State superintendents in Common Core/PARCC states knowingly permitted a private company, PARCC Inc., to apparently suction all manner of data from their states’ students, according to an internal email obtained by the AZ Daily Independent, all this while they were working on the PARCC’s Data Privacy and Security Policy.
This possible data breach and the recent Common Core field tests (both PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests), just administered in thousands of schools across the country to over 3 million of your kids, are perfect examples of one of Common Core’s least known, yet most insidious features.
You’ve no doubt heard of the Common Core learning standards or tests, but have you heard about the NSA-like data suctioning systems each member state has set up to suction all manner of your child’s most private data from your state directly into the hands of data predators waiting outside of the U.S. Department of Education wringing their hands in anticipation?
Bear with me as I give some much needed background on the NSA-like data suctioning systems that the Common Core group has in place in our states and then we’ll deal with the troubling email at the end of this article.
NSA-like data suctioning- Background
Each state that applied to receive Stimulus money for education, back in 2009, agreed to set up data suctioning systems, known as Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, (SLDS). These systems would be different from previous state data systems because they would need to be “longitudinal”.
Visualize a single line of longitude on a map; longitude lines are the vertical lines running north and south. A longitudinal system pulls all of your child’s data into a single line or stream of information. You might even visualize a river that is being fed by multiple creeks converging into it, adding to the total volume of the river’s flow of water.
Longitudinal data systems do the same thing with your child’s data, pulling all their various points of data into one stream that is continually added to as they progress from pre-school up through college and career. This system makes tracking all of your child’s data easier than the previous system, which had a lot “creeks” of information, but no one single “river” of information to tap into. An entity could tap into this stream of data at any point and receive all of your child’s data.
In an ideal world, where we have cotton candy for breakfast, this change would not have been so bad for education because teachers would be enabled to tap into that stream of data to help inform how they teach your child. If your child’s teacher is underperforming, then the data stream will alert their principals to take corrective action.
In fact, the cult of Common Core crowd uses these justifications in its demand that these longitudinal systems be put in place. But in light of recent abuses by the NSA and the IRS with regards to confidential data, it is worth a closer look.
The sinister side of Common Core’s data suctioning
The more sinister side of these longitudinal systems is that the U.S. Department of Education, under the direction of President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, broadened its interpretation of the education privacy laws (FERPA ) in 2011, when it changed its regulations, in two crucial ways.
First, they increased the number of players that could have access to your child’s centralized personal data to include, not just your child’s teachers, but any organization or group tangentially involved in your child’s education. This can include testing, gaming, technology, textbook, or research companies, just to name a few examples.
Second, they no longer require parent notification or permission when it shares or stores your child’s personal data with these chosen groups or companies.
U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, explained these regulatory changes in a 2011 letter to the states. In the letter, he says that laws requiring parent permission or notification in order to share your child’s data:
“…do not apply to the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the exclusive purpose of developing, evaluating, or providing educational products or services for or to students or educational institutions.”
As long as the US Department of Education can find even a small involvement on behalf of its private data predator companies in your child’s education, you need know nothing.
NSA-like data suctioning and the PARCC field tests
Still not convinced? How many of you were asked by your schools for permission to subject your child to a private company’s Common Core field test? How many of you were notified of the exact date and time of their participation in a Common Core field test? How many of you were permitted to preview these field tests that your child was going to be subjected to? How many of you are able to see the data that is gathered on your child by the private Common Core testing companies? How many of you are able to see what the testing companies are doing with your child’s data? How many of you have been intimidated or stonewalled when having the gall to ask a teacher or administrator if you are able to “opt your kid out” of the field test?
The private Common Core companies used the information from the field test to make their tests better so that they can turn around and sell that test back to the states for millions of dollars. The schools deceptively acted as if these tests were just part of the state’s testing regimen, which they definitely were not. The schools colluded with these private testing companies to suction data from your kids.
What did our schools get from the field tests? Absolutely nothing. The results were not shared with the schools and no financial reimbursement was made to the students or the schools for their part in making the private company’s tests better.
The states have already agreed to share any and all your child’s data stream as part of the condition of receiving federal money to set up the data suctioning systems. Parental permission is required to have your child’s artwork displayed on the school webpage. Why are your family and your child’s private data no less worthy of parental permission or notification?
What if an energy drink company came to your kid’s classroom to field test its product on your kids, taking all sorts of data such as blood pressure, heart rate, or family history of energy drink use, without notifying you or asking your permission? Why is your kid’s data no less sacred?
Common Core/PARCC’s Privacy Charade
The PARCC group with great fanfare publicly released the PARCC Data Privacy & Security Policy in December 2013. The policy basically mimics U.S. Secretary of Arne Duncan’s version of student data security where it makes a big show of all the personal student data it purports to protect with the caveat listed earlier in this article that makes all the data protections put forth useless.
The education privacy laws are enumerated in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which gives parents the rights over who sees their child’s data, period.
The Common Core crowd has a different interpretation of your child’s data security. One key component of Common Core/PARCC’s data security policy states that, “States must give permission to PARCC and PARCC contractors in order for them to access any personally identifiable information – and only for specific purposes defined by states.”
Let’s get one thing straight right now. Parents are their child’s chief educators and protectors. Parents must be asked or notified if PARCC or anyone else who wants to see their child’s data, the state and the U.S. Department of Education cannot usurp that right.
Common Core/PARCC email
Now let’s turn our attention to the email sent out to all PARCC state leads and every PARCC state’s Superintendent of Instruction on November 12, 2013 by PARCC’s CEO, Laura Slover. Here’s the email and the list of data predator enablers that it was sent to:
From: Laura Slover added: (CEO, PARCC, Inc.)
Sent: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 9:35 AM
To: Carey Wright; Chris Cerf; Chris Cerf Personal; Chris Koch; Deborah Gist; Hanna Skandera; Jesus Aguirre; John Huppenthal; John King; John White; Kevin Huffman; Laura Slover; Lillian Lowery; Mitchell Chester; Pamela Stewart; Paul Pastorek — personal; Richard Ross; Robert Hammond; Tom Kimbrell
Cc: PARCC Staff and state leads Bari Erlichson; Bill Morrison; Bob Bickerton; Christina Wirth-Hawkins; Dan Long; Doug Jaffe; Emily Barton; Erin O’Hara; Evo Popoff; Heather Neal; Heidi Beeman; Henry Johnson; Iris Bond-Gill; James Mason; James Wright; Janet Bagsby; Jeff Hauger; Jeffrey Noel; Jennifer Sattam; Jessica Baghian; Jessica Enos; Joyce Zurkowski; Kamlyn Keith; Kristen Huff; LaQuisha Oliver; Larry Cocco; Williams, Leila; Liz Davis; Lynn Vasquez; Mary Ann Snider; Mary O’Brian; Megan Witonski; Melody Morgan; Michael Ferry; Pete Goldschmidt; Phyllis Lynch; Richard Baliko; Sarah Dove; Gardner, Sarah; Stephanie Boyd; Steve Chrostowski; Susie Morrison; Todd Clark; Tracey Severns; Trinell Bowman; Vince Verges; Walt Drane; Alexandria Baltimore-Hookfin; Jennifer Stafford; John Weiss; Ken Draut; Sarah Mahurt
Subject: PARCC update for Governing Board 11.12.13
PARCC Governing Board Members
I wanted to share a number of important updates with you, including three important action items for you and your state leads.
1. Operational Assessment RFP (omitted for brevity)
Approving the Data Privacy & Security Policy
a. Since our last Governing Board call, we have spent time working with states on final suggested revisions to the PARCC Data Privacy & Security Policy.
b. I am pleased to share a final recommended version of the policy for your approval. Attached are two versions of it – one in track changes so you can see the edits that have been made since the last version, and a second “clean” version without track changes.
c. After reviewing the changes, please email me by 5:00 pm EST on Thursday, November 14th to indicate whether you approve of the policy as it is now written.
If the Governing Board approves the policy, next steps would include:
i. Sharing the policy with current PARCC contractors
ii. Posting the policy on the PARCC website for bidders on the operational assessment RFP to review. (The RFP indicates that the eventual contractor will need to abide by the policy adopted by the Governing Board.)
iii. Publicly releasing the policy, along with communications tools for states the week of December 2nd. (Designed to give you time to prepare to communicate about the policy in your state)
Based on the last round of state review, we have decided to hold on the approval of the data sharing agreements until states finalize the initial set of research studies for which states will need to provide data to PARCC contractors and/or the PARCC non-profit. Therefore, this will move on a separate track from the policy itself, which we would like your approval of by November 14th.
The first part of the email asks for each PARCC state’s Superintendent of Instruction to informally email their approval of their Data Privacy and Security Policy agreement by November 14, 2013.
The email then goes onto reveal that PARCC has, “decided to hold on the approval of the data sharing agreements until states finalize the initial set of research studies for which states will need to provide data to PARCC contractors and/or the PARCC non-profit. Therefore this will move on a separate track than the (data security) policy itself.”
Translation: The Common Core was already suctioning personal student data in anticipation of handing it to the private company PARCC and its vendors even before a policy designed to protect student data was in place. “Research studies” is just another way of saying data gathering. It seems as if they wanted to keep suctioning student data outside the purview of the security policy (as weak as it is) for as long as possible, that’s why the research studies were going to “move on a separate track than the policy itself.”
Our states should not be gathering data on our kids to send to a private company, in this case PARCC, to improve that company’s tests without parental permission or notification. Much less should they be gathering data on a “separate track” before it falls under the private company’s data security agreements. Either possibility is shady.
PARCC’s Data Privacy & Security Policy was formally approved by the PARCC Governing Board on December 11, 2013, one month after the email was sent.
How long was Common Core/PARCC suctioning student data from our kids? What kind of data do they have and what have they been doing with it? Where is this data being stored? Did the Common Core or PARCC ask parent permission for this data gathering? Did the Common Core/PARCC notify parents of this data grab?
Need for Congressional investigations of Common Core
Since PARCC is a private company it is not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, so we can’t know the answers to these questions. The Common Core does this purposefully when it uses private companies, such as PARCC or Smarter Balanced, to launder their education reform in secret.
Concerned citizens, however, can request any and all emails between PARCC or Smarter Balanced, whichever testing group their state belongs to, and their Superintendents of Instruction and their “state leads” to get insights into what is going on with the Common Core and their state departments of education.
Private companies look out for their customers/shareholders and their bottom line. Chambers of Commerce across the country intensely lobby legislators on behalf of their customers, these same private companies. Many of these companies are education focused companies.
Governors, Superintendents of Education, and state Departments of Education across the country were elected by us to protect the interests of their customers, the students and parents of each state. Our leaders have let us down.
With the Common Core there has been this worrisome blurring of public and private lines as our elected leaders use private companies and “non-profits” they created as front groups to do their dirty work of quietly implementing their shady Common Core education reform scheme nationally with the ultimate goal of controlling education and thereby controlling our kids’ minds.
If education was still decentralized into the states I would recommend that our state’s Attorney General investigate this apparent detrimental collusion between the private and public sectors. However, leaders in states across the country have been coordinating this education scheme and its takeover like a mafia crime syndicate.
For this reason, there needs to be a Congressional investigation into the national problem of collusion between government officials, at the state and federal level, and private companies to take over our education system for their mutual political and financial benefit through the Common Core.
Brad McQueen is a former Common Core insider and current public school teacher in Tucson, Arizona and is the author of the anti-Common Core book “The Cult of Common Core”. Connect with Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org