May 182013
 May 18, 2013  Posted by  Featured News, Youth & Schools

Caleb Warnock reports:

Parents opposed to the Common Core are protesting as the state is spending millions of dollars to collect student test data. They foresee Utah schools being forced to use the database to collect personal information, according to published federal guidelines, about students and families to share with researchers.

Not a chance, state officials say.

Well, that sounds good, but take a look at what the states are encouraged to ask school districts to collect:

Utah has spent millions in federal grant money to create a database for student information. The federal agencies that gave out that money — including the Institute of Education Science’s National Center for Education Statistics — have created a National Education Data Model that asks schools to collect data on students and parents including:

  • religious affiliation;
  •  salary;
  • whether parents own or rent their home, or use public housing;
  • “the family’s perception on the impact of the early intervention services of the child;”
  • “the month, day and year of diagnosis, treatment or update of any health condition an individual may have experienced;”
  • whether parents are registered to vote;
  • more than 200 diseases and medical conditions, including “pregnancy with abortive outcome;”
  • whether the family receives food stamps and WIC; and
  • “the usual time a student spends in a vehicle when riding from his or her transfer point or bus stop to the school including the subsequent return trip,” along with hundreds of other questions.

Utah doesn’t collect all that, as you can read in Warnock’s article in The Daily Herald, but do any states actually collect all that information from districts?

Despite the state’s reassurances, many parents remain concerned. Warnock reports:

According to the state’s grant application documents, “procedures are in place for protecting the security, confidentiality and integrity of data, which includes ensuring that individually identifiable information about staff and students remains confidential in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

This sentence in particular has set parents on edge because the loopholes for legally breaching confidentiality according to FERPA are numerous.

According to FERPA, “generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.” However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records “without consent”‘ in nine circumstances, once of which is when the data is requested by “organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school.”

Parents throughout the U.S. need to pay more attention to this issue and find out what their children’s state is doing. FERPA is getting to be like Swiss cheese in terms of allowing data to be shared without parental consent. Unless parents start fighting for their children’s privacy, this problem will only get worse.

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