Common Core Student Data Mining Debate Continues

The Education Liberty Watch group is “sounding an alarm” over the Common Core initiative. The new federal academic standards have been now been adopted in nearly all 50 states. Any school district which accepted “Race to the Top” funding is now subject to the student data sharing dictates included in the education reform program.

Common Core is a highly controversial public education program which has led many to fear a national data collection of student and family information is being collected by the federal government. In addition to the anxiety over privacy issues, the Common Core program has prompted student indoctrination concerns as well. Textbooks and lesson plans approved for use on the federal program have drawn sharp criticism, especially in the area of American history – books on the topic of the Second Amendment have particularly drawn ire.

The state standards for the Common Core Initiative are defined as an “education initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform.” The US Department of Education is a relatively new agency, and has only been in existence for a couple of decades. The academic achievement of American students, by and large, has dropped significantly during the past 20 years. The United States, once a leader in education on a global scale, now ranks behind lesser developed countries in core subjects.

Although the federal government would be breaking the law if a national database was created, the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 may be used to skirt the spirit of legislation designed to prohibit information gathering on children and private citizens. The 2002 act gave the US federal government the authority to develop guidelines for states to create “state longitudinal data systems – SLDS.

A Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) report had this to say about the evolving nature of federal database and information collection laws:

“Over the past decade, a slew of new federal incentives and federally funded data models have spurred states to monitor students’ early years, performance in college, and success in the workforce by following individuals systematically and efficiently across state lines. We believe that this expansion of state databases is laying the foundation for a national database filled with personal student data. We believe that it would threaten the privacy of students, be susceptible to abuse by government officials or business interests, and jeopardize student safety. We believe that detailed data systems are not necessary to educate young people. Education should not be an Orwellian attempt to track students from preschool through assimilation into the workforce.”

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations were reportedly altered in 2012. The law once guaranteed parents would have access to information collected about their children which could personally identify the students, when such data was compiled by schools. American schools were prohibited from sharing this type of personal identifying information with third parties. Textbook and technology companies, as well as educational resource material manufacturers could benefit greatly from detailed information about students and were allegedly eager to get their mitts on reports containing tidbits about students.

FERPA regulations defines personally identifiable information as fact which would permit a “reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty,” including names of family members, living address, Social Security number, date and place of birth, disciplinary record, and biometric record.”

The “reshaping” of FERPA regulations now reportedly allows personal information with any private or government entity which the US Department of Education allows to evaluate an academic program. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was altered without approval by Congress, prompting at least one lawsuit against the US Department of Education.

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