Protecting Student Privacy Under the CCSSI Regime: Will Proposed Legislation Clash with New York’s PARCC Memorandum of Understanding?

In response to New York State’s plans to turn over massive amounts of personally identifiable student and teacher data to inBloom, Inc., a private company, NYS Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell introduced bill A06059, which would require  parental consent before any data is shared with “third parties”.[1]

While many will see this proposed legislation as a positive development, few are aware of the potential conflict this sets up with New York State’s Race to the Top (RttT) Assessment Program award and the Common Core State Standards Initative (CCSSI) of which it is a part.

Background

In order to be eligible to receive RttT assessment program grants, states were required to join one of two assessment consortia. New York State joined the consortia named Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC). Florida submitted the application on behalf of PARCC states.

In order to be eligible, the application had to include Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) from participating states, outlining how they indented to comply with grant requirements. As I’ve noted before, I believe this is an important example of how the CCSSI is altering governing arrangements under the guise of improving education.

A key condition for winning the grant includes assurances of each, “State’s commitment to and plan for identifying any existing barriers in State law, statute, regulation, or policy to implementing the proposed assessment system and to addressing any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system.”

Like other Race to the Top requirements that bribe states into rewriting their laws — the most notable examples being the removal of caps on charter schools and rules limiting the use of test data for teacher evaluation purposes — this places executive bodies in a quasi-law making role.

Undermining State Legislative Authority

New York State’s MoU includes language directly from the RttT application requirements. Signed by former Governor Paterson, former Education Commission Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch, the MoU states, in section X(a)(6), the State: “Will conduct periodic reviews of its State laws, regulations and policies to identify any barriers to implementing the proposed assessment system and address any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system.”

Given that PARCC is a private, non-profit (501c3) organization, arguably a third-party under the current proposed bill, affirming parental/guardian rights to protect their children’s data would be considered a barrier to the functioning of PARCC. Thus, according to the MoU signed at the behest of ED, New York would be required to “address the barrier” before full implementation, which the MoU establishes as the 2014-2015 school year.

While I believe the plan is to integrate inBloom, Inc. with the CCSSI assessment apparatus, even without inBloom, the demand of the public to protect privacy rights stands in contradiction to the CCSSI agenda, which has set up a variety of “third party” governance structures over institutions once governed by public bodies. In this case, removing legislative authority over education — through executive actions like those evident in the MoU — corresponds with limiting or completely removing individual privacy protections.

Making matters more complicated, I am told by some school administrators that the Board of Regents has not officially adopted PARCC assessments; I can find no official documentation, except the MoU signed by Chancellor Tisch. While documents showing that the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) has called upon the Regents to adopt PARCC appear in New York’s RttT Round 2 application, no evidence of full Regents approval for PARCC is available.

Notes

  1. See my previous post regarding the irrationality of this proposal as well as this; see this for a discussion of the myth of “personalized learning” that is used to justify the massive data sharing project. Also note this recent lawsuit against ED, which, among other things, suggests ED made recent changes to federal privacy policy just it time for this database to become operational.

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