Andrew Ujifusa provides a really good write-up of a hearing held today in Congress that covered a lot current concerns.
Of special note here, consider this part of his coverage:
Rachael Stickland, the co-founder and co-chairwoman of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, made a pitch for informing parents up front about the type of student data being collected and how it’s used. She said, by way of example, that the hundreds of data points that the Colorado longitudinal data system collects on each student “effectively become lifelong dossiers.”
And Stickland also said parents should be able to opt their children out of having their data stored in state data systems, asserting that states are often collecting data that doesn’t directly related to a student’s academic performance.
In an exchange with Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., Stickland acknowledged that she was unaware of any student data from a state system being sold, and she noted there hasn’t been a serious breach of K-12 data at the state level. But that doesn’t mean schools and officials shouldn’t do more to involve parents, she argued.
I’ve no doubt that the parent coalition (and how many parents do they actually represent or have as members?) may mean well, but these types of arguments just rehash inflammatory rhetoric without any seeming comprehension of the serious and valid reasons for collecting data. As a researcher pointed out at the hearing, allowing parents to opt their children out can seriously invalidate any of the important research that can be and needs to be done to identify patterns of deficits or discrimination and to identify ways in which public education can be improved.
If the states are collecting data that parents do not see as relevant, then start a conversation asking for justification for collection of those types of data. Worried about “lifelong dossiers?” Start a conversation about purging data after a certain age or point.
And despite Rep. Rokita’s question to Stickland, I wouldn’t frame the issue as to whether data are being sold as much as: (1) whether access to the data are being adequately restricted to only those who have a legitimate, non-commercial need for the data that can promote better educational outcomes, and (2) whether students’ identities are being adequately protected by use of unique IDs and elimination of names and SSN so that they are less likely to become victims of identity theft should there be a data security breach.
I agree that more transparency is needed, and I agree that more parent involvement is needed, but I do not think informed consent should be required for inclusion in a state longitudinal database if the database access and use is properly restricted.