Beware of Data Sharing Cheerleaders Offering Webinars
Perhaps the most sobering component of the privatization push is its unprecedented demand for data collection (data “mining”) on American students. Data mining is not just an American issue. However, on the American front, two education activists have been at the forefront of the fight against this mammoth student data collection: Louisiana’s Jason France (here’s a great example of his writing on the subject) and New York’s Leonie Haimson (her is her testimony on student data/privacy issues in a September 2013 New York city council meeting).
(For those unfamiliar with the data mining issue, see this concise yet thorough summary on the WhatIsCommonCore blog.)
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that there is “power” in data for “school reform”.
Indeed there is. The issue isn’t whether there is “power” in data collection and storage, and its potential sharing. There certainly is power. That is precisely why the public is wary of the federal push to develop statewide, longitudinal data systems.
The question is whether state and federal governments (and the privatizing interests nurtured by state and federal governments) should have control of over 400 data points per student.
As is true with any attempt to hand over the public to privatizing interests (i.e., the heart of corporate reform), the potential for exploitation abounds is this so-called “data storing/ data sharing” endeavor.
Those promoting the data collection want to assure those who will be subject to it that there is nothing to fear, that if handled properly, the mountains of data can only benefit those whose lives have been mined.
Enter the “reassuring” data sharing webinar. This is sponsored by the Education Writers Association (EWA):
Student Privacy: Lost in the Cloud?
Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014
As more school districts share data with parents and teachers, privacy advocates warn that they run the risk of violating students’ privacy. How valid are such concerns? Should parental rights trump educators’ efforts to track students? What should the federal role be?
Our webinar will look at these issues, with a particular focus on how the rollout of assessments linked to the Common Core State Standards could affect student privacy. Speakers include:
Aimee Guidera, Data Quality Campaign
Joel Reidenberg, Fordham University
Jim Shelton, U.S. Department of Education
Ben Herold, Education Week (moderator)
Space is limited — register today! [Emphasis added.]
Furthermore, notice the wording: Should parental rights trump educators’ efforts to track students?
Got that? It’s the educators who want to track the students!
Now, know that the term educators is the fashionable disguise to hide those with either zero or arguably cosmetic classroom experience but who have inserted themselves into key decision making positions in public education.
It isn’t the teachers and local administrators who want to collect hundreds of data points and store these in some “cloud.”
In our upside-down, corporate-reform-shaken world, educators also means education for-profits and education philanthropists.
Speaking of “education philanthropists”:
Guess whose “education stuff” dollars are all over this webinar?
Yep. Bill. Gates.
First of all, it was Gates money that funded the inBloom data “cloud.”
Next, the sponsor of the webinar, EWA, has taken $2.7 million in Gates money since 2003.
Fourth, USDOE Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton used to work for Gates as the Gates Foundation director of its education division. Shelton is also a partner with the charter-market-creating New Schools Venture Fund (a connection to Education Undersecretary nominee Ted Mitchell) AND was a senior management consultant for McKinsey and Company (former employer of Common Core “lead architect” David Coleman).
To be fair, I must note that Reidenberg’s paper does include the following acknowledgement and assertion of no influence of funding upon study outcomes:
A gift from Microsoft to the Center on Law and Information Policy at the Fordham University School of Law, New York, NY (Fordham CLIP) supported work on this study.
The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and are not presented as those of any of the sponsoring organizations or financial supporters of those organizations.
However, whereas the Reidenberg et al. study “proposes a set of specific, constructive recommendations for school districts and vendors to be able to address the deficiencies in privacy protection,” it does not address the question of the appropriateness of such massive data collection in the first place.
To be blunt: Reidenberg and his colleagues can offer as many reasonable cautions as they like. None if it matters since those with the power and influence to force their data collection agenda answer to no one.
Reidenberg et al. suggests the establishment of a national research center and clearinghouse.
What they should have suggested is the establishment of a regulatory agency to enforce their other suggestions and a halt to all massive data collection until such an agency were established and active.
(I have no evidence to the effect that the Reidenberg recommendations were in some way modified to suit the wishes of the study’s funder. However, I have been learning some lessons regarding the subtle limiting ability of funders upon so-called “outside” or “objective” investigation. For example, I will never forget that the agency hired by former DC Chancellor Rhee and Rhee successor Henderson to investigate cheating in DC, Caveon, had limits set by its “funders” and had to operate within the scope of those limits. Thus, I learned that it is possible for investigators [and researchers] to operate truthfully within prescribed limits. Thus, in reading the Reidenberg et al. recommendations, I wonder whether the overall study is somehow couched within parameters “suitable” to Microsoft and by extension, Gates.)
No one on this panel will offer strong cautions against massive data collection.
Incidentally, no one on this panel will be subject to having the likes of inBloom “store” hundreds of data points connected to their lives in some unregulated “cloud.”
And so it goes in the world of corporate reform: Those cheerleading and strategically devising ways to entice “voluntary” participation/agreement are themselves removed from the consequences of their own advice.
I challenge Duncan, and Gates, and Guidera, and Shelton, and Reidenberg, and anyone else who promotes the longitudinal data collection on America’s students to first volunteer for hundreds of points of his or her own information– selected by others– to be placed in the trust and care of the privatizer-friendly data cloud.
Such a demonstration really would be the heights of “backing up one’s opinion with data.”