CPS set to sign away student privacy

At their meeting tomorrow, the Chicago Board of Education is set to sign a new contract with Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation to collect and store student mathematics assessment information with the provision that our children’s personal information will be shared with test publishers and other corporations that make money off of our students.

Thought there were privacy laws and parental rights?

Think again.

Parents Across America co-founder Leonie Haimson explain the national story this way:

The Gates Foundation, in association with Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, recently formed a private LLC called the Shared Learning Collaborative. This LLC will collect confidential student and teacher data provided to them by states throughout the country, and in some form, share it with vendors and other commercial enterprises. The purpose of this project is at least in part to help vendors develop and market their educational products. NYS and NYC, along with school districts in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, have agreed to participate in Phase one of this project, starting in late 2012, with Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana participating in Phase II soon after.

This project provokes serious privacy concerns as to the security of this confidential information, and the lack of any parental consent in the decision to share it with the LLC. The concerns are intensified by the fact that News Corp has been charged with serious privacy violations, including phone and computer hacking and bribing of public officials in the UK. The NY Post, another subsidiary of News Corp, recently provoked controversy by publishing teacher data reports based on student test scores in its paper, and running inflammatory articles about teachers who received low scores.

There are also serious questions about the legality of this project. The US Dept. of Education has recently rewritten the regulations for FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, to allow more liberal sharing of student data, especially for research purposes. The new regulations went into effect in January of 2012.

The Chicago contract seems to reflect this program, although it is not a participant in the SLC. The contract proposal (which begins on page 70 of the Board agenda) says:

Vendor will house all associated data and reporting systems. Data reports housed by vendor will be accessible to the Board … Vendor will work with Board and its partners (potentially including curriculum publishers) to identify and develop intervention strategies using supported instructional materials.

This is just the beginning, folks. Read more on Leonie’s blog about how this is playing out in NY.


Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.

Support PURE!
About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.