The federal government is laying the foundation for a national database that could include all of the personal details of every student in every public school in every state, warns a report by the leading homeschool advocacy group.
The report, compiled by Will Estrada and Katie Tipton of the Home School Legal Defense Association, points out that 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.’”
The authors “believe that this expansion of state databases is laying the foundation for a national database filled with personal student data.”
The report notes that the U.S. Department of Education is banned by law from creating a national data system, but under the Obama administration, new regulations have opened the door.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, parents were promised they could access their children’s personally identifiable information collected by schools. But the schools were banned from sharing the details with third parties.
The law explains that personally identifiable information includes names of family members, address, Social Security number, date and place of birth, disciplinary record and biometric record.
The new report says, however, the Department of Education has reshaped FERPA through regulations so that “any government or private entity that the department says is evaluating an education program has access to students’ personally identifiable information.”
Postsecondary institutes and workforce education programs can also be given the data.
While the change has prompted a still-unresolved lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the framework of a national database slowly is slowly being implemented, the report says.
The Home School Legal Defense Association has long opposed the creation of a national database.
“We believe that it would threaten the privacy of students, be susceptible to abuse by government officials or business interests, and jeopardize student safety,” the report says. “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 report points out that guidelines for building state longitudinal data systems that can collect and link personally identifiable information across state lines have been released by task forces funded by both the Department of Education and special interest groups
Many of the recommendations were compiled in the National Education Data Model, a project funded by the Department of Education and overseen by the Council for Chief State School Officers, one of the organizations that created Common Core.
Already, 18 states and many local education agencies are building databases, the report says, and other states are using similar database models.
“Concentrating data collection around a few models means that states are getting closer and closer to keeping the same data and using the some interoperable technology to store it,” HSLDA reports.
The report says 46 states now have databases that can track students from preschool through the workforce.
Several other federal programs also are pushing the creation of databases, including Race to the Top, which was to allocate $4.35 billion to schools that make “certain changes” in their policies, including the adoption of the Common Core initiative, which seeks to standardize curricula nationally.
“Every state that agrees to the Common Core in order to receive RTTT funding also commits ‘to design, develop, and implement statewide P-20 (preschool through workforce) longitudinal data systems’ that can be used in part or in whole by other states,” the report says.
HSLDA warns that the “heavy involvement of the federal government in enticing states to create databases of student-specific data that are linked between states is creating a de facto centralized database.”
“Before our eyes a ‘national database’ is being created in which every public school student’s personal information and academic history will be stored,” the report says.
Thea authors of Common Core, the report notes, “have been heavily involved in developing data models and overseeing data collection.”
The impact might someday be measured in lost dreams and evaporated opportunities, the report suggests.
“A crucial part of the responsibility of parents is protecting the privacy of their children. This enables parents not only to guard their children’s physical safety, but also to nurture their individuality and secure opportunities for them to pursue their dreams apart from government interference,” the report says.
“The rise of national databases threatens these freedoms.”