In March, conservative writer Michelle Malkin brought to light that at the heart of the controversy about the Common Core curriculum standards is an issue that has little to do with “college and career readiness.”
In fact, as Malkin wrote in National Review Online, the Common Core has initiated an entire stealthy student-tracking database that will allow the government access to private information from birth onward.
Quoting the American Principles Project, a conservative think-tank, Malkin observedthat the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund was launched through the 2009 stimulus bill to incentivize states to develop “longitudinal data systems (LDS) to collect data on public-school students.”
These systems will aggregate massive amounts of personal data — health-care histories, income information, religious affiliations, voting status, and even blood types and homework-completion rates. The data will be available to a wide variety of public agencies. And despite federal student-privacy protections guaranteed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA], the Obama administration is paving the way for private entities to buy their way into the data boondoggle. Even more alarming, the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging a radical push from aggregate-level data-gathering to invasive individual-student-level data collection.
Malkin explained that the centralized data base of student information is the result of a cooperative effort between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been a chief promoter and funder of the Common Core curriculum; News Corp., which built the infrastructure database; and a nonprofit called inBloom, Inc., that operates the database.
The Gates Foundation indeed continues to provide what appears to be a never-ending stream of cash to Common Core.
Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post reported Thursday that the Gates Foundation is awarding millions of dollars in grants to enhance its “already vast and controversial influence on public education.”
Strauss wrote that, following its millions of dollars of spending on the development of teacher assessment systems, the Gates Foundation is now spending even more on that endeavor, as well as on launching online “adaptive” courses that will be aligned with the Common Core standards and ensure the implementation of the standards themselves.
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE), however, is, as Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute says, intent on “investigating how public schools can collect information on “non-cognitive” student attributes after granting itself the power to share student data across agencies without parents’ knowledge.”
Pullmann reports that the DOE hopes to collect information on how children respond to computer tutors by using cameras to judge facial expressions, special electronic seats that will evaluate students’ posture, and a “pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.”
And that may be just the data that can be collected while children are in school. With some school districts purchasing laptop computers or tablets for each student, the data collection can continue at home.
Pullmann observes that, according to a 2012 Pioneer Institute report and the National Center for Educational Statistics, the DOE is working to expand children’s databases to include “health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status and religious affiliation.” She writes, “Under agreements every state signed to get 2009 stimulus funds, they must share students’ academic data with the federal government.”
The department recommends schools start tracking and teaching kids not just boring old knowledge but also “21st Century Competencies” – “recognizing bias in sources,” “flexibility,” “cultural awareness and competence,” “appreciation for diversity,” “collaboration, teamwork, cooperation,” “empathy,” “perspective taking, trust, service orientation,” and “social influence with others.” I’m really looking forward to seeing how psychologists profiling children for government reports interpret each of these characteristics.
Sheila Kaplan, a children’s privacy advocate who founded Education New York in 1997, told Breitbart News that, though FERPA was enacted in 1974 to protect the privacy of education records and “directory information,” it was amended in both 2008 and 2011 to give contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties access to children’s data.
“In 2011,” Kaplan said, “FERPA allowed the release of student records for non-academic purposes. In addition, the parental consent provisions were undermined.”
“Directory information,” she explained, “can include name, address, phone number, date of birth, and email address, and other personally identifiable information. What is essential for parents to know is that they must opt-out of directory information about their children being made public.”
Kaplan provides information for parents on how to protect their children’s personal information.
Another “Common Core State Standards” opt-out form for parents to use is provided by Truth in American Education.
Kaplan notes that Common Core was a good fit to enable the government to collect and distribute children’s data because the curriculum standards “depend on the collection of student data to monitor implementation and measure success.”
She observes as well that funds for the “Race to the Top” incentive program that the federal government has used to lure states into adopting Common Core were part of President Obama’s stimulus in 2009.
In addition, Kaplan notes that, perhaps surprisingly to some, political conservatives have been more attuned to the data collection and privacy problems than have those on the left. “The ACLU should have been all over this when it started years ago,” she says. “The right has been much better on this.”
“I tend to see patterns,” Kaplan states. “I look at policy and put the pieces together. This is not pretty. My biggest concern is how the data collected about children will be used. We’re talking about ‘mission creep.’ Child predators, domestic violence abusers, and also marketers would all like to have this information.”