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back to school check list

Astonishing amounts of student and family data are being collected and stored online by schools and this data is also shared. Sharing your child’s personal information outside of the school should be your decision, students should be able to control their own data, but alas, they can not.  As the National Education Policy Center, NEPC,  reported in their latest annual report, students are Learning to Be Watched: it’s a  Surveillance Culture at School.
Here are some things you can do
Let the school know you are concerned about data privacy. Don’t be afraid to ASK questions and advocate for your child and don’t settle for someone telling you they don’t collect data and don’t share data outside of the school. Not all teachers or principals will know all the ways that data is collected.  Be patient; educate, don’t blame. Inform others that:  all online programs collect data and can use algorithms to predict and profile childrenAnything in a student’s education record, including IEP information, health records can be shared, anything in the state longitudinal data system, SLDS,  (found in every state) can also be shared. Because of a 2011 change to a long standing federal law,  FERPA , your  child’s data can be collected and shared without your consent.  Many now realize that student data collection is out of control and soon to be even more so with the advent of student data badges and hidden online competency based education,  tests, and data collection.  Be aware, don’t blindly sign away personal information that could be used to PREDICT or PROFILE your child; their data foot print can affect their future jobs, insurance, and chances at college.



The law states that education agencies (schools, districts, state ed departments) must keep logs of who has requested to see your student’s personally identifiable information (pii) and they must provide that information to parents. We wrote about this  existing code requiring education providers to keep very detailed records of data requests and disclosures and they must provide that information to parents. Use this template letter , send it to each education provider to see who has been given access to your child’s pii.   Under FERPA, you also have the right to inspect your child’s data in the SLDS and school education record to make sure it is accurate, at no cost to you.


OPT OUT  and REFUSE State Mandated Standardized Tests

Check your state to see if you have adopted a law allowing students and parents to opt out of the end of year High Stakes Tests like PARCC, SAGE, SBAC, without retribution or threats.  Even if you do not have an ” opt out law” , you CAN refuse the test for your child, simply submit a refusal for the test(s), in writing. Check local websites/Facebook pages for opt out information and sample template refusal letters. Keep in mind, that these big end of year tests are being replaced with sneaky, hidden year round online tests, that automatically collect data: often referred to as Competency Based Ed (CBE) and Personalized ed.  See more about the push for CBE,  and online personalized education at the US Department of Education website.  Also see the USDoE  blog about keeping kids engaged on a screen via next-generation web- and app-based assessments,  games that measure knowledge and performance in real time.


choose pencil


The best way to avoid this hidden online data collection: ask for paper and pencil, ask for text books instead of online.  A pencil or text book will never sell or share your child’s personal information.  Schools MUST provide an equitable alternative to online education.  For more on the US Department of Ed’s push for online education and “free” data collecting online curriculum, see here, in their own words.



If you do choose to allow your child to log into apps or online curriculum at school, ask to see the school’s contract with the online company or app provider (ie: Google or iReady or Edmodo). Look at the privacy policy and terms of service.  Look to see what data points they collect, how they share the data and WHO they share it with, or sell it to. Ask what algorithms they use, how they analyze the data, profile the child, and who the sub-contractors are. Look to see how they store the data (is it secure or vulnerable to hacking) and look to see if that data is ever deleted.

Opt out of the School Directory

school directory opt out wagon
  • When registering your child for school, do NOT choose to allow your child’s information in the school directory. READ THIS FIRST to see what data is put into the directory that can be shared -outside of school- without your permission. Then Opt Out of the Directory.
  • Typical School Directory Policy: For purposes of this policy, “directory information” is information contained in a student’s education record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. “Directory information” includes, but is not limited to, the student’s name, photograph, audio and/or video recordings, major field of study, grade level, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, honors and awards received, and the most recent educational agency or institution attended. The District may disclose directory information without written consent of the parent/guardian or eligible student; however, student telephone numbers and addresses will not be disclosed without the express written permission of the parent/guardian. The parent or eligible student has the right to refuse to permit the disclosure of any or all of the categories of directory information specified above, provided such refusal is in writing and received in the office of the principal of the school where the student is in attendance no later than September 1 (or the next school day thereafter if September 1 is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday).
  • Be selective.   DECIDE what information you want to share.   Yearbook? Sports? Clubs?   You can choose on an individual basis, see this FORM.


lifetime 2

Bottom line, education is a businessdata is currency and your child’s information is often the price for the free online services offered at school.   Nothing is free.  Don’t let your child’s data predict his or her future.  Be aware. Be like Europe.  Keep your child’s personal information in the hands of parents and teachers and away from profiteers,  data brokers and corporations who created this mandated data collection.

Cheri Kiesecker