Home School & Public School Student Parents: Is your School District Contracting with Third Party Vendors and Providing Student Data?
An October 2013 article from theadvocate.com, Parents seek statewide privacy act on student records, covered Beth Meyers’ testimony to her school board and her desire to protect and direct student data sharing/access:
LIVINGSTON — A local education advocate said Thursday she and other parents have asked state lawmakers to push for an education information privacy act similar to the federal law that protects student education records.
Beth Meyers, a former teacher and Denham Springs resident, also asked the Livingston Parish School Board what type of student data they collect and share with other agencies.
Meyers emphasized she was asking only about what information the school system shared, and not implying they snet out any data inappropriately.
During the School Board meeting, Meyers raised concerns about the amount of personal data collected during online education assessments called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
The tests are aligned with the oft-maligned Common Core standards.
(Livingston School Superintendent John Watson) He also said school officials reviewed what they were sending to other agencies to make sure they send out only the minimal information necessary to the state Department of Education.
Watson sounds like our Missouri DESE. The “only minimal information necessary to the state Department of Education” can be changed via Federal reporting requirements. This means more personal data could be mandated in the future that can be shared with various Federal agencies and third party researchers/parties. His statement should give little to no comfort to those concerned about student privacy.
These concerns are proving to be valid. The platitudes espoused by the school district are hollow and only half truths on data accessiblity. The “minimal information necessary to the state Department of Education” is only one area of data mining. Fast forward to November 2013, a month after her school board testimony. Beth Meyers’ child’s personal data was subsequently shared without her knowledge to a private organization. The school district had a contract with a private company giving the district authority to send “information” to third parties. Read what she has written below and discovered where her son’s data was sent (an organization connected with Colin Powell) and her concern the data accessed was inaccurate:
FYI potential homeschool parents:
I wanted to relay, what I consider, critical information related to all the education reforms hitting our school, including Common Core. While I was working on my doctorate in education, I received an internship with the federal Department of Education in the data department. Arne Duncan had been appointed Secretary of Education only a few months before I arrived. In the short time I was there, I heard discussions regarding the revision of FERPA regulations. If you do not know what FERPA is, it is the privacy law that protects personally identifiable student information/data (PII). In 2011, the USDOE revised FERPA, essentially gutting the law.
Fast forward to 2013. As a policy researcher and education advocate, I have been attending public policy meetings for about eight years. As an advocate, I often testify in meetings regarding education issues. In September 2013, I addressed our state school board about concerns with student data privacy and the sharing of personally identifiable student information with the state’s workforce database. [It is important to note that our state has a workforce database that collects personally identifiable information from pre-K to the workforce. If you are in another state, you may want to see if your state has one as well.] In October 2013, I presented information to my own local school board about issues related to student data privacy. The superintendent and school board assured me and the public that the district took data privacy seriously and that the only data shared outside the district was that which was sent to the state department of education.
In November 2013, we decided to withdraw our son from public school and begin homeschooling as a result of our concerns with Common Core. We completed the appropriate paperwork with the state and brought it to the school. We completed the appropriate district withdrawal paperwork, which documented that our son was moving into a home school program. On December 9th, I received a phone call from a local chapter of Graduation Alliance. Graduation Alliance is part of a national organization, Colin Powell’s America’s Promise. The young man indicated that he had RECEIVED INFORMATION that my son had withdrawn from the district, that there was no record of his having enrolled in another district or education program, and that there was no record of his having graduated. His organization wanted to offer me online courses so my son could complete his coursework and graduate. When I asked him how his organization had access to my son’s information, he stated that it was PROVIDED to them by MY DISTRICT (which had only two months prior assured me that data was not shared beyond the state DOE!!). I contacted my district’s superintendent via email. He confirmed that the district did indeed share my son’s information, that the district had a contract with this organization, and that it was a good program. At no time in his response did he apologize for having shared my child’s information or for misidentifying him as a dropout rather than a home schooler. I now do not know who has my son’s information, if he is misidentified as a dropout in some workforce data system somewhere, or how that misidentification may affect him in the future.
I tell you the above to say this:
- If you are planning to withdraw your child(ren) from public school in order to home school, I would recommend that you make sure that when you fill out the appropriate paperwork, you clearly mark the reason for dropping as enrolling in home school (our district uses checkboxes on its form).
- NEXT, I would recommend that you contact the district directly (a formal letter to the district superintendent) and advise them that you have elected to home school and have formally withdrawn your child from the district. I would inform them that because you have terminated your relationship with the district, any further activity related to your child’s personal information, beyond reporting to the state that your child has withdrawn from the district, should cease. I would request that your child’s DIRECTORY information (a friend who is a technology supervisor suggested this) be removed and emphasize that your child’s information should not be shared with ANY outside agency (e.g., non-governmental, non-profit, for-profit, non-educational governmental agency) WITHOUT YOUR EXPLICIT CONSENT.
Because I spent twenty years as an educator in my district and because my school board and district leaders assured me they took data privacy very seriously, I assumed I could trust them. Because the federal student privacy law has been gutted and most states do not have a state-level privacy law, I have had no recourse regarding the sharing of my son’s information. I am very active now with parents and legislators to formulate legislation at the state level to protect student data and parent rights.
Sorry for such a long post. I feel this is an important issue for not only pubic school children but private and homeschool children as well.
I am the author of this testimony. Please feel free to share this testimony with your legislators, etc. I would also recommend that parents of high school students who plan to withdraw their child(ren) from public school check with their state and local districts to see if they have contracts with Graduation Alliance. Graduation Alliance is a national organization so it is likely they may have the same type of contract in multiple states. I would also check to see if your state received a federal grant to develop a workforce database and what data that system will contain.