Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hey NJ! #EdReform Big Brother is watching your kids!

I'm coming for your kids' data.
The first time I heard then NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf speak at the NJEA Convention he spoke about all the student data the state was collecting. He was giddy with excitement over it; frothing over how it will 'transform' education... Into what exactly? My first thoughts were that Big Brother had indeed landed. 

So, where is all this fabulousness and wonderfulness that Cerf and other 'reformers' literally drool over? Because the only 'transformations' I've seen are the vast numbers of students refusing to take the PARCC and SBAC, massive public school closings, the expansion of segregationist charter schools, and the beaucoup bucks 'reformers', for-profit education services companies and 'non-profit' charter operators are raking in as a result.

But this is how America operates. We're a capitalist society. Money—not people—runs this country. And those with a lot of it and who want more of it have finally managed to crack the code of the last hold out against corporate takeover: public education. And they've got their sites (sic) set on our kids.

Right now it's being used to evaluate students, teachers and schools. It's also an ad hominem judgment on communities of low income and color. But who knows what the future will bring and how this data will be used? It's one thing for the government to have my child's social security and driver's license numbers. It's quite another for them to have her entire educational history at their disposal to use as a marketing tool so education companies can ply their wares. What other data will the government then try to collect? And of course, what proof do they have that any of this is valid?

So, what can you do? Well, thanks to the efforts of Leonie Haimson and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, you can send this letter to the NJ Department of Education:

To whom it may concern: 

I am the parent and legal guardian of (full name of child), currently (x ) years of age. 

My child attended x school in grades K-x (during what years); x school in grades x-y, (during what years) and x high school (during what years) in [what] school district.
Please provide me with whatever personally identifiable information (PII) that the State Education Department has collected on my child and which of this information is included in the state’s student longitudinal database, including any and all information in the database that has been contributed by other state agencies. 

To access this information, and challenge it if it is incorrect is every parent’s right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), and the state cannot charge me a fee for accessing it. 

This was confirmed by Dale King, Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office, in a letter he wrote to the Nevada Education Department on July 28, 2014: 

….educational agencies and institutions, as well as SEAs [State educational agencies] may not charge a fee for search and retrieval of education records. See § 99.ll(b) 

I also demand a list of any and all third parties, and/or governmental agencies, that have been provided with any of my child's PII, which elements of PII they have received, and under what privacy and security agreements these disclosures were made. 

Finally, I would like to know what governmental, citizen or advisory board exists to oversee the collection, use, distribution and eventual destruction of my child’s PII data, and their members. 

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

The letter should be submitted to the NJ Department of Education by clicking here. S
elect Education, then Chief of Staff. Fill out the requested information at the top, cut and paste the letter in the space at the bottom including your child's information. Although these requests are free, write $1 under payment information, which is the maximum authorized cost. Without an entry in that space, the form won't allow you to submit.

You can submit as many forms as necessary to obtain this information about all of your children.

Keep a copy of what you submitted.

NJDOE must respond within seven days.

Please email info@saveourschoolsnj.org and let them know what you find out.

Thank you to Save Our Schools NJ organizer, Christine McGoey, for sharing this valuable information!