Sunday, April 26, 2015

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Urgent Action Needed on Student Data Privacy

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Urgent Action Needed on Student Data Privacy:

Urgent Action Needed on Student Data Privacy

I am a member of the Network for Public Education, a group started by elder education statesperson, Diane Ravitch.  One of our members sent this message today; I ask you to consider helping with input to elected officials on an issue around student data privacy for higher education.

What we are asking for is an e-mail to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee.  The deadline was last Friday but it has been extended to the end of the day (EST) tomorrow, Monday the 27th.  Sample e-mail at the end of this thread. Send them to 


The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee published three "white papers" on March 23, and solicited comments by April 24 in anticipation of a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

One of the white papers dealt with the question of consumer information and data collection. A coalition of 27 "data advocacy" groups jointly responded to the paper by calling on Congress to lift the "unit record" ban, a move that would allow the federal government to capture, permanently store, mine, and possibly distribute the education records of every student attending a college or university receiving federal funding (regardless of whether the student received funding or not).
Connecting "human capital" data--long a dream of social engineers who approach education as a planning activity--would require a national "unit record" system which would collect and warehouse all education records from all colleges and link individual student records to post-attendance wages, unemployment system, military service, court records, incarceration records, etc. 

If you followed the inBloom story, you know that the Gates Foundation has been a major proponent of developing a unit-record system in higher ed, and has acted through multiple grantees, most notably the Data Quality Campaign, to push for its adoption. 
The idea of a federal unit-record system was first raised more than a decade ago, only to be affirmatively rejected by Congress, which in 2008 imposed a permanent ban on the construction or maintenance of such a system by the Department of Education. 
Unfortunately, the same legislation that banned a federal unit-record system authorized the states to create their own "State Longitudinal Data Systems" (SLDS), provided that they comply with FERPA (an impossibility at the time, since FERPA did not accommodate the disclosures involved). In January 2009,  the stimulus bill dumped $500 million into the lap of governors who were interested in building SLDS (46 were) and in November of that year the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund regs declared that FERPA regs Seattle Schools Community Forum: Urgent Action Needed on Student Data Privacy: