Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Child's Data Left Behind

If your child is - or ever was - in a government school, then their data (i.e.permanent record) is being controlled by the state that collects them and being shared too!

Personal information, including test scores, economic status, grades, and even disciplinary problems and student pregnancies, are tracked and stored in a kind of virtual “permanent record” for each student.

But parents and students have very little access to that data, according to a report released Wednesday by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that advocates for expanded data use.

All 50 states and Washington, D.C. collect long term, individualized data on students performance, but just eight states allow parents to access their child’s permanent record. Forty allow principals to access the data and 28 provide student-level info to teachers. ...

Privacy experts say the problem is that states collect far more information than parents expect, and it can be shared with more than just a student’s teacher or principal.“When you have a system that’s secret [from parents] and you can put whatever you want into it, you can have things going in that’ll be very damaging,” says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “When you put something into digital form, you can’t control where that’ll end up.”

According to a 2009 report by the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, some states store student’s social security numbers, family financial information, and student pregnancy data. Nearly half of states track students’ mental health issues, illnesses, and jail sentences.Without access to their child’s data, parents have no way of knowing what teachers and others are learning about them.

The federal government is taking steps to make the data more secure, however. In December, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was revised to give parents more control over their children’s records. According to a parent information sheet released by the government, the revisions give parents “certain rights with regard to their children’s education records, such as the right to inspect and review [their] child’s education records.” But it also allows student information to be shared without parental consent.

“Your child’s information may be disclosed to another school in which your child is enrolling, or to local emergency responders in connection with a health or safety emergency,” it says.

Regardless of privacy concerns, education data is not going away. “The best thing we can do is continue to fund states that are taking this on in a holistic way,” Ed Secretary Duncan says.

Beware the information you give to your local school - who knows where it may end up.

NHELD wrote a wonderful article
about giving information to the schools ... it is definitely worth a read. Here is an excerpt:
What will the government do with the information collected?

Before you voluntarily provide the information to the government official, is he willing to fully inform you about what exactly the government will do with the information it is seeking? If not, why not? If he has informed you, do you agree to allow your child’s information to be used in such a manner? It might be nice to have answers to those questions before you decide to provide the information.
You may voluntarily provide information to one government official, perhaps to your local superintendent of schools, thinking that’s where it will remain. But, especially today, you have absolutely no guarantee that your information will remain in your local community. In fact, it is far more likely that your information will be sent not only to your State Education agency, but ultimately to the federal Education Department, and perhaps even to an international agency in some foreign country. Your information may wind up in the hands of the United Nations. You may think that’s farfetched. Unfortunately, it is becoming more of a reality every day. If you have some time on your hands, it might be worth your while to look up the statutes in your state, and then the statutes adopted by Congress at the federal level. You may be surprised to learn that there are an ever-increasing number of statutes that talk about implementing “compacts” or “agreements” with other states, and other countries, for all sorts of wonderful sounding reasons. Some compacts are made so that states and countries can “assist” each other in times of emergencies. Other compacts are made for the sake of the children, to make it easier to obtain child support. Still other compacts are made in the name of educating children about the international global community. If compacts are made, the chances are good that information is being exchanged in order to further the goals of the compact. Information today is exchanged fairly easily electronically. Today also, the government is seeking to establish even more central databases to make it even easier to exchange information. Do you know what databases the information about your child will go into eventually? Again, once you “voluntarily” provide information to the government, the government likely will be free to use that information in whatever manner it deems appropriate. Is that really what you want to happen to information concerning your child?

Be aware.