President Elect Trump has said he will end Common Core.  Today, he chose billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  As many have reported,  DeVos has been an ardent Common Core supporter.  We also know that Common Core is much more than a set of standards or bad math. Common Core has always been about data.  So in order to truly end Common Core, Trump and DeVos must end the massive data collection that Common Core is built on.

In 2005 the CCSSO and NGA, Bill Gates, Marc Tucker,  US Department of Ed, others came together, putting forth in their mission statement to create personal databases on every child in every state, tag data in a way that is standardized, and then share that tagged data across states, in what amounts to a national database.  This commonly tagged data is Common Core.  These state databases exist, starting in preschool (or sometimes birth) and follow a child through their career. However, since a federal student database  is banned, the Gates Foundation, who has been instrumental in promoting Common Core, is currently (once again) lobbying Congress to lift the ban and create a national database to track students.  The data collected and shared and analyzed is not just grades, it’s anything in a child’s education record and can include behavioral data, discipline data, family information, medical information.  Gates is looking to expand the commonly tagged data to include rating and tagging children’s emotions.

There are no federal laws protecting  how children’s data are analyzed, nothing banning advertising or selling  of children’s data.  Data is money.  “McKinsey Global estimated that increasing the use of student data in education could unlock between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion in global economic value.”

If this seems Orwellian, it gets worse.  Consider that every keystroke, everything a child does on a computer is collected, millions of data points per day, are funneled to databases where it can be stored, analyzed, shared, even sold.  The LearnSphere project funded by the National Science Foundation and handled by Carnegie Mellon, explains:

“There are several important initiatives designed to address these data access challenges, for individual researchers as well as institutions and states. LearnSphere, a cross-institutional community infrastructure project, aims to develop a large-scale open repository of rich education data by integrating data from its four components.[17] For instance, DataShop stores data from student interactions with online course materials, intelligent tutoring systems, virtual labs, and simulations, and DataStage stores data derived from online courses offered by Stanford University. Click-data stored in these repositories include thousands and even millions of data points per student, much of which is made publicly available to registered users who meet data privacy assurance criteria. On the other hand, MOOCdb and DiscourseDB, also components of LearnSphere, offer platforms for the extraction and representation of student MOOC data and textual data, respectively, surrounding student online learning interactions that are otherwise difficult to access or are highly fragmented. By integrating data held or processed through these different components, LearnSphere will create a large set of interconnected data that reflects most of a student’s experience in online learning.”

Federal Data Gathering

Conveniently, The US Department of Education and the US Department of Defense have a joint data gathering unit, called the Federal Learning Registry, that handles student data.  The Learning Registry also happens to be part of another Obama administration project, called #GoOpen,  to replace textbooks with “free” online curriculum, aligned with the commonly tagged data of common core gathering all the keystroke data, words typed, and is being promoted to replace textbooks in schools.

If President Trump  is to keep his promise to end Common Core, and decrease the role of the US Dept of Ed in local education, Trump must end the Federal Learning Registry project that collects and stores hidden data on students.   President Trump  and Secretary DeVos must also immediately repeal the 2011 Obama administration’s executive order that weakened FERPA,  a law meant to protect children’s privacy. President Trump then needs to go one step further.  If we want technology to succeed in schools, we must pass a law with enforceable penalties that prohibits technology companies from collecting and analyzing children’s data, without permission.  (Europe has such a law already, protecting all EU citizens.)  

DeVos is a school choice advocate. 

As Dr. Sandra Stotsky notes, true education choice should be local and should start in the classroom, ensuring parents an equitable option of having their child plugged-in or not plugged-in. Not every parent wants their child taught by a screen while at school.

Many  are alarmed that Trump considered, and chose, a Common Core supporter for Education Secretary;  they fear President Trump was listening to the wrong people.   Here is an opportunity for Ms. DeVos to show us that she really does oppose Common Core and an opportunity for President Trump to keep his word to truly end Common Core, and the commonly tagged data collection it is based on.  Parents are thinking they’ve been lied to.  Here is hoping that Betsy DeVos proves critics wrong

President Trump, Keep Your Promise: end Common Core at its data-driven roots.  End student data-mining and reinstate FERPA prior to Obama’s 2011 executive order that weakened this law and now allows data to be collected, shared, even sold, without parental knowledge or consent.



Cheri Kiesecker

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