Snapshot of College Board’s OPTIONAL Student Data Questionnaire (2016-17) shared from Colorado Dept. of Ed website. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The above screenshot of the Student Data Questionnaire was posted on the Colorado Department of Education website after this March 2017 piece was published in the Washington Post.  The article, How the SAT and PSAT collect personal data on students — and what the College Board does with it,  asked why parents and students are not told which questions are optional and also showed how the College Board makes money from student information, by licensing the data to many vendors.  Parents don’t know what detailed information their children are giving out. Parents don’t know how the data are marketed, and importantly, many do not know that it is OPTIONAL to complete these questions, OPTIONAL to sign up for Student Search Services.   What parents and students  need to know  and what schools need to communicate:  it will not hurt the student’s chances at scholarships or acceptance into college if they do not complete the optional questions, or do not sign up for Student Search Services.  Still not sure?  Read it directly from this letter sent by the College Board:

If a student does not opt in to Student Search Service it will not impact their chances at being accepted into colleges or scholarship programs in any way.” –The College Board/ SAT


College Board’s New Data Policy for 2017-18 PSAT10, PSAT8/9, SAT

Interestingly, the College Board recently communicated (yesterday) that they will be marking which questions are optional on this year’s PSAT and SAT.  In fact, the College Board has now created a new Data Policy, detailing which questions are optional and also lists a few of the College Board’s subcontractors (Alorica, Conduent (previously Xerox), Pearson.) Take a look.   MANY subcontractors and partners are NOT listed; one partner that is missing is the College Board’s new partnership with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, via the Chan ZuckerBerg Initiative (CZI).  It’s worth noting that CZI is also on the national commission tasked with standardizing student emotions, SEL, using a student’s  SEL emotions to rank them and hold them accountable under ESSA.  CZI is also piloting personalized learning and SEL via their online learning platform Summit Schools and has been in the news (possible lawsuit?) for not being transparent about how it is using children’s data.  All that said, it is not clear how this College Board/ Zuckerberg partnership will work but since the CZI is also funding grit researcher, Angela Duckworth, it will likely have something to do with student data and “personalized” learning, measuring a student’s emotions (Social Emotional Learning.)    According to EdSurge,

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Partners with College Board—But What Does That Mean?

“CZI will also fund researchers Angela Duckworth, best known for her study on grit, and Stanford Psychology professor Greg Walton to study invisible barriers to higher education such as academic motivation, dedication and sense of belonging.
Students will not get money to subsidize them taking the tests. Goldberg clarifies the focus of the outreach is to instead to expand awareness and increase access to personalized study materials like that Khan Academy provides.”

Ms. Duckworth has been busy researching perseverance ;  you can see some of her recently published work, including how video games keep young children (4 and 6 year olds) engaged longer, see here and here  and here and here.

SEL and the future of assessments

The ACT entrance exam has already announced it will measure SEL with Tessera and MEW recently wrote about how NWEA MAP assessments can measure a student’s SEL (and apply it to other areas of a student’s life) via measuring a student’s mouse-clicks.

We also know that College Board already takes the (optional) data that students provide via Student Search Services/ questions and then makes money by licensing that data to “leverage sophisticated geographic, attitudinal and behavioral information” about students.


What we don’t know is how accurate or ethical these SEL measurements are.  If the data and the algorithms are hidden from parents, how can we know?  We also don’t know how LEGAL it is to measure student’s emotions and attitudes without parent consent, since some state laws (like Colorado) and the Federal law ESSA prohibit assessments that collect student or family attitudes and beliefs.


We do know that parents can ask to see the SDQ questionnaire, students can opt out of the SDQ questionnaire and can opt out of the Student Search Services. Save yourself the junk mail, save your student’s data from being marketed and profiled… and remember…according to College Board, “it will not impact their chances at being accepted into colleges or scholarship programs in any way.”


Cheri Kiesecker

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