Posts Tagged ‘student data’

Testimony on data privacy to Illinois Senate Education Committee

Monday, March 24th, 2014

PURE, MTAS, and PAA strongly believe that parents must have control over any use of their children’s school data outside of the school building and the district.

PURE and other parent groups are very concerned that the federal education department under Arne Duncan has made changes in federal FERPA laws that have opened the door to potentially massive sharing of student data without parental knowledge or consent. In late 2013, we became aware of a proposal in Illinois to share student data with the inBloom company and possibly other third parties in connection with the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE). PURE and More Than a Score joined with the ACLU of Illinois, Parents 4 Teachers, Raise Your Hand Illinois, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the CReATE organization of university researchers, and the national group EPIC, to educate parents and others about this move, and to share our concerns with Chicago Public Schools and school board officials. I’m happy to report that CPS subsequently decided not to share student data with inBloom.

While we are pleased that District 299 has chosen to opt out of the inBloom program, we are concerned that there are still districts in our state that may soon begin to transmit confidential student information to the state database, data that may be shared with third party for-profit companies without parental notification or consent. In fact, few parents have any idea that this is about to happen, and soon. When PURE and MTAS first began to talk about this issue, it was clear that many state officials, school board members, and the media, among others, were only hearing about it from us here in Chicago and Illinois, and from Parents Across America and a handful of other groups nationally.

That is why we are so grateful to Senator William Delgado, sponsor of SB3092, and chief co-sponsors Senator Don Harmon and Senator Chapin Rose, for bringing forward this important bill. It is especially important considering what little information has been communicated to parents about the plans Illinois has for sharing their children's school information.

PURE supports SB3092 because, while state and local agencies claim that any data sharing will comply with applicable state and federal privacy laws, with FERPA recently weakened to omit parental oversight parents are not reassured. FERPA allows districts to decide what data is shared and with whom it will be shared.

PURE supports SB3092 because, while we are further told that “industry best practices” will be in place to ensure that the data is protected, none of this provides adequate assurance to parents who know that, despite the sincerest of efforts, data breaches will happen that may dramatically impact children’s futures.

PURE also supports SB3092 because the issue of student data privacy is deeply connected to the growing misuse and overuse of standardized testing, which I will just touch on here briefly.

You may have heard about a recent dust-up in Chicago when some parents opted their children out of the state test. Parents are sick of the way testing has taken over schooling. Opting their children out of one test was a reflection of that frustration. People may disagree with these parents about the value of giving dozens of standardized tests every year to children as young as 4 or 5. But the fact that the district met this opposition with harassment and disinformation, and even pulled children out of class later to interrogate them (their words) about opting out, shows a level of focus on testing that is only going to get worse. In fact, implementation of the Common Core state standards and the associated tests is about to usher in a feeding frenzy in the “education marketplace.” And student data will become one of the main currencies in that marketplace.

I will conclude by quoting Todd Farley, a recent guest essayist on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog:

(T)he United States seems to be heading towards taking the decisions about American education out of the hands of American educators and instead placing that sacred trust in the welcoming arms of an industry run entirely without oversight and populated completely with for-profit companies chasing billions of dollars in business. When next some standardized test scores are found to be incorrect or fraudulent (because they will), or some standardized testing company commits or tries to cover up another egregious error (because they will), perhaps then we can admit large-scale assessment isn’t the panacea it’s often been touted to be. Perhaps then we can concede that an educational philosophy based on a system of national standardized tests isn’t any Brave New World of American education; it’s just a bad idea that even the Chinese are already turning away from as being too inefficient and antiquated.

SB3092 will provide a good start for refocusing education on learning and not testing.

PSAT for 2-25-14 (1): Support HB 4558 to protect student data privacy

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

psat_logoFile an electronic witness slip in favor of an Illinois House bill to strengthen parent control over student data.

Over the past few months, PURE and others have raised red flags about proposals to share Illinois students’ data with for-profit companies like inBloom. Just days after November’s More Than a Score forum on student data privacy, CPS announced it would not share data with inBloom. The state board has clarified that its own data warehouse, ISLE, is not connected with inBloom and that districts can decide individually whether they want to purchase services from inBloom.

This may be the end of inBloom in Illinois — for now. But we know that the will of education marketeers to capture and profit from student data remains strong. InBloom can simply change its name — as it has before — and try again under another guise.

That’s why it is still important for parents to have the ultimate control over their children’s private school information. That right was undermined the Duncan Ed department made to the federal student privacy act, called FERPA. Those changes took away parental rights to decide how student data would be shared with third parties.

Now Illinois State Representative Scott Drury, a Democrat from north suburban Highwood, has introduced HB 4558, a bill that would require parental consent before student data could be shared with third parties in Illinois.

The bill is called for a hearing before the House education committee tomorrow. You can submit an electronic witness slip in support of the bill.

Other bills listed on for this hearing that deserve your support are HB 3754, HB 4237, and HB 4767.

Here’s more on those bills from Illinois Jobs with Justice:

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia has introduced three crucial bills.  The first two would restore local control over charter decisions, and the third would assure that all public schools be fully-staffed with certified teachers. Please ask your State Senator and State Representative to sponsor these bills.

HB 3754.  This bill would eliminate the Illinois State Charter Commission, which was created to overtuen decisions of local elected schools that have rejected applications of charter schools.  The Commission was put together to under the heavy influence of wealthy hedge fund managers and their front groups: Stand for Chilren and Advance Illinois.    Click    to read the bill.   The companion bill in the Senate is SB 2627.
HB 4237 would allow districts to hold a referendum if the charter commission overturned the decision of a local school board.  Click  to read the bill.
HB 4767,  would require all schools to hire only state certified teachers, and would require uncertified teachers to become certified  by September of 2016.  Currently, up to 25% of teachers in charter schools are uncertified and are paid less than their counterparts in neighborhood public schools.  Many of these teachers are given a 6-week course through Teach for America.  This  leaves them woefully unprepared for the challenges of the classroom.  The practice results in high turnover among those teachers, and a lower quality educational experience for the student. Click    to read the bill.
Please call or email your  Illinois State Representative  and tell him or her to sign on as sponsors of HB 3754,  HB 3754, and HB 4767. Ask your State Senator to sign onto SB 2627.  Click on this link to find out who represents you and  get his or her contact information.

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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.