Tuesday, October 15, 2013

USDE Deprives Your Child's Privacy; inBloom, Education Technology and the Murdoch-Klein Connection: A Son-of-Frankenstein B-movie Sequel?

Business and education blogger Andrea Gabor addresses Amplify [nee Wireless] story parts that the New York Times omitted from its story.

Aside from the filling in gaps there are reminders about the personal legacy of Sharren Bates going back to the creation of NYCDOE's ARIS system.

But first, let's note an important post today at Stop Common Core on Arne Duncan, the Common Core State Standards and Data mining:

SIXTHINGS THE US DEPT OF EDUCATION DID TO DEPRIVE YOUR CHILD OF PRIVACY

Key excerpts:
The story of Common Core and data mining begins as most stories do, with a huge, unmet need.
Self-appointed “stakeholder” know-it-alls at the federal level (also at state, corporate, and even university levels) determined that they had the right, and the need, for open access to personal student data– more so than they already had.
So, without waiting around for a proper vote, they did it. The CEDS (Common Education Data Standards) were created by the same people who created and copyrighted Common Core: the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). No surprise.
. . . .

SIX SNEAKY THINGS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DID TO DEPRIVE YOUR CHILD OF PRIVACY:

1. Sneaky Thing Number One: It bribed the states with ARRA Stimulus monies to build 50 linkable, twinlike State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS). This act created a virtual national database.


These SLDS’s had to be interoperable within states and outside states with a State Interoperability FrameworkUtah, for example, accepted $9.6 million to create Utah’s SLDS. Think about it. All states have an SLDS, and they are built to be interoperable. How is this not a de facto national database?

2. Sneaky Thing Number Two: It altered the (previously privacy-protective) federal FERPA (Family Educational Rights Privacy Act) law to make access to personally identifiable student data –including biological and behavioral data– “legal”.
So now, the act of requiring parental consent (to share personally identifiable information) has been reduced from a requirement to just a “best practice” according to the altered federal FERPA regulations.
. . . .
3. Sneaky Thing Number Three: The US Department of Education partnered with private groups, including the CCSSO (that’s the Council of Chief State School Officers –copyright holders on Common Core–) to collect student data nationally.


The CCSSO, or “Superintendents’ Club” as I like to call it, is a private group with no accountability to voters. This makes it in-valid and un-American, as far as governance goes. The CCSSO has a stated mission: to disaggregate student data. Disaggregate means to take away anonymity.
. . . .

4. Sneaky Thing Number Four: It used private-public partnerships to promote data linking among agencies. The Data Quality Campaign is one example. The National Data Collection Model is another example. The Common Educational Data Standards is another example.
. . . .

5. Sneaky Thing Number Five: The Department of Ed created grants for Common Core testing and then mandated that those testing groups synchronize their tests, report fully and often to the U.S. Department of Education, share student-level data, and produce “all student-level data in a manner consistent with an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard that is approved by the Department”.
So federally funded Common Core tests require Common data interoperability standards.
. . . .

6. Sneaky Thing Number Six: The Department of Education directly lied to the American Society of News Editors. In a June 2013 speech given to the American Society of News Editors, Secretary Duncan mocked the concerns of parents and educators who are fighting Common Core and its related student data mining:

Despite what the state school board and the federal Department of Education claim, corporations do know that Common Core and student data mining are interdependent.
CEO of Escholar Shawn Bay spoke at a recent White House event called “Datapalooza.” He said (see his speech on this video, at about minute 9:15) that Common Core “is the glue that actually ties everything together” for student data collection.
And President Obama himself has called his educational and data related reforms so huge that they are cradle to career” -affecting reforms. Secretary Duncan now refers to the reforms not as “K-12″ but as “p-12″ meaning preschool/prenatal. These reforms affect the most vulnerable, but not in a positive way, and certainly not with voters’ knowledge and consent.
. . . .

Go to the original Stop Common Core article for the analysis of the Six Things, further drawn out.

Key excerpts from the Gabor blogpost on inBloom:

Last Sunday’s New York Times ran a fascinating story on the controversy surrounding inBloom, which promises to serve as a one-stop warehouse-in-the-cloud for student data, but which many educators and parents worry might compromise the privacy of kids in grades K-12. Like a number of major education-reform ventures, this one was launched by a group of funders led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now that most states have signed onto the Common Core State Standards, which will use computerized assessments, the allure of creating a central repository of student data is more compelling than ever.  The NYT lays out the potential benefits of the inBloom system, including the ability to store large amounts of student information and provide tools for analyzing the data–information that will be available not only to educators, but also to education-technology developers who can tailor products to student and school needs. The article also explores the privacy concerns raised by the easy access that large numbers of companies will have to a vast array of information, ranging from academic achievement to disciplinary problems, for potentially tens of millions of students.
The story touches, though only obliquely, on important questions about the balance-of-power between commercial vendors and public schools and school districts, which inBloom is supposed to facilitate.
But one of the most intriguing aspects of the story is one that the NYT does not address at all. No where does the NYT mention that the operating system for inBloom is being developed by the Amplify division (formerly Wireless Generation) of Rupert Murdoch’sNews Corp. This is a striking omission given that that the NYT is the paper of record in New York City where the CEO of Amplify/Wireless Generation, Joel Klein, recently served as schools chancellor. And this despite the fact that New York is one of only three states out of an original nine that, according to the article, “continues to pursue the service.”
In a brief phone conversation, Natasha Singer, the author of the article, explained that the aim of her story was to focus on “one small district in Colorado” and how technology and privacy concerns associated with inBloom play out in an area with much fewer resources than New York City. She also noted that, as is often the case, much was cut from her original story during the editing process.
inBloom itself seems eager to downplay News Corp./Wireless Generation’s involvement, in the venture, even though it was a key partner in the Shared Learning Collaborative, which gave rise to inBloom. (inBloom was launched earlier this year with $100 million in funding.)  Although a March press release announced that Wireless Generation would be one of 24 software providers, the  “partner” and “provider” tabs on the company’s website lists 21 providers, but NOT Wireless Generation or Amplify.
For New Yorkers, inBloom may seem like something of a son-of-Frankenstein B-movie sequel (non-New Yorkers will want to know why…) inBloom traces its roots to a technological lemon. Several years ago, IBM and Wireless Generation developed ARIS(Achievement Reporting and Innovation System), a portal for the New York City Department of Education, which was widely seen as a failure.
Then Cisco began building a rival prototype portal that the company offered to the NYCDOE and that many teachers and principals said was much more useful than ARIS; but the city killed the project in August of 2010.  At the time, officials at the NYCDOE said that when work on the Cisco portal fell behind schedule, the education department pieced together an in-house version and took over the professional training that Cisco had been providing for schools that were part of the much ballyhooed innovation-zone (or izone) initiative. More recently, NYCDOE insiders have said that the department pulled the plug because of investments it had already made in ARIS, which came to total about $100 million.
The Murdoch connection, then and now
 In 2011, The Daily News disclosed that Wireless Generation was poised to win a no-bid $27 million contract to build an ARIS-like portal for New York State as part of the requirements for the state’s Race-to-the-Top bid. Joel Klein had just left his post as schools chancellor to become CEO of Wireless Generation. (The company noted that it had been in talks with the state long before Klein officially departed the NYCDOE for News Corp. in November of 2010.)
Following the hacking scandal at News of the World, a News Corp.-owned British tabloid, New York State declined to approve the Wireless Generation contract.
But by then, the Gates Foundation had already announced plans to help fund and develop the data-collection platform that would become inBloom and that would have a Wireless Generation-developed operating system. At the time, Sharren Bates, the official who had “launch(ed)” and “led” NYCDOE’s ARIS, was working as a Senior Program Officer at the Gates Foundation. Earlier this year Bates became the chief product officer for inBloom.
Much of the NYT’s story focuses on the privacy concerns of both Coloradans and New Yorkers (including the indefatigable Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, one of the leading crusaders for children’s privacy rights) about inBloom’s plans to store student information in the “cloud” (on Amazon’s cloud servers, it turns out, though this is not mentioned in the NYT) and to allow private companies access to that data.
These concerns include the fact that new laws no longer require states to obtain a parent’s permission before sharing information in a child’s records:
“Recent changes in the regulation of a federal education privacy law have also helped the industry. That law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, required schools to obtain parental permission before sharing information in their children’s educational records. The updated rules permit schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management.”
  .  .  .  .

And while information gleaned from individual students is supposed to provide the vital information need to develop and hone products, schools will pay dearly not only for the products that are made possible by inBloom, but for using the portal itself. As Leonie Haimson notes, starting in 2015, inBloom says it will charge states and districts between $2 and $5 per student each year for storing data on the site.
Nor do technology companies need inBloom in order to innovate and “customize” software. As part of New York City’s technological push during the Klein years, the city purchased masses of software for online learning. As the largest urban education market, that presented a unique opportunity to examine, and customize products to, the needs of city kids. Yet, one of the major complaints about the NYCDOE portal and the education software available to New York City public schools was that most software developers did nothing—and the NYCDOE did not use its clout to force them—to tailor programs, which were originally designed for the home-school market, for the needs of inner-city kids.
Common sense suggests that states and school districts should be championing both the educational and privacy interests of their students—especially if they want to benefit from the technology synergies of products like inBloom. But that doesn’t seem to be happening—at least not without considerable public pressure—in part because of the close ties between government officials and industry.
Consider the strange case of Louisiana, where Joel Klein’s former NYCDOE deputy, John White, is the superintendent of schools. This article describes a remarkable string of email exchanges among White, Amplify/Wireless Generation, the Gates Foundation and New Schools for New Orleans, a leading charter-school gatekeeper. It shows how the close ties among state officials and the private sector led Louisiana to become one of the first to give inBloom access to all of its student’s data. Four months later, following widespread protests, Louisiana removed the kids’ information from the inBloom database.
Meanwhile, during the last legislative session, the New York State legislature failed to pass bills that would have protected student privacy.
Indeed, New York has a history of making hasty education decisions. It was one of the first states to push through a new “common core”-focused standardized test last spring. Theassessments were rushed through before teachers had any meaningful training in the new standards and before students had much exposure to them. The result was much anguish on the part of students, families and teachers; a huge drop in test scores without much apparent benefit; as well as an open rebellion by principals.
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Click the link for the complete "inBloom, Education Technology and the Murdoch-Klein Connection: A Son-of-Frankenstein B-movie Sequel?" article.