Study Finds that New Technology, Relaxation of Protections Threaten Student Privacy

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(Boston, MA) New technology allows advocates for education as workforce development to accomplish what has long been out of their reach: the collection of data on every child, beginning with preschool or even earlier, and using that data to track the child throughout his/her academic career and then through the workforce, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“It is an idea that dates back to the Progressive era,” says Emmett McGroarty, a co-author of “Cogs in the Machine: Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing.” “It is based in a belief  that government ‘experts’ should make determinations about what is successful in education, what isn’t, and what sorts of education and training are most likely to produce workers who contribute to making the United States competitive in the global economy.”

In an era in which violations of privacy have become front-page news, the technology presents myriad threats to student privacy.

For many years the federal government has been using grants to induce states to build identical and increasingly sophisticated student-data systems. More recently, the federal government has worked with private entities to design and encourage states to participate in initiatives such as the Data Quality Campaign, the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, and the National Student Clearinghouse – all geared toward increasing the collection and sharing of student data. The National Education Data Model, with its suggestion of over 400 data points on each child, provides an ambitious target for the states in constructing their data systems.

None of the privacy protections currently in place reliably protect student data. Last year Congress gutted the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), leaving no reliable protections in place for student data.  With Big Data, anonymization of an individual student’s information is practically impossible.

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