Forecasting Student Success – Forecasting a Child’s Readiness for College and Career

(Part one of a two-part blog)

Predicting a child’s readiness for “college and career” is like predicting the weather. Sometimes, even weathermen get it wrong. How will this affect our children’s data? How will this affect our children’s future? And will this data follow them throughout their lifespan?

Many businesses use Data Analytics to “analyze current data and historical facts in order to better understand customers, products and partners and to identify potential risks and opportunities for a company.”

Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine-learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.”

Many parents are questioning this methodology. While data-driven decisions can be helpful in some cases, there is a strong potential for this kind of information to be abused.

Currently, there is a push to apply this methodology in education using our children’s real time data to predict whether or not our children will be “college and career ready”, or even be able to pass a test as evidenced by some of the programs that are already in place in our children’s schools, such as Achieve 3000.

Earlier this year, I asked for information on Achieve 3000 because our son is using this program in a Pinellas County middle school. This program is geared toward assessing a student’s ability to pass a standardized test, also known as predictive analytics. Achieve 3000 is known to “Assess Reading Levels and Forecast College and Career Readiness” according to their website, and can even predict student performance on high-stakes assessments, sort of like predicting the weather as they use this analogy in their Technical Paper. They have a privacy policy, which states that they collect personally identifiable information (aka pii). (I highly recommend reading it.) Another good read is their Terms of Use, which states “PLEASE READ THIS DOCUMENT CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU ACCESS OR USE THE SITE. BY ACCESSING OR USING THE SITE, YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS SET FORTH BELOW. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, PLEASE DO NOT ACCESS OUR SITE.” (I highly recommend reading that one too, especially if your child is using this program.)

There are protections related to collecting data from children under the under the age of 13 known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). When I contacted Pinellas County schools stating my concerns regarding the Achieve 3000 program our child (who is under the age of 13) was to participate in, here is the information I was given. “Federal Trade Commission’s COPPA rule defines an “operator” as a commercial entity under 16 CFR Section 312.2, and therefore does not apply to schools. FTC guidance further provides that schools may give consent for students to use educational sites. We expect that all students use the websites that support the district’s curriculum.”

While Pinellas County School District has been so kind to take my concerns into consideration, I am still concerned about the privacy of my student’s personal information. After I stumbled onto the privacy policy, I sent this letter to our school district, and am waiting for a response:

To whom it may concern,

I just stumbled on the privacy policy of Achieve 3000. This company does collect personally identifiable information. This concerns me deeply as I am researching data mining in education. What information does this company have stored regarding my son’s information? I didn’t know they would be collecting personally identifying information.

Per the Achieve 3000 Privacy Policy

5. Children Users

Except for Service Data received from Schools and generated by Student access to and use of Services, Achieve3000 does not solicit and does not knowingly acquire, store, or use personal information relating to children who are less than 13 years of age. If Achieve3000 learns that personal information of persons less than 13 years of age (other than Service Data) has been collected via the Website without parental consent, then Achieve3000 will take appropriate steps to delete this information from its systems.

Thank you in advance,

Laura McCrary

(Although I had agreed to allow my child to participate in the program, I was unaware at the time that this company would be collecting personally identifying information, and possibly storing it for future use.)

According to Wikipedia’s Privacy Concern’s and Ethics regarding data mining, “Data may also be modified so as to become anonymous, so that individuals may not readily be identified.[26] However, even “de-identified”/”anonymized” data sets can potentially contain enough information to allow identification of individuals…”

-Law Professor Paul Ohm- at Georgetown law now- writes:

2009- “Computer scientists have recently undermined our faith in the privacy protecting power of anonymization, the name for techniques that protect the privacy of individuals in large databases by deleting information like names and social security numbers. These scientists have demonstrated that they can often “reidentify” or “deanonymize” individuals hidden in anonymized data with astonishing ease.”

*Please note the table of contents regarding this paper in the photo below:


While being able to associate information with a student’s demographics may be useful for research purposes, storing this information electronically opens it up to data breaches. There is also the concern that the information will be sold to third parties, who may use it for purposes that parents would not approve of. In essence, our children’s personal, psychological information could be sold for a profit without parental permission.

Click here for Part Two 


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