Dear Utah State School Board,
First, thank you for putting on last Thursday’s statewide forum. It was an admirable display of freedom of speech and thought in America. Both sides were treated with fairness and respect.
Second, I’m asking you to review some additional research as you weigh educational data-collection methods and as you advise school boards statewide on whether to submit to federal requests for local FERPA revisions.
We realize that oppressive federal controls are in place over the SBAC via our Cooperative Agreement http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf and for that reason, I believe some state school board members may be wisely leaning toward getting Utah out of the SBAC testing consortium.
There are also unpleasant federal control attempts coming to Utah related to the longitudinal database Utah has built with a $9.6 million dollar federal stimulus grant. Utah parents deserve to know that the aggregated, purely academic, standardized testing and data comparison of the past is very different from standardized testing set up now. Testing scores will not be limited to academic data. All data collected by schools will be up for perusal by virtually anyone, including the federal government.
According to the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, states had to agree to build database systems according to federally dictated standards to qualify for stimulus money. All 50 states are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. Utah’s database meets all essential components outlined by the federal government.
The database includes non-academic information. (According to the National Data Collection Model) it will include health-care history, nicknames, family income, family voting status, gestational age of students at birth, student ID number, bus stop times, and so much more –and not just information about kids, but families.
You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary
As of January 3, 2012 the Department of Education implemented changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and overrode the privacy protections Congress included in FERPA, the Competes Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act where privacy protection of student information was secure.
The changes allow access to any of the information in the databases by anyone! (They say “authorized representative” but later re-define it so loosely as to lose all power.)
The Data Quality Campaign (DQC, Creating a Longitudinal Data System, 2006) recommended that states include 10 essential elements when building a highly effective longitudinal data system, and Utah has all ten. These include:
1. A unique statewide student identifier
2. Student-level enrollment, demographic and program participation information
3. The ability to match individual students’ test records from year to year to measure academic progress
4. Information on untested students
5. A teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students
6. Student-level transcript information, including information on courses completed and grades earned
7. Student-level college readiness test scores
8. Student-level graduation and dropout data
9. The ability to match student records between the Pre–K–12 and postsecondary systems
10. A state data audit system that assesses data quality, validity, and reliability
Please ask our state contact, John Brandt, to explain and validate what I am saying.
Information Technology Director
Utah Office of Education
To reference the above, here’s Utah’s report to the national data collectors: http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/stateanalysis/states/UT/
Here’s Utah being praised by the national data collectors: http://secc.sedl.org/orc/rr/secc_rr_00088.pdf (And lastly, when you have 45 minutes to watch this video, here’s a well researched and evidence-based presentation by an Oklahoma think tank that clearly explains how the data collection councils (P-20 council) literally conflict with parent-empowering FERPA laws. http://youtu.be/z1pwUSlqerg.)
If you think that none of the data collection technologies are federally relevant, think again. We are told that we must allow all “stakeholders” access to this database. The specific stakeholders are listed; included in the very lengthy list of who can or should read all this data are: “Other public agencies serving children — to understand the relationship between their services and educational outcomes.”
Yes, that would absolutely include the federal government.
Thank you again for all your time, research, and the care you put in to our educational system. I feel that we are all in this together and if we pool our research efforts we can come up with solutions that are free of federal intrusions and yet uphold educational excellence in this state.