When academics collide with technology- where do we cross the line?

The amount of personal and psychological data being collected from children in public schools by the Federal government has significantly increased. They claim to use this data to inform teaching and improve learning outcomes. While there are some cases of positive use of data collection in education, the sheer volume of data being collected about our children and what it is being used for has become abusive.

In the words of Privacy Expert, Joel Reidenberg of Fordham University Law School,

“The kinds of information collected about children in school can be very detailed.  It can range from things like behavioral information, disciplinary information, traditional things like grades, classroom performance.  Increasingly, though, in a technologically mediated classroom, a classroom that has learning apps and is using a lot of technology in the school, meta-data gets collected.  The meta-data is information about how a child is interacting with the technology,  (interacting with the soft-ware program), and there are a lot of companies that are scrambling to get access to that data.

They are looking at it for development of commercial products. They are looking at it for programs to try to assess whether teachers are performing adequately, whether kids are learning enough.  They’re looking at it to see how our children are learning.  But the question is, how are we going to structure that access so that it’s fair, so that it’s fair to the children, so the children and their families aren’t being used as guinea pigs.”

When asked “what do you think is the worst that could happen”, here was Reidenberg’s response.

“The worst that could happen is several forms of harm to children. Educational harms to children, where they are tracked or improperly labeled because of bad data practices”

 “There has to be satisfactory remedies when children’s information is misused. We have none today. There has to be sanction.  Right now the sanction that exists in current law is totally ineffective. There’s only one sanction in FERPA which is, the Federal Government can withhold funding to the school system if they’re violating FERPA. In the 41 year history of the Statute, it has never happened.”

One way the government is collecting this data is through competency based education (CBE), which involves measuring student competencies through the use of computers.

Kathleen Oropeza of Fund Education Now, writes:

“Governor Scott signed the controversial Competency Based Education/Testing (CBE) Pilot into law allowing Pinellas, Lake, Palm Beach and Seminole counties to participate over a five- year period. Pinellas ($2.5 M) and Lake ($7.3M) have been moving toward CBE since 2014, thanks to funding from the Gates Foundation.  CBE was heavily lobbied during Florida’s 2016 session by Jeb’s Foundations whose biggest donor is the Gates Foundation.”

Now, with Personalized Learning, (a.k.a. Competency Based Education), there is good reason to be concerned with student privacy.  Suzette Lopez, of Miami-Dade County voices her concerns in the video below:

Student data privacy only touches on one of the myriad of issues that CBE faces.  We hope that more people are alerted to the consequences of the passage of the Competency Based Education/Testing Pilot Bill.  It will bring changes to four Florida districts in the 2016-17 school year.  We are talking about August of THIS year!

CBE is already here.  You probably already have it in your school.  Programs such as Achieve 3000, iReady, and STMath are Competency Based programs.  This is just the beginning.  There is more to come.  Keep your eyes and ears open.

Compiled by: Laura McCrary, Co-founder, United for FL Children

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