Student Personal Data Mining: It’s Happening in Connecticut. Is Data Mining by a NGO Happening in Your School District?
A story is emerging from Connecticut about a private education reform organization signing a MOU with an individual school district to data mine students for non-governmental organizations to use for product development and allow other organizations to access. From The Connecticut Education Association and Facts Speak for Themselves: Agreement Outlines Unique Student Data Required:
“CCER should apologize to the students and parents of Hamden for obtaining specific student information without their knowledge or approval,” said CEA’s Executive Director Mark Waxenberg. “CCER should also assure all Connecticut parents that in the future CCER will not attempt to gain access to and ownership of student records and information without parental knowledge and consent.”
In response to the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s (CCER) statement this afternoon, Waxenberg offered the following facts and released the Memorandum of Understanding between Hamden and CCER regarding the release of student data.
“In order to underscore our earlier news release regarding the Hamden School District disclosing identifiable student data to CCER—without the knowledge of parents or students—we are sharing with the media the Memorandum of Understanding that details specific student data CCER requested from Hamden.
CCER requested, and in many cases mandated that it receive individual and specific student information across various files and categories beginning with an identifying number, birthday, student characteristics, demographic information, student types, and enrollment information, including the names and dates of schools students attended.
CCER specifically requested: (See Memo Part 2: Excel Sheet: Student Demographics 2013-2014, p. 16 )
- Unique student identifiers (Mandatory)
- Student current grade (Mandatory)
- Male or female (Mandatory)
- Student birthdate (Mandatory)
- Student ethnicity (e.g., Asian, Native American) (Mandatory)
- ELL status (Mandatory)
- Date student entered grade 9 (Encouraged)
- If a student is eligible for free or reduced meals (Mandatory)
- Homeless status (Encouraged)
- Number of courses students failed (Encouraged)
- Whether student was retained in prior year (Encouraged)
Also requested was information regarding “students with disabilities: designation of students with IEPs and what their federal disability and placement status is,” and “information designating English Language Learner (ELL) students and the type of program they are enrolled in.”
From that earlier press release referenced above:
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), an organization governed by corporate and industry officials, entered into an agreement with Hamden school administrators to secure personally identifiable student records. The agreement entitles CCER to own the student data and share it with subcontractors who have the capacity to commercialize the data.
Hamden was also requested to provide CCER school campus maps, square footage of buildings, maximum enrollment allowed in building, location codes for each individual school; grade levels, and secondary course info—such as periods of the day courses meet. This information transfer runs contrary to Connecticut General Statutes Section 1-210(b)(19) which discusses the disclosure of records when there are reasonable grounds to believe disclosure may result in a safety risk.
“The amount of information CCER received is staggering,” Cohen said. “According to the agreement, CCER has taken possession of and now owns all student academic information, as well as student identifying codes, demographic and performance information, designations of students with disabilities, students’ Individual Education Plans, their placement status, and detailed information about English Language Learners. Private sector data mining has exploded in many facets of our lives.” Cohen said. “CCER’s data mining has now reached down to our children. The state legislature cannot ignore this problem.”
Cohen also noted that CCER was able to access and take ownership of the student information at no cost—it only promised to provide Hamden with a “District Needs Assessment Report.” According to the agreement, CCER retains ownership of all the raw student data and can use or sell the aggregated data in any way it chooses.
Cohen explained, “There are numerous third parties seeking to build databases of student information. Some are doing so to sell educational software or other products to school districts. Some are collecting student data and misusing that data to tarnish public schools. The amount of information that can be made available for corporate gain is overwhelming and deeply troubling.
“Under this agreement, Hamden parents and students would lose ownership and control of sensitive personal information,” Cohen said. “This is a clear and present danger to students and families in Hamden and every other public school where similar agreements are proposed—a situation that provides irrefutable evidence that the legislature needs to act to avoid further privacy infringements. Lawmakers must defend and protect our children because data has never been more vulnerable to misuse, abuse, and breach.”
The school district released a statement about the MOU and the student data information gathered by CCER:
The ‘misinformation’ talking point doesn’t work when you have actual research/data to back up that same ‘misinformation’. Note the information that is listed by CCER as mandatory: personally identifiable information (PII) on students:
(click on graphic to enlarge)
What I don’t see in the MOU is that this information has been/will be released with parental knowledge/permission. What is also is not addressed in the MOU or CCER’s tweets is what happens when a data breach occurs and PII information is hacked. Who is responsible for protecting student data that the parents have not given permission to gather and release to a NGO?
Could this be happening in your state? Note that CCER is a member of the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) which is heavily funded by these national organizations. It illustrates that current educational reforms are not remotely ‘state led’ and in fact, these network partners are encouraged to collaborate on a national level to enact the current reforms funded by these national advocacy organizations:
In Missouri, the PIE network education reform organization is Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri which had a cozy relationship with the former Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro for education reform:
CEAM also has received financial support from Rex Sinquefield to promote its reforms. It makes you wonder if any Missouri MOUs have been signed with CEAM and individual school districts to provide student PII to a private organization. If CCER is promoting this gathering/mining of student PII, why wouldn’t CEAM promote the same practice? The CEA recommends the passage of a data privacy bill. Would the Missouri NEA call and support data protection for students and teachers in the next legislative session? You can see from the above graphic that PIE encourages its members to be legislatively active to pass their reforms which include signing MOUs with school districts to data mine student PII. Would the MNEA join the parents in protecting PII and stopping this centralized vision/version of education?