Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 9.55.38 AMThe mainstream press is FINALLY starting to pick up on the disconcerting uptick in federal  data collection. The New York Post published an article on 7-19-15 documenting the various ways the federal government plans to socially engineer our lives through the collection and use of data to back policy mandates. Using the strictest definition of equity, where everything is exactly even, they want to make sure: we all live in discreet neighborhoods which exactly match the racial distribution of the entire country, have access to financial instruments equally based on race not economic markers, and are treated exactly the same in school regardless of innate ability or effort. This worked so well in the whole sub-prime mortgage market, why wouldn’t we try to do it on a larger scale? And with foreign tech workers so easily able to hack any sensitive data the feds collect, what could we possibly worry about?  The Post summed it up this way.

“Such databases have never before existed. Obama is presiding over the largest consolidation of personal data in US history. He is creating a diversity police state where government race cops and civil-rights lawyers will micromanage demographic outcomes in virtually every aspect of society.”

When it comes to the education data bases the Post is not exactly correct. The article cites the mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection survey which has actually been in existence since 1968. The purpose of the data collection was to collect data on “key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools for use by OCR in its enforcement and monitoring efforts regarding equal educational opportunity.”

The CRDC was a biennial sample survey of schools up until 2011. That year it was expanded to cover every school every year. Now they boast it covers “approximately 16,500 school districts, 97,000 schools, and 49 million students” covering the following topics:

  • Data for every public school disaggregated by race/ethnicity, English learner status, sex, and disability Data for all schools now disaggregated by seven race and ethnicity categories, including Native-Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and multiracial students
  • Measures student access to college- and career-preparatory science and math courses, AP courses and tests, SAT/ACT tests, gifted and talented programs, IB programs, preschool programs, and interscholastic athletics
  • Tracks teacher and resource equity, including teacher experience and salary levels, other personnel and non-personnel expenditures, and access to school counselors
  • Reveals school climate disparities related to student discipline, restraint and seclusion, retention, and bullying and harassment.

CRDC goes on to call their database ” a tool for other Department offices and federal agencies, policymakers and researchers, educators and school officials, and the public to analyze student equity and opportunity.” Isn’t that great? The public has access too, including all those civil rights lawyers the Post referenced. The new Discrimination Chasers will have a veritable treasure trove of opportunity to squeeze pubic schools for money for civil rights violations. Schools that show any statistical disparity by race will be punished.

Let’s say you are a school district in Missouri which takes in students from a recently unaccredited district who are taking advantage of the Student Transfer law. Those students come to you a year or more behind academically, and most of them are African American. It is critical to your continued accreditation to make sure you catch those students up academically so your administration and teachers pull together a plan to push them in their course work, using best practices, to try to bring them up to something resembling grade level. Unfortunately you discover, soon after the school year starts, that the students have developed the bad habit of not doing the work. The blame game about where this habit started is a waste of time. You need those students to start working now so you employ every carrot you have to incentivize them to do the homework (which you recognize is more than their local peers are required to do), only to discover that carrots do not work. So you resort to the stick and assign them academic detentions which may take place over lunch or in place of elective time in consideration of their transportation limitations. The plan shows promise. The students are starting to do the work and, because they are doing it with staff supervision, they actually seem to be getting the concepts.

Then in steps a civil rights lawyer, who may have been contacted by a parent who was upset that her child was required to do more work than the others, who looks into the civil rights database and sees that your school district has an disproportionate number of African American students who have been assigned detentions and he sues your district for civil rights violations, for being unequal in its treatment of students.

Even if the courts eventually agree that you were acting in the student’s best interest, you will have spent a lot of money fighting the legal challenge. You may even decide to just settle out of court. And of course you will be forced to do away with the policies that seemed to be working. You go back to the carrots which you know will produce lack luster results in these student’s performance. You just hope the state department of education will be more understanding of your situation when it comes time to evaluate your district under MSIP.

This is a relatively mild scenario where the data can be misused. The Post references “violent eruptions” in classrooms once new “more equitable” policies have been instituted. Despite what the business world wants us to believe, our students are not dumb. They are quick to figure out a soft boundary or a meaningless line they cannot cross and exploit it. They constantly test the system to see what they can get away with. Once they figure out we have few if any sticks, they will reject any attempt to recognize your authority or need for order. Combine that with the race baiters out there stirring the pot and you have the recipe for violence in the classrooms which, if nothing else, is a great way to get out of having to do school work.

The database will also provide information on the other end of the student spectrum, the gifted or accelerated students. Data will show how many of each of 7 races are enrolled in gifted or advanced placement courses. Under enrollment by blacks or Latinos in these programs could also be grounds for a civil rights case. You see, the Justice Department knows better than the local teachers and parents which students are capable of doing the work in gifted or AP courses. Any claim that the student wasn’t prepared intellectually or academically to take on such course work will be met with claims of discrimination earlier in the child’s academic career. This will be handily turned into the justification of getting minority students into academic training as early as possible, maybe even 12 months old, despite the fact that studies show too much focus on academics too early is actually detrimental.

Anyone who ever overextended themselves to take a course they weren’t really prepared for knows that feeling of being in over your head. To a portion of the population that is a challenge that they take on, not always successfully. To many others it is a strong blow against ego and self worth. Students who aren’t prepared for a class struggle, fall further behind, and miss opportunities to learn key concepts that are presented at a pace they can handle. The resultant D’s and F’s on the report card from a class your really shouldn’t have been in in the first place don’t help you when you try to go on to college or get a job.

Then there’s the issue of equity of resources noted in the fourth bullet point. This has been in the reformers cross hairs for a while. The new teacher evaluation programs that schools have instituted are meant to identify highly effective teachers.  That is, and has always been, step one. Step two is to redistributing those teachers. Part of that will be a redistribution of the funding so that larger portions of the revenues collected in wealthy districts will be sent to poorer districts.  This already happens somewhat in Missouri through our foundation formula. The US departments of Education and Justice would like to speed that redistributive process up.

The administration’s desire to redistribute the population through the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing database, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development rolled out earlier this month may help with this by adding low income housing to some of the wealthier neighborhoods which will apply downward pressure on property value. If the mix of housing is centrally controlled through uniform zoning laws, there will be no more wealthy neighborhoods. Voila! Problem of disproportionate education spending solved.

Who is backing this redistributive process? The leader is most likely social justice educator Linda Darling Hammond. This video leads with a conference where Dr. James Milgram provides a little background on the damage Darling Hammond has done to education in California. Then a section shows her speaking about equity in education. At about the 5:30 mark you can hear her talking about pre-civil war education history in America like it was only a decade ago, where Blacks were denied the right to an education.  This is who is leading the charge for education equity in America today.

No one is making the case that the status quo is acceptable. Schools that are lazy or complacent and don’t want to push students should be routed out. Anywhere that students are systematically denied access to an education they want to work for is a tragic loss to society. But the raw data collected by the CRDC is not the best way to ferret out those schools. Social engineering of the settlement of the population will eventually mean that everyone; rich, poor, Black, White, Latino, etc. will be told where they can live. This is not liberty. This is not even equity. The data collection is the tool to make it happen.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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