholders attending a meeting in London this morning. Their beef: Confidentiality rules that block New York teachers and principals from discussing their concerns about specific questions on Pearson’s new Common Core exams. “We’re concerned that Pearson is using gag orders to cover up – rather than address – problems with its standardized tests,” Weingarten writes.

– Pearson’s response: A polite suggestion that the AFT direct its concerns to Albany, not London. The company says it does not write “gag orders” into its contracts and leaves decisions about test security and confidentiality up to state officials. What’s more, Pearson CEO John Fallon says he agrees with Weingarten that states should regularly release test questions.

– So what is Albany’s take on the matter? Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Education, says the state requires teachers to keep test questions under wraps because it reuses some questions from year to year; it can’t afford to commission entirely new exams. He points out that the state published 25 percent of the questions from last year’s exams and plans to release even more this year. And he questions the very notion of a “gag order.” The state won’t allow teachers to divulge specific questions, Tompkins said, but “if they want to criticize the assessments in general they’re free to do.”

Bill Gates has been the driver behind the development and implementation of CCS investing millions into the program.

Here is one edu-blogger’s take on why Bill Gates will not to listen to educators, students and parents and instead continues down this path of creating a level of insanity in our schools.
Robert Shepherd:
…I don’t think for a moment that the Gates people are interested in the issues here. They are working out a business plan. Decades ago, Gates articulated a vision for the future of U.S. education: computer-adaptive software. He believes that such software will build in accountability, ensure mastery, personalize instruction, and enable schools to reduce, dramatically, the size of the teaching force and thus the costs of education. And so he invested heavily in the CC$$ because he needed a national bullet list to tag the assessments and computer-adaptive software to. And he tried to create a national database for the results that would act as a curriculum portal THAT HE WOULD CONTROL. Back in the day, WordPerfect had the lion’s share of the word processing software market, and Lotus 1, 2, 3 owned spreadsheets. So what did Gates do? He leveraged his monopolistic control over operating systems. He told computer manufacturers, if you want to use my operating system, you have to ship a “free” copy of Microsoft Office with each machine, and you have to pay me a hundred bucks for the privilege. WordPerfect and Lotus could not compete with free. He drove them out of business. Then he started charging for Office. Well, he tried to do the same thing with inBloom. There would be one national portal of student responses, and all computerized educational software, if it was going to make use of that database, would have to go through him. He would be the gatekeeper. A couple years ago, about the time that he was writing the check for the CC$$, Gates put out an RFP through his foundation directed at edupreneurs interested in developing computer-adaptive software. He and Pearson own equity stakes in a number of the companies that have resulted, and he and Pearson have collaborated in a new suite of CC$$-tagged educational software programs that are fully integrated with–guess what?–Microsoft Office. The Common Core was a business plan. The whole accountability program has been co-opted by Gates as part of a strategic plan. So, trying to convince the Gates Foundation that it is wrong is like trying to convince Exxon that solar is more sustainable. He’s in the accountability via computer-adaptive software business.

Now onto student data which is linked to the Common Core Standards:

Educators wary over test’s use of student data

Fueling growing unrest among some school officials regarding student privacy and a new assessment test, the state education department said it is not ready to release information on who has access to data collected on students.

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees last month asked the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a list of vendors who receive student data collected through testing and by school districts. But the DESE said this is the first such request the department has ever received and that the information is not readily available.

“What I see here is a legitimate issue, and frankly I’d like to know the answers to, one, who gets access to the info, and, two, why aren’t they giving the answers out?” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of MASC, who said he was contacted by at least a dozen school committee members from across the state asking him to make a formal request for the information.

“This is student data and I would hope that it’s not going to marketers who will be bombarding them,” said Mel Webster, a member of the North Reading School Committee.

Jackie Reis, DESE media relations coordinator, declined to answer questions from the Globe regarding who has access to student data collected through assessment testing; how many vendors are under contract to receive student data; how vendors are vetted; how data are shared; if student data are sold and if so, for how much; vendor contract lengths; and who is ultimately responsible at the DESE for data collection, sharing, and vetting vendors. Reis said answers to these questions would have to wait till mid-May.

“The reason the list of vendors is taking a while to compile is because different vendors work with different sections of the department, and no one has ever asked for the full list before,” said Reis. “It should be available in mid-May, and as part of that release, we’ll explain how [vendors] are vetted.”
Peabody School Committee member Dave McGeney made the initial request concerning the availability of all student data collected by the DESE in late March after taking a closer look at the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers , or PARCC test, which was rolled out for a test run this spring in some 1,000 school districts statewide. But he was unable to get any information about the availability of any student data collected by the state agency after repeated attempts through various DESE staff, he said.

“There’s no transparency and the answers raise more questions,” said McGeney.


Then this about Google:

DO NO EVIL? Google Sued For Data-Mining Kids’ Emails in Its Education App

Google has been rocked by another scandal – this time, it’s our children’s privacy under attack. The company is facing a lawsuit over data-mining student emails in a bid for advertisements in the company’s Apps for Education tool suite for schools, Info Docket reported.

The U.S District Court for the Northern District of California is currently hearing the complaint, in which nine plaintiffs allege the data-mining practices behind Google’s Gmail electronic messaging service violates federal and state wiretap and privacy laws.  Gmail is a key feature of the Google Apps for Education which is used by schools and institutions of higher education through the world for free, boasting some 30 million users worldwide.

Google admitted in a sworn statement that it scans millions of students’ email messages to compile keywords for advertisements, despite not displaying any visual ads on its app. The company has also come under fire for allegedly using information from the scans to build “surreptitious” profiles of users that could be used for such purposes as targeted advertising.

The new developments raise major concerns about the compatibility between US child protection laws and “big data,” Education Week reported prompting major calls for the company to be more open about its policies.

Khaliah Barnes, a lawyer with EPIC, a Washington-based advocacy group said the case was highly troubling and likely to ignite concern that our children’s right to privacy is at risk.

“This should draw the attention of the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Trade Commission, and state legislatures. Student privacy is under attack,” he said.

To read this article in full, go to AlterNet.

And an even more frightening development:

ConnectEDU, a data company that would have received personal student data through the now defunct inBloom cloud, went bankrupt last month and is being bought by a venture capital company.  ConnectEDU received a $500K grant from the Gates Foundation less than a year ago.

Now the Federal Trade Commission is stepping in to see that the company doesn’t hand over all the personal student data it has accumulated to the new venture capital firm buying the company.  There is nothing that would have stopped this if the FTC had not stepped in.

Check it out:

 FTC Acts to Protect Student Data in Proposed Ed-Tech Bankruptcy Sale

The potential sale of 20 million student records by ConnectEDU, an ed-tech company that filed for bankruptcy in April, has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to step in to protect the student data, the agency announced Friday.

ConnectEDU, a 12-year-old Boston-based company, provides interactive tools to help K-12 and post-secondary learners make academic and career decisions. In its privacy policy, ConnectEDU promised that—prior to any sale of the company—registered users would be notified and have the ability to delete their personally identifiable data.

Now, the FTC said that promise appears to be compromised by the potential sale of the company’s assets, includin the student data, to North Atlantic Capital, a Portland, Me.-based venture capital fund. As a result, the commission—by a vote of 5-0—authorized its consumer protection bureau to write a letter to the bankruptcy court that will rule on the asset sale.

The letter indicates that the terms of the sale of the company and its subsidiary Academic Management Systems Inc. in bankruptcy do not provide consumers the notice and choice set forth in the privacy policy and could potentially run afoul of both the FTC Act and the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

“On the ConnectEDU website, students have built personal listings of their academic and personal interests, honors and awards, and work experience; employed resume builders, test preparation, and financial literacy tools; and engaged with networks of teachers, mentors, and potential employers,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote in the letter.

Rich indicated that the FTC’s concerns would be “greatly diminished” if ConnectEDU provided users with notice of the sale of their personal information, and those users were given a chance to remove it, or if the personal information was destroyed.

Now this is the real gem:

The U.S. Department of Education applauded the move on Friday. “Users of online educational tools should be able to trust that companies will use their personal information in accordance with both the companies’ stated privacy policies and applicable federal legal requirements, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (commonly known as FERPA),” said Dorie Nolt, department press officer, in a written statement.

If it wasn’t for Arne Duncan, head of the Department of Education, this would have never happened. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with President Obama’s approval, amended FERPA so that student information, no matter how private, could be handed over to any third party for any reason.

As Anthony Cody wrote in a post:

This level of data collection was made possible by the Department of Education’s 2011 revision of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). According to this report,

…in 2011, regulations issued by the department changed FERPA to allow the release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes. The rules also broaden the exceptions under which schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents. And they promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records, according to EPIC, a nonprofit public-interest center based in Washington D.C.

At least someone in the Federal government had the sense to stop the unregulated flow of student information into the hands of those standing to make a profit from private student information.

At this time, the amendment that was made to FERPA that opened the gates for any company or corporation to use student information to their own financial benefit needs to be struck down.

Now on to opting out.

There are many reasons why parents are beginning to opt their students out of high stakes testing. One reason is because of the use  of personal student information by corporations. Another reason is because they feel their students are being emotionally abused by way of the stress created by the overuse of standardized tests and the emphasis on test scores.

Let’s hear from some of these parents:

This video was brought to you by:

change the stakes2
At Change the Stakes check out:

12 Reasons to Opt Out

How to Opt-Out

Sample Opt-Out Letters

Today I will leave you with a voice of reason, Diane Ravitch:

Dora Taylor


The Weekly Update: No money for Common Core in Seattle, Broad left Seattle in the cover of darkness and has reappeared in Oregon, ACT for Kindergartners, Creationism in schools and the US as an Oligarchy. How much more fun can one have?

trickle down (2)

Much is going on in the wide world of education. Every time I’m ready to wrap up this post, something new comes across the wires so let’s get started.

First up:

Thanks to our state legislators who understand the negative ramifications of tying test scores to teacher evaluations, the bill that would have brought new meaning to the term “high stakes testing” was shot down even after Arne Duncan had a special meeting with our Governor explaining to him the importance of the Federal government determining local education policy.

It will behoove all of us to remember the members of our state Congress who voted this bill down. They will need our support in upcoming elections. Big money was behind this bill and they are not likely to go away after this defeat.

From Diane Ravitch:

BREAKING NEWS: Duncan Withdraws NCLB Waiver from Washington State

The Education Department is pulling Washington state’s No Child Left Behind waiver because the state has not met the department’s timeline for tying teacher evaluations to student performance metrics.

Washington is the first state to lose its waiver. The loss will give local districts less flexibility in using federal funds.

For instance, they may now be required to spend millions on private tutoring services for at-risk students. The waiver revocation could also result in nearly every school across the state being labeled as failing under NCLB.

Washington had pledged in its waiver application to make student growth a significant factor in teacher and principal evaluations by the 2014-15 school year. But the state Legislature refused to pass a bill mandating that student performance on statewide assessments be included in teacher evaluations. The department placed the state on “high-risk” status in August. Arizona, Kansas and Oregon are also at risk of losing their waivers. (Politico)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan handed out numerous waivers to states to avoid the 2014 deadline in the No Child Left Behind law.

Under the law, every state must assure that every single child in grades 3-8 is proficient on state tests of reading and mathematics.

No state met the deadline. If the law remains in effect (it was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but gets extended year after year), every state would be declared a failed state, and virtually every public school in the United States would be closed or privatized or suffer some other sanction for failing to meet an impossible goal. It bears pointing out that no nation in the world can claim that 100% of its students are proficient in reading and math.

But Duncan didn’t hand out waivers wholesale. Instead, he made the waiver conditional on the state agreeing to accept his conditions, which were similar to the conditions in Race to the Top. In effect, states are now following Race to the Top requirements but without the prize money.

One of the central conditions of the waiver, like Race to the Top, was that states must agree to evaluate their teachers and principals based to a significant degree on the test scores of their students.

Washington State has failed to create such a system. Today Arne Duncan withdrew Washington State’s NCLB waiver to punish it for failing to do as he demanded.

Perhaps legislators in Washington State noticed that this method of evaluating teachers and principals has failed wherever it was tried.

Perhaps they read the joint report of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, which cautioned that “value-added measurement” was inaccurate and unstable, and that it measures who is in the classroom rather than teacher quality. The legislators probably did not have a chance to read the recent report of the American Statistical Association, which also cautioned on the use of VAM, because of its imprecision and its unintended effects. But they may have read Stanford Professor Edward Haertel’s advice that states should not set numerical percentages for the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. All of these reports reach the same conclusion: that Duncan’s favorite solution to raising teacher quality does not have evidence to support it.

Let’s hope that Washington State says no to the illegitimate demands of the Secretary of Education. Duncan is overreaching. He is not the nation’s superintendent of schools. He should learn about federalism and about the limited role of the federal government in the area of education.

Meanwhile, I hope that the state of Washington sues the Secretary of Education and helps him learn about federalism and about the importance of evidence in policymaking.

Here is Duncan’s official letter to Washington State, notifying them that they are being punished for defying his orders.


I was just about to put this post to bed when I read this on Diane Ravitch’s Blog:

Tennessee Legislature Rolls Back Test-Based Teacher Evaluation Law

In a stunning reversal, the Tennessee Legislature overwhelmingly repealed a law to evaluate teachers by test scores, and the law was swiftly signed by Governor Haslam. On a day when Arne Duncan withdrew Washington State’s failure to enact test-based teacher valuation system, this is a remarkable turn of events.
Joey Garrison of The Tennessean reports:

“Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that will prevent student growth on tests from being used to revoke or not renew a teacher’s license — undoing a controversial education policy his administration had advanced just last summer.

“The governor’s signature, which came Tuesday, follows the Tennessee General Assembly’s overwhelming approval this month of House Bill 1375 / Senate Bill 2240, sponsored by Republicans Rep. John Forgety and Sen. Jim Tracy, which cleared the House by a unanimous 88-0 vote and the Senate by a 26-6 vote.

“That marked a major repudiation of a policy the Tennessee Board of Education in August adopted — at Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s recommendation — that would have linked license renewal and advancement to a teacher’s composite evaluation score as well as data collected from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, which measures the learning gains of students.

“The bill to reject the policy had been pushed chiefly by the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ organization, which engineered a petition drive to encourage Haslam to sign the legislation despite it passing with large bipartisan support.

“Huge, huge win for teachers,” the TEA wrote on its Twitter page, thanking both bill sponsors as well as Haslam for “treating teachers as professionals.”

“Eyeing a 2015 implementation, the state board in January had agreed to back down from using student learning gains as the sole and overriding reason to revoke a license. Composite evaluation scores, in which 35 percent is influenced by value-added data, were to centerpiece.”

Two interesting points here: one, Duncan has been hailing Tennessee as a demonstration of the “success” of Race to the Top, in which test-based evaluation of teachers is key. What happens now?

Second, state Commissioner Kevin Huffman is so unpopular that anything he supports is likely to be rejected. His enemies hope he doesn’t leave Tennessee because whatever he recommends generates opposition, even among his allies.

Also this week, inBloom, the data machine that was to suck up every piece of information about students, stick it into a computer for every snake oil salesman to use in selling everything from soda, snacks, books, software, magazines and lord knows what else to our children is DOWN. That’s right folks, it looks like Bill Gates brainchild to data mine every bit of information about a student just went a little too far. Advocates like Parents Across America Founder Leonie Haimson have been fighting to secure student privacy in New York for several years and they won. That means that all nine states that were to use inBloom have backed out and the door is now closed on this monstrosity.

That’s a big victory and should set a precedence for all other states, such as the State of Washington, to not allow personal student information to get into the hands of third party business interests.

For more on data privacy in Seattle or the lack thereof, see CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy.

corporate reform

Now moving on to Common Core Standards:

School Board Members Are Freaked Out About Common Core Tests No money for Common Core in Seattle

Here’s yet more fuel for critics of the Obama administration’s Common Core teaching curricula and the standardized tests that come with them—including Seattle-area teachers who plan to boycott the tests when they’re rolled out here next fall.

The Oregonian reports:

Despite clashing opinions on a group of controversial state standards, six Portland School Board members appeared united on at least one issue: They all had concerns about the rollout of new state exams aligned with the Common Core state standards.

When the school board traded opinions on the new standards on Monday, even the most supportive of the Common Core voiced worries about the tests aligned with the new learning requirements…

Melissa Goff, the executive director of the office of teaching and learning, admits the transition will be “rocky” because of limited resources, but says the main goal is to make sure that doesn’t affect student learning.

Some critics, like board member Steve Buel, have railed generally against the standards, calling them detrimental to student learning. Others, like board member Ruth Adkins, support the Common Core, but worry teachers haven’t gotten the proper support to deal with the new tests associated with the standards.

Washington’s been condemned by its own Supreme Court for failing to adequately fund education. Is there any reason to expect things to go more smoothly here next fall, or is this an unfunded mandate?

“No, we’re not ready,” Seattle School Board Vice-President Betty Patu tells me by phone this morning. “I think every board director is worried, but I’m speaking for about four of us.” That’s a majority—there are seven board members. “We’ve discussed this, and it has been a concern. We want this to be successful, but the only way that will happen is if we have the tools in place and the funds…so [the teachers] can work the best they can with the kids so they can pass these tests.”

“There is no funding for Common Core from the state,” Patu says. “I think it should be delayed until we have funding.” But she says the district can’t make that decision without losing what little state funding it’s currently receiving. Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Frankly, I don’t’ know any district that can afford the rollout of the Common Core Standards. It requires replacing text books, buying lesson plans and homework sheets, it will require online support and teacher seminars to explain the standards and then there is the testing with the testing analysis that goes with the test data. The testing occurs on computers so there needs to be an adequate number of computers in a specified location, and hopefully not a library, with IT support and not just librarians or teachers trying to fix computer glitches during the testing period.

Unfortunately legislators rather than educators decided the Common Core Standards were what our students needed without understanding what it would cost to implement or whether the new standards were of any value compared to the curriculum that was already in place.

common-core1There are Facebook pages popping up everywhere in resistance to the Common Core Standards.

Here are a few:

Washington State Against Common Core State Standards

Pierce-Thurston County Common Core Concerned Citizens

Stop Common Core in Oregon

Stop Common Core in New York State

Stop Common Core in Louisiana

Stop Common Core in Illinois

And now for more testing insanity, just when you thought your kindergartner was safe:

The ACT for kids
ACT for kids

Kindergarten Career Test In The Works By ACT

A new digital tool to test academic and behavioral skills will target students starting in kindergarten.

ACT, the organization that developed the ACT college-entrance exam, will start testing the tool in the fall. It will be available to schools starting in 2014.The tool tracks students’ career interests, academic performance and progress toward goals. It’s designed to follow students from kindergarten through high school.

Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division, said the goal is to identify and address gaps in skills needed for college and the workforce. The assessment combines traditional testing with teacher-led projects to generate an instant, digital score.

To read this article in full, go to the Huffington Post.

gravy train

In that same vein, in the “Just how much can we suck out of public education funds” category:

From Politico:


Hundreds of ed tech investors and entrepreneurs will rendezvous in Scottsdale, Ariz., this week for the Education Innovation Summit. The massive meet-and-greet will surely be lively, as business is booming. The ed tech market has been on a sustained boom the past several years, with no signs of a slowdown: Capital flows into companies serving the K-12 and higher education markets jumped to $650 million last year – nearly double the $331 million invested in those spheres in 2009.

–“You’re seeing people who can invest money anywhere” turn to ed tech, said Michael Moe, co-founder of GSV Capital, a sister company to GSV Advisors. The rapid growth of companies such as Coursera, Edmodo and Knewton “attracts the big players,” Moe said, who see an opportunity for big profit. And the Common Core is helping the cause: The standards are making ed tech more attractive because entrepreneurs can now tailor their product to a single set of academic guidelines. Several notable investment deals have closed in the past month alone.

And as Diane Ravitch puts it:

Education’s Gold Rush Is On!

Starting today, the nation’s leading entrepreneurs will gather for their annual conference at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, to exchange ideas about the ongoing monetization, privatization, innovation, and profits in the education “industry.” This summit was originally organized by Michael Moe, who has for years predicted that the education sector could be monetized. He was right. His company—GSV stands for Global Silicon Valley–says on its website: “Our founders have spent the past two decades focused on the Megatrends that are disrupting the $4 trillion global education market along with the innovators who are transforming the industry.”

Some of the sponsors: Pearson, the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, McGraw-Hill, Cengage, amazon, Scholastic, etc.
The speakers’ list reads like a who’s who of the privatization movement, which it is.

Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, billionaire heiress to the Hyatt fortune, former member of the board of Chicago public schools; Jeb Bush, Chris Cerf, Cami Anderson, Reed Hastings, Margaret Spellings, Tom Vander Ark, Kaya Henderson, James Shelton, Jonathan Hage, and many more in the business of education reform.

Now onto Creationism in our public schools. I tell you, the fun never ends.


This is what happens when the 1% have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. When you don’t pay taxes, you have discretionary funds.

Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green launches a new project: a public school Bible curriculum

The Mustang, Okla., school board voted Monday (April 14) to adopt a Bible course developed by Steve Green, clearing the way for the Hobby Lobby president, whose suit against the Affordable Care Act is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, to enter another charged arena at the borderline of church and state.

The board, whose district is practically in Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City backyard, agreed to beta-test the first year of the Museum of the Bible Curriculum, an ambitious four-year public school elective on the narrative, history and impact of the Good Book.

For at least the first semester of the 2014-15 year, Mustang alone will employ the program, said Jerry Pattengale, head of the Green Scholars Initiative, which is overseeing its development. In September 2016, he hopes to place it in at least 100 high schools; by the following year, “thousands.
 If successful, Green, whose family’s wealth is estimated at upward of $3 billion, would galvanize the movement to teach the Bible academically in public schools, a movement born after the Supreme Court banned school-sanctioned devotion in the 1960s but whose steady progress in the last decades has been somewhat hampered.

The Green curriculum “is like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and editor of a booklet sent out to all schools by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 on teaching religion in public schools. “It’s unique in its ambition and its scope and its use of the latest technologies. I think school districts far from Oklahoma will take note.”

So will civil libertarians.

To read this article in full, go to the Washington Post.

And more on Creationism, thanks to school vouchers:

Special report: Taxpayers fund creationism in the classroom

Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies. Now a major push to expand these voucher programs is under way in 26 states from Alaska to New York – a development that seems certain to sharply increase the investment.

Now a major push to expand these voucher programs is under way from Alaska to New York, a development that seems certain to sharply increase the investment.

Public debate about science education tends to center on bills like one in Missouri, which would allow public school parents to pull their kids from science class whenever the topic of evolution comes up. But the more striking shift in public policy has flown largely under the radar, as a well-funded political campaign has pushed to open the spigot for tax dollars to flow to private schools. Among them are Bible-based schools that train students to reject and rebut the cornerstones of modern science.

To read this article in full, go to Politico.


Also on Politico:

– A POLITICO review of hundreds of pages of course outlines, textbooks and school websites found that many faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. Their course materials nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. That disturbs some advocates of strong science education. But proponents of the voucher programs say they’re accountable to parents – who wouldn’t enroll their kids if they didn’t believe they were getting a good education. Stephanie Simon has the in-depth look.

– See excerpts from curricular materials some of these schools use.

class war
And for more good news…

noun \ˈä-lə-ˌgär-kē, ˈō-\

: a country, business, etc., that is controlled by a small group of people

: the people that control a country, business, etc.

: government or control by a small group of people

-Merriam Webster Dictionary

corporate capitolism

We have seen the Oligarchy rule in the area of public education with the Walton’s, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and other wealthy individuals who have tried to cut off public discourse to push their own ideas and agendas and to basically experiment on our children so there is no surprise to anyone who has been watching the takeover of our public schools by the wealthy few that the 1% are also overtaking other aspects of American life.

Study: US Is Not A Democracy

In America, money talks… and democracy dies under its crushing weight.

study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:

“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled “Testing Theories of American Politics.” The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.

Nonetheless, this is the first-ever scientific study of the question of whether the U.S. is a democracy. “Until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions [that U.S. policymaking operates as a democracy, versus as an oligarchy, versus as some mixture of the two] against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” That’s an enormous number of policy-issues studied.

What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

And the Middle Class?

Wealth of US middle class now lower than Canada’s

American workers who previously made up the wealthiest middle class in the world have lost that distinction, according to new research that attributes the economic stagnation on rising income inequality in the US.

Economic growth in the US continues to be as strong if not stronger than other developed nations, although fewer Americans are reaping the benefit of their hard work. An analysis of income and spending numbers published Tuesday by the New York Times indicated that the wealthiest tax brackets are enjoying more financial growth, while the lower and middle income tiers are now lagging behind their counterparts throughout the world.
Median income in Canada tied with median income in the US in 2010 and has likely surpassed that number since, according to the Times.

When I was visiting Canada about three years ago, I was impressed by the amount of construction that was going on in Canada. Building projects in Seattle had come to a standstill after the crash of 2008 caused by banking fraud and the greed of a few. The difference was that Canada did not deregulate their banks as the US had done. People were working, there were no homeless on the streets asking for change, and there were cranes everywhere. Not so in the United States where countless people were unemployed with no hope in sight.

There are many reasons for the disparity that the majority of people feel in the United States and we will get to that towards the end of this update. Just know that if you feel crushed by the lack of money and other resources, it’s not your fault. Don’t feel guilty. We as a nation have worked harder than ever before with even greater rates of productivity. We have been and continue to be a hardworking and proud people, honest, caring for our neighbors and friends and looking towards the future with great hopes for our children. Events have occurred as we kept marching on, and we were deceived.

Let’s continue to look at how a wealthy few continue to try and manipulate the education of our children.

Eli Broad, with the assistance of a few wealthy individuals in Seattle, attempted to take over the Seattle Public School system six years ago. Many of us researched, analyzed and fought back. It worked. See The Battle for Seattle, The True Legacy of Seattle’s Fired (Broad Academy) Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and The Broad Foundation for additional information.

After the Broad superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, was fired and her Broad resident, Brad Bernatek, slinked away, we were done with that dark part of our history. Unfortunately, Eli Broad has resurfaced in Oregon, our neighbor to the south.

Gov. John Kitzhaber picks up $25,000 for re-election campaign from Eli Broad

Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad has given a sizable chunk to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s re-election campaign — $25,000, or 25 large as they say down there.

The gift is among the biggest the Democratic contender has gotten this year, and it brings his campaign cash supply to nearly half a million dollars. Kitzhaber is running for what could be a history-making fourth term.

Does Oregon know what they’re in for? Does Kitzhaber have a clue? Will Oregonians have to learn the hard way as we did?

We shall see, although, some of us will try and give a heads up to those who are willing to listen.

Speaking of the wealthy few, let’s compare the salaries of CEO’s at charter schools with principals of public schools.

Deborah Kenny, Seth Andrews and Eva Moskowitz

Check out Nice Work If U Can Get It at edushyster for more details.

What is happening in public education is happening in all aspects of our lives.

I will end this post with Bill Moyers discussing the rule of corporate capitalism in our country and the resulting inequality.

First, What the 1% Don’t Want You to Know.

Economist Paul Krugman explains how the United States is becoming an oligarchy – the very system our founders revolted against.

Last year, Bill Moyers interviewed Robert Reich and discussed his documentary Inequality for All. The documentary can be viewed on Netflix streaming.



Is inBloom not answerable to the public?

Bill Gates data mining

inBloom is the creation of  Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch.

From Diane Ravitch’s Blog:

Is inBloom Engaged in Identity Theft?

The Gates Foundation spent $100 million along with the Carnegie Corporation to create a massive database consisting of confidential information about students. The database will be created by Rupert Murdoch’s subsidiary Wireless Generation. It will go onto a “cloud” managed by amazon.com.

Several states and districts have agreed to turn over their student data. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education quietly changed the FERPA regulations so that the data could be released. According to this article, the data will be available to entrepreneurs to market stuff to children’s.

Here is one New York parent’s view:

“I have emailed and called [State Commissioner] John King’s office over 40 times the past month refusing to consent to allow the DOE to transfer my children’s personal information into InBloom to be bought and sold around the world so vendors get rich. King’s office refuses to allow parents to opt-out.

I consider InBloom Identity Theft. We need a class action law suit to protect students privacy.

Please see the extent of data that is being collected and entered to be sold without a guarantee of security. Even your billing address from credit cards can be entered along with birth weight, homework completions, medical reports for IEP’s, disabilities, discipline, and much more.


The link above is a must see.

Since Dr. Ravitch’s post was published, there has been strong reaction from parents around the country about what private information is being gleaned from students and their families.

States are beginning to pull out of this massive data gathering effort and other states are beginning to question its value.

From Politico’s Morning Education newsletter this AM:


New York Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan has been demanding that executives from the student database inBloom answer questions in Albany about their plans to store personal information on millions of children. If they won’t come voluntarily, she said, she’d issue a subpoena. A few days ago, Nolan told Gannett’s Albany bureau that she had finally secured an agreement for an inBloom representative to testify at a hearing this month. But inBloom spokesman Adam Gaber says there’s no deal yet. “This is all a work in progress,” he said. “Nothing yet scheduled.”

Interesting situation. A private enterprise has taken on, without anyone’s approval or consent, the collection of and culling through of massive amounts of information about students. Are they answerable to anyone? states? school districts? parents?

Is Bill Gates answerable to the rest of us? How about the Bezo’s, the Walton’s, Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the 1% who are dictating how our children should be educated? Shouldn’t they be requesting our permission to collect personal information on students rather than just grabbing it and selling it to the highest bidder?

Who do they answer to?

Dora Taylor

New York legislators ready to put Common Core Standards and student data collecting on hold


This just in:

The leaders of both houses of the New York State legislature have called for a two year moratorium on the Common Core. The Governor has also expressed concern with the implementation.  In addition the electeds shunned I Bloom – the data portal. The Board of Regents will hear a report from a Task Force on Monday.  

Ed in the Apple


Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, and Senate Education Chair John Flanagan Call for Delay of Common Core and Sharing of Student Privacy Data

Senators Skelos, Klein and Flanagan issued the following statement:

     We continue to support the goals of an improved education curriculum
that increases standards and ensures that students are college and career

     However, after having spent months listening to parents, teachers,
administrators and educational professionals at public hearings conducted
throughout New York State, it is our belief that while the implementation
of Common Core Learning Standards may have been well intended, it has been
poorly executed.

     We continue to have grave concerns over this flawed roll-out.  Unless
the Board of Regents acts to alleviate the concerns of parents, teachers
and other educators, we call on the Regents to delay the use of Common Core
tests for high-stakes decisions about teachers, principals and students for
a minimum of two years.  During this time, SED should continue to develop
curricula aligned with higher standards and assist local school districts
in developing their own curricula so teachers can successfully implement
higher learning standards and help students reach their maximum potential.

     In addition, students, parents, teachers, privacy experts and school
administrators have raised serious concerns about the ability of
unauthorized third-parties to access personally identifiable information
(PII) of students, teachers and principals that will be collected on the
state-wide Education Data Portal (EDP).  Therefore, we reiterate our call
for the Regents to delay operation of the Education Data Portal for at
least one year.

     In the end, our goal must continue to be the development of higher
learning standards in the best interest of our students and their futures. 

For additional information see:

Silver, Nolan Call for Common Core Delay


Senate Coalition: Delay Common Core

Submitted by Dora Taylor