Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Update: ALEC & New Student Data Program, inBloom Parallel; Relevance of Target Card Security Breaches

Postscript: L.I. principal Carol Burris pens student data critique for Washington Post, see her critique, at the end below, "Student privacy concerns grow over 'data in a cloud'"
*NYSED's John King: "There can be no opt-out because we are required to aggregate that information." *ALEC legislation to sell public education to privately run edu-tech empire and children’s data to private interests
In this still fresh and pertinent post from another education blog a month ago we see a parallel to inBloom, the plague on New York State parents and children: a program innocuously given the name "Student Achievement Backpack Act."
And with all the news of debit and credit card security breaches in the Target Corporation system can parents really feel that they can put all of their trust in New York State Education Department Commissioner John King, who says "We’ll do everything possible to keep it [inBloom] secure"???? (By the way, this comment drew boos from the parent audience.) A commenter on the news site noted, "Once the lawsuits start flying, it will be New York State taxpayers who get stuck with the bill." Or do these constituents not figure as stakeholders in King's mind?
And more King cavalier comments:
New York State Education Commissioner John King got a loud laugh from the mostly-hostile crowd at Mineola High School on Nov. 13 when he admitted that the new data site being rolled out by the state and several non-profits —called InBloom — was as secure as they could make it, but there was never a guarantee that online data couldn’t be hacked.
“Tell that to the national security agency,” one man yelled out, referring to the breach in the super-secret agencies data last year.
One participant took up the question head on, asking King if she could opt-out of the program for her elementary school student.
“I am concerned about protecting the privacy of my student,” she said. “As he is a minor, I should be the one to decide which information about him goes into the cloud and which does not.”
King told her that the state needed the information to make decisions and that federal law required that the state collect that information. "There can be no opt-out because we are required to aggregate that information."
The above is from the Valley Stream Herald. Hey, how come these articles are always in upstate, Hudson Valley or Long Island newspapers and the New York City papers are mute???
Postscript: 4.5 million Snapchat accounts hacked, usernames, phone numbers leaked. You still have total faith in Commissioner King's ability to keep inBloom secure?

From EducationalAlchemy blog:

“Big Brother” Has an Ugly Corporate “Big Stepsister”!

Posted: November 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

ALEC legislation to sell public education to privately run edu-tech empire and children’s data to private interests
There’s a lot wrong with ALEC legislation, now, in the past, and undoubtedly into the future. I could fill volumes of pages of such concerns. But for the sake of focus, today’s blog drills down into their most recent “model” legislation aimed at selling our schools to the edu-tech industry. It’s so blatant it’s painful. I would have expected more subterfuge from ALEC. They’re getting lazy. Or their getting bold. Their agenda is too clear. Kind of disappointing really. They took all the fun out of having to dig for it.
I am pasting snap shots of their latest rounds of policies. The rest speaks for itself. But if you’d like to add your two cents, ALEC will be convening to discuss these legislative matters on December 6th in Washington DC.  See full dockethere
This latest round of ALEC agenda caught the eye and ear of Diane Ravitch’s post.
If we don’t raise our voices, no one will do it for us.
From the “Early Intervention Act”
“…to provide interactive computer software for literacy or numeracy instruction, or both, and assessments for students in kindergarten through grade 3.”
Really? Because nothing screams “developmentally inappropriate” like putting a five year old in front of a computer in lieu of a real live caring and experienced teacher during the most vulnerable and formative stages of cognitive development. But of course, this is a boon for the software industry!
In order to receive the early intervention funds for the “enhanced kindergarten program” described in this model bill, a school district must agree to contract with software companies to provide online learning programs.
In addition to an enhanced kindergarten program described in Subsection (B), the early intervention program includes a component to address early intervention through the use of an interactive computer software program.”
Immigrant Tracking System?
But the technology driven agenda does not stop with toddlers. There is also the “K-1 Technology-Based Reading Intervention for English Learners Act” which calls on “the State Department of Education to implement a language development software program in grades K-1 to assist those identified as English Language Learners.”
Can you imagine a better way to track students, who as ELL students, most likely come from first generation immigrant backgrounds? And what about children (or their parents) who may be undocumented?
There seems to be no effort to indicate whether or not these software companies they hire to teach students phonemic awareness, vocabulary, or other linguistic skills itemized in this bill, are even grounded in sound literacy research for ELL students. Or does that even matter so long as they receive their check for goods and services delivered?
Here’s my favorite: The Student Achievement Backpack Act.
Yes. I am not drunk on Thanksgiving libations. That’s actually what they named it.
Its data collection and tracking ALEC style. I hope Tea Party advocates against the Common Core and testing are reading this. Even in the absence of Obama or the “progressive” agenda—here’s a conservative- led free- market loving entity promoting the collection of private data to data collection agencies. I’ve been saying it all along. It’s the ideology of greed and control-from BOTH sides of aisle.
The Act reads: “This bill provides access by a student’s parent or guardian or an authorized LEA user to the learning profile of a student from kindergarten through grade 12 in an electronic format known as a Student Achievement Backpack.”
Ok…..so who the hell is the LEA????
(A)   “Authorized LEA user” means a teacher or other person who is: (1) employed by an LEA that provides instruction to a student; and (2) authorized to access data in a Student Achievement Backpack through the {insert state} Student Record Store. (B) “LEA” means a school district, charter school, or the {schooling options in the state specific to the deaf and blind}
Honestly I have no issue with my child’s records or data being shared with his school or teachers. BUT…when you get to the next round of ALEC legislation remember this phrasing “or employed by the LEA to provide instruction.”Corporations and other private entities will also have full access to your child’s records once they’ve become employed by the school district through the “Choice” Act (see next section).
The Backpack legislation adds:
“The State Board of Education shall use the robust, comprehensive data collection system maintained by the {insert state} State Office of Education, which collects longitudinal student transcript data from LEAs and the unique student identifiers as described in {insert applicable state code}, to allow the following to access a student’s Student Achievement Backpack: (1) the student’s parent or guardian; and (2) each LEA that provides instruction to the student.”
ALEC seems to have no qualms about storing student data in the “cloud” despite massive threats to data security (not to mention abuses of such information). Their model legislation varies very little from the massive data collection we are currently seeing under the federal imposition of Race to the Top. This legislation promises to collect “a completelearner history for postsecondary planning.”
ALEC’s legislation will be able to collect data on and track as much if not more than Race to the Top legislation (and we didn’t imagine it could get any worse…that is until ALEC takes a crack at it..)
Section 8. Access to Student Data
(A) No later than {insert date}, an authorized LEA user shall be able to access student data  in a Student Achievement Backpack, which shall include the data listed in Section 7 (A) (1) through (4) and the following data, or request the data be transferred from one LEA to another:  (1) section attendance; (2) the name of a student’s teacher for classes or courses the student takes;  (3) teacher qualifications for a student’s teacher, including years of experience, degree, license, and endorsement; (4) results of formative, interim, and summative computer adaptive assessments administered pursuant to {insert applicable state code};  (5) detailed data demonstrating a student’s mastery of core standards and objectives as measured by computer adaptive assessments administered pursuant to {insert  applicable state code}; (6) a student’s writing sample written for an online writing assessment administered pursuant to {insert applicable state code}; (7) student growth scores for {insert state} performance assessment; (8) a school’s grade assigned pursuant to {insert applicable state code}; (9) results of benchmark assessments of reading administered pursuant to {insert applicable state code}; and  (10) a student’s reading level at the end of grade 3.
Whether it’s federally, state, or privately managed—it all goes to the same place and for the same dubious reasons. Thanks Gates. Thanks Murdoch.
Student Futures Program Act
In shorthand, this Act provides private corporations and education delivery systems access to student data in order to market to those students and promote their products. It’s like “cookies” via K-12 education. Companies can track those students who they think will be interested in their products.
It says the Act will: “allow an education provider to (a) research and find student users who are interested in various educational outcomes; (b) promote the education provider’s programs and schools to student users;  and (c) connect with student users within the Student Futures website;  (3) allow a {insert state} business to: (a) research and find student users who are pursuing educational outcomes that are consistent with jobs the {insert state} business is trying to fill now or in the future; and  (b) market jobs and communicate with student users through the Student Futures website as allowed by law..”
This act also leads us down the slippery slope to education and career tracking. Using the data collection systems under the guise of career and college ready, children can be “steered” into programs or career opportunities.
I am all for vocational training. I am all for providing information to students about career possibilities! (not providing student information to private interests) I am all for encouraging children early on to dream about what they want to be when they grow up and helping them to get there.
This ain’t that program. The is Act also: “allow the Department of Workforce Services to analyze and report on student user Student Futures Program interests, education paths, and behaviors within the education systemso as to predictively determine appropriate career and educational outcomes and results” (we see Big Brothers Big Corporate Sister rearing her ugly head here don’t we?)
Remember that caution I gave you about the Data Collection Act?
Course Choice Program Act
Meet the new education LEA’s. Corporations and edutech companies privatizing public education. Perhaps ALEC has realized that they cannot fully take the public out of public education. But they can bring the private into the public sphere.
The Course Choice Program created by this Act would allow students in public schools and public charter schools to enroll in online, blended, and face-to-face courses not offered by the student’s school, and would allow a portion of that student’s funding to flow to the course provider. This Act creates an authorization process for providers and identifies provider and course eligibility criteria. This Act requires course providers and the State Department of Education to regularly report on the key measurements of student success and enrollment. This Act gives the State Department of Education authority to enter into an interstate course reciprocity agreement, allowing students within the state to take courses from providers domiciled in other states.”
Given Connections Academy, the country’s largest for- profit provider of online education, membership in ALEC and the ALEC education subcommittee, we should not be shocked. Other ALEC associated partners will undoubtedly include K-12 inc and University of Phoenix.
Subsection 6 reads: “Online or virtual course providers can serve as quality course providers for students who desire additional access to high quality courses ….
Who are “course providers?”
“Course Provider” shall mean “an entity that offers individual courses in person or online, including but not limited to online or virtual education providers, public or private elementary and secondary education institutions, education service agencies, private or nonprofit providers, postsecondary education institutions, and vocational or technical course providers, and have been authorized to provide such courses by the State Department of Education.”
So basically, public education courses taught by public education teachers in physical public education settings will be parsed out, course by course, to private providers. And remember that data collection section-pre-K through grade 12, to be stored by a private provider, in the cloud somewhere…to be accessed by LEA’s? Well, here are the LEA’s. The private, non-profit, virtual, or for profit organizations that, as providers of instruction WILL NOW ALSO HAVE ACCESS to data collection 2.0 ALEC style.
While ALEC ideology despises federal regulation, they have no problem trading in Big Brother for Corporate Big Sister.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, there’s ALEC, shattering your disbelief. Don’t be fooled by ALEC rhetoric. Their reform efforts are part and parcel of the reform efforts so many of us are fighting.
There’s a whole lot more to this ALEC legislative document. Over 30 pages of it.  But I’ve got kids to pick up from school and a turkey to cook. So I’ll leave it off here. For now …
Carol Burris, "Student privacy concerns grow over 'data in a cloud'" at Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet column at The Washington Post:

By Carol Burris

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is indecisive when it comes to uploading student information into inBloom, the cloud-based system designed to provide student data to vendors. He says that he is waiting for Commissioner John King’s report on privacy, even as the upload begins. Cuomo claims that massive student data collection is “necessary.” Meanwhile, eight other states that originally committed to inBloom have pulled out, or put their plans on hold.

The collection and reporting of school data is nothing new. We used to send data on scan sheets; test scores, drop out rates, the percentage of students with disabilities, etc., were all reported in the aggregate. As technology progressed, we began to electronically send data, not in the aggregate, but by student. Students were assigned a unique identifying number so that their privacy was protected, with identity guarded at the school or district level. More data, including race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, were added to what we sent. This allowed the state to disaggregate data by student group, while still preserving anonymity. Now that wall of privacy is shattered. Names, addresses (e-mail and street) and phone numbers are to be sent. Schools are required to upload student attendance, along with attendance codes, which indicate far more than whether or not the student was absent or present. Codes indicate whether a student is ill, truant, late to school or suspended. Details about the lives of students are moving beyond the school walls to reside in the inBloom cloud.

As a high school principal, I am worried by the state’s ever growing demands for student information. I believe that all disciplinary records should be known only to families and the school. All teens are under tremendous strain to perform — sometimes for adults, other times for peers. Some live on the emotional breaking point — others visit that point now and again. Kids make mistakes. Some make bad decisions. Others lose their temper and get out of control. Such serious infractions result in suspensions. We have to keep our schools safe, even as we are concerned about the well being of the offender.

When I suspend a student, I frame it within the context of learning. I also assure students and parents that discipline records are only known to us. Once that information is in the state database or the inBloom cloud, I can no longer give that reassurance.

What, then is the rationale for shipping personal data beyond the school? The New York State Education Department defends the collection of individual attendance and suspension data, claiming that it must be collected and uploaded to inBloom because it is one of several “early warning indicators” of dropping out. That rationale is insufficient. The identification of students with those indicators can be done at the school level. What is needed are the resources and supports so that schools can better intervene. Schools also need community support for dealing with problems such as student truancy. We do not need data in a cloud.

An additional justification is that inBloom data dashboards will allow parents to check to make sure that a suspension was removed from their child’s record if the commissioner overturns a suspension on appeal. In those rare cases, if a parent wants reassurance that the suspension was expunged, parents should visit the school. Schools are obliged to produce every written record, as well as give parents access to computer records. Disciplinary records are kept in both hard copy as well as in school data systems. Looking at a data dashboard would give an incomplete picture at best.

There is simply no justifiable reason for a state education department to know whether an individual student was ever suspended. It is an intrusion into the privacy of kids.

Read rest of Burris' column at The Washington Post.

(A reminder: the Common Core - student data linkage is essential, according to main architect, David Coleman. Read the article, "David Coleman Lauds the Use of Student Data."