Parents: Who is (mis)Labeling Your Children?
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Labels are good on soup cans, on prescription bottles, but on children? …not so much.
Here’s a newsflash for the data driven educrats: Children change, develop at different rates, aren’t easily or accurately quantified. Data can be biased and data can be wrong.
Take, for example, a 7 year old child who was labeled as profoundly developmentally disabled. One specialist told the parent that his child would likely need assistance getting on and off a school bus, and would be in a “classroom of her peers, would not play sports, and likely not attend college.” Turns out, the specialist, who prepared this report for a school disability meeting, was wrong. The specialist couldn’t accurately predict this child’s future, which in itself is great news. (The little girl, now 10 years old, plays soccer and is hoping to be a pro-athlete or scientist when she grows up.) The bad news: the inaccurate report remains in her education record, and has been digitally shared outside of the school. The report was uploaded to the state’s education data records system, SLDS, which collects, stores records on every child beginning in preschool. (For more on this longitudinal data system in every state, see here.) Once data is entered into the state’s SLDS data system, a parent doesn’t know who outside the school has had access to their child’s records, because the information in a child’s education record and SLDS can be shared without parental consent, to anyone the school or state authorizes (vendors, researchers, government agencies like Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Corrections, etc.) Parents often do not know that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not apply to schools and that FERPA privacy law was relaxed, (despite many protests) to allow sharing of a child’s personal information, no parental consent required.
Many parents do not know that the information in their child’s education record, (photos, even medical information, disability status, IEPs, mental health, discipline records, etc.) can be shared outside of school.
Student discipline records: a school to prison labeling and sorting pipeline?
Discipline records are also collected and shared. What child hasn’t had a few discipline events in their lifetime? All children make mistakes, and learn and grow. Think about classroom or playground incidents, detentions, or letters home to parents. As this 2014 CNN report tells us, over 7,500 children nationwide were suspend from preschool; among them, black children were suspended at a rate 3 times more often as their white peers. Did you know that these and other discipline incidents can end up in a child’s education record, and be shared?
Discipline incidents at school are reported, tagged with a code, and uploaded to a child’s education record, which is then shared with the state SLDS, and can be further shared with other agencies, vendors, researchers.
You can see discipline data elements from the state and federal data dictionaries below. Now ask yourself, for what legitimate purpose does the government need to know that a child had a detention, or letter sent home to parents?
Who else has access to this huge database of very personal and predictive (easily misused and abused) information? future employers? colleges? future insurers, creditors? businesses?
The Federal data dictionary, above. This is a small snapshot from a much larger collection of 1500+ data points. This dictionary is populated with even more data labels that are interoperable (compatible, shareable) Common Education Data Standards- coded data elements. There are over 1500 different data elements that include identity, discipline, income, disability status: https://ceds.ed.gov/elementsCEDS.aspx
This astonishing amount of information collected on school children is baffling.
Where is the transparency?
Why are parents not told of this? Why aren’t parents allowed to see the data points collected and how they are used and shared [and sold?] Although there have been requests for transparency, parents have been told that full transparency would stifle innovation, cost too much or be a burden.
Parents, what do you think? Will you settle for half the truth, half the transparency?
Will you settle for being told that some TYPES of educational data for educational purposes, are being collected and shared about your child, or do you think you deserve to know the WHOLE truth, actual data POINTS…these are your children, after all; you decide if you want them labeled.
Written by Cheri Kiesecker