Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Conforming Laws to Common Core

This is the latest in a series of several posts on the Common Core Standards

The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is intended to protect the privacy of student education records. Amendments by the U.S. Department of Education in 2008 and 2011 weakened that protection and diminished parents’ control over who has access to the records.

By altering some definitions and inserting others, the Department increased the number of individuals with access to personally identifiable student information, while foreclosing parents’ ability to object.

Regulations barring school officials from sharing personally identifiable student information with third parties were amended so that any government or private entity can access the data if the Department of Education declares that the entity is “auditing, evaluating, or enforcing” education program “ in connection with “federal legal requirements that relate to these programs.” “School officials” who have access to student data, are now defined to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.”

An “education program” is  “any program that is principally engaged in the provision of education, including, but not limited to early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education special education, job training, career and technical education, and adult education, regardless of whether the program is administered by an educational authority.”

In addition, the exceptions were increased regarding the release of student records to non-governmental organizations without parental consent.

Another law affected by Common Core legislation is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal law that protects personal medical information. Common Core specifically grants school districts and states wavers to HIPAA:  “Protected health information excludes individually identifiable health information in education records covered by the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA).”

Department of Health & Human Services Regulation Section 160.103 states, in part, “Protected health information excludes individually identifiable health information in education records covered by the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), as amended 20 U.S.C. 1232 g”.

Student records also may be released for non-academic purposes, further undermining parental consent provisions. Product vendors and companies providing programs, and services to schools are now eligible to receive the data.

In other words, if phrased adroitly, recipients could include textbook publishers, Internet service providers and the Roto-Rooter man.

Tracking Students

The U.S. Department of Education is prohibited by law from creating a national data system. But the Obama administration is adept at circumventing or suspending inconvenient laws and twisting others to suit its purposes. To compete for Race to the Top money, states had to agree to create State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS). More federal incentives encourage states to follow “individuals systematically and efficiently across state lines” from pre-school, elementary, college, to workforce experience.

It does not require a big leap of logic to conclude that SLDS is the foundation for a national database of student’s personal data. It takes a giant leap of faith to believe it isn’t. What may be included in students’ electronic records? In a November 2010 brief, the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Department of Education, identified what could become part of a student’s personally identifiable information.

  1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
  2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
  3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
  4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
  5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
  6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
  7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or
  8. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).

Columnist Bob Confer, in the Lockport Union-Sun (NY) summed up some of the ways the data system could be put to nefarious uses.

Based upon the above list, one can easily see students and their families targeted for any of the following: non-standard political beliefs (such as libertarianism); a parent who is coping with mental illness (even something as common and treatable as depression); disagreements with the concept of same-sex relationships; exhibiting once-normal behavioral traits now deemed to be anti-social (such as playful kidding now classified as vicious bullying); maintaining friendly relationships with reformed individuals who paid their dues to society; regular utilization of the services of medical doctors; regularly attending church services; and family income (“too low” or “too high”).

The possibilities for abuse of this data are endless. It could be done in the classroom (by a maverick teacher with a personal agenda), at the district level (by one trying to improve its statistical outcomes by sequestering alleged troubled youths), and well into the future. These corrupted records would follow the youth into the SUNY/CUNY system (affecting their eligibility and/or studies) and could likely be made readily available in their pursuit of gainful employment.

Given this administration’s use of the IRS and other federal agencies for political ends, such “possibilities” are all too probable. NCES includes teachers in the data that may be collected.

A number of data systems include data on students’ instructors. A teacher identification number, a student-teacher link, and information on the teacher’s education, certification, teaching assignments, and scores on teacher assessments are examples of the types of teacher data elements that may be included at the preschool, elementary, and secondary levels.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, is either uninformed or untroubled by the foregoing. Huppenthal, a Republican, means to quell parents’ objections by renaming “Common Core” as “Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.” According to the Arizona Republic,  “Huppenthal emphasized that nothing would change in Arizona classrooms. Teachers will stick to the new Common Core lessons rolled out at the beginning of the school year, and students will still take an annual assessment to measure what they have learned.” common-core

Governor Jan Brewer, also a Republican, backed Huppenthal ‘s play with an executive order telling state agencies to stop using the term Common Core. If Common Core is the pig, we now have the lipstick, courtesy of Huppenthal and Brewer.

State officials in Florida evidently thought this was a grand idea and are attempting the same ruse.

More to come ….  (and it’s just as depressing.)


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