Seattle Education

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The Weekly Update: The Master Plan for privatizing our schools, student privacy, or a lack thereof, in Seattle Public Schools, Teach for America’s gold plated digs…and more.

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There is so much insanity going on in the wild and whacked world of education these days that I am posting two updates this week and that does not include the opt out update.

So let’s get started.

First up, a follow-up on the issue of student privacy rights. Seattleites, if you haven’t already, check out The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA? to get up to speed on student privacy issues that could affect our students for the rest of their lives.

There is a lawsuit in response to the culling of information that is going on by Pearson and others. From The Washington Post:

Lawsuit charges Ed Department with violating student privacy rights

The U.S. Education Department is being sued by a nonprofit organization for promoting regulations that are alleged to undercut student privacy and parental consent. The rules allow third parties, including private companies and foundations promoting school reform, to get access to private student information.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has been fighting for the department over 2011 regulations involving the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA,  a law that is supposed to protect the privacy of student education records at all schools that receive federal education funds. FERPA was passed to give parents specific rights in regard to their children’s education records, rights which transfer to the student he/she becomes 18 or goes to a school beyond the high school level.

But in 2011, regulations issued by the department changed FERPA to allow the release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes. The rules also broaden the exceptions under which  schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents. And they promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records, according to EPIC, a nonprofit public-interest center based in Washington D.C.

Government officials have defended the regulations. A government notice in the Federal Register says the rules are necessary

to ensure that the Department’s implementation of FERPA continues to protect the privacy of education records, as intended by Congress, while allowing for the effective use of data in statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) as envisioned in the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (COMPETES Act) and furthermore supported under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Improved access to data contained within an SLDS will facilitate States’ ability to evaluate education programs, to build upon what works and discard what does not, to increase accountability and transparency, and to contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement in education.

But privacy advocates oppose the rule change because student data can be shared by local officials with private companies and foundations. Some say FERPA was loosened to make it easier for third parties to get access to student data by funding initiatives such as student data bases. Stephanie Simon of Reuters wrote in this story about a new $100 million database built in large part with Gates Foundation money that:

…already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

The database has files of students from at least seven states that have agreed to participate so far and is allowing access to third parties. According to Simon, the infrastructure for the database was built by the for-profit Amplify Education, which is run by school reformer Joel Klein and owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The database is being run by a new nonprofit, inBloom Inc., and is

“We think it is a very serious threat to student privacy,” said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Once the data gets out there it has all sorts of ramifications. It weakens the [FERPA] structure Congress put in place because Congress understands that a lot of student data can be stigmatizing, keeping people out of jobs, for example.”

To read this article in full, go to the Answer Sheet.

There has been a very frightening development in Seattle in terms of Pearson, the mega giant corporation that provides textbooks and tests to K-12 schools around the country and is a part of the information gathering apparatus described in the previous article.

The Source which is a place for parents and students in Seattle Public Schools to go to get information on their a student’s grades and other information that is gathered by the school and was run by Blackboard has been replaced with software provided and run by Pearson. That means that all of the student’s information goes directly to Pearson now, no more middle-person. This is not a good development.

Here is Pearson’s take on it.

I have a feeling parents will feel differently. If you are a parent or a student and are concerned about where all of this information is ultimately going, contact your school board members and the superintendent. Someone needs to be held accountable for the decision that was made to provide information directly to Pearson and explain how that information is being protected.

Post Script: A parent contacted Seattle Public Schools and the district has assured her that student data is not being managed or shared with Pearson. The district’s IT department is managing the system.

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The following is something that was in my mailbox this morning and I thought could use the light of day, from Charter School Scandals:

The Master Plan

A Master Plan to eliminate urban public school districts was clearly outlined by the Fordham Institute’s Andy Smarick in “Wave of the Future” (Winter 2008):

First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent.

Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). [Smarick’s suggests the “potentially fertile districts” of Albany, Buffalo, Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.]

To read this post in full, and see what the big picture was for reformers five years ago and how that has worked out, go to Charter School Scandals.

And now onto Teach for America, Inc., another money changer in the halls of education. From edushyster:

Will Teach 4 a Place 2 Live

real-estate

Teacher Village is under construction in Newark NJ, thanks to the support of Goldman Sachs. Teachers will live on site next to three charter schools.

When education reform and real estate development get together, miracle$ happen…

Once in long ago historical times teachers came from the same places where they taught. But the teachers wanted to stay in their communities and this caused them to become LIFO lifers. Fortunately a visionary reform movement was born and bold visionary leaders known as transphormers understood that kids score best on standardized tests when teachers come from far away and stay for a short time. This was also a happy coincidence in that it resulted in cost $aving$ that could be used to purchase blended learning devices that have also been proven to cause test score increases. Problems solved!

Make that almost solved. Because the fresh new teachers traveled from far away to boost achievement and excellence, they didn’t have anywhere to live. Fortunately bold visionary leaders who have figured out one way to boost profits  achievement almost always have another great idea waiting in the wings. Stop one on today’s tour of excellence takes us to Philadelphia where even as we say farewell to 23 old school schools and their teachers, “a vibrant ecosystem of reform” is under construction. That sound you hear is the last nail being hammered into the coffin of public education the construction of a bold new headquarters for Teach for America, housing for hundreds of TFA corps members and office space for a rainbow of edupreneurs.

The bold visionary behind this bold vision is construction magnate turned education reformer turned construction magnate Donald Manekin. Let’s meet him, shall we?

“This is about helping teachers solve the mystery about where to live, giving them a community where they can come home and share lesson plans or just say, ‘Today sucked’ to one another,” Manekin said.

Gee, remember when teachers used to have place to live and a community because they came from one???

To read more on this subject, go to edushyster.

The following is a teaser for a documentary that an educator is putting together but she needs additional funding to complete the project. Please watch this short video and consider supporting her in her effort.

Dora Taylor

5 comments on “The Weekly Update: The Master Plan for privatizing our schools, student privacy, or a lack thereof, in Seattle Public Schools, Teach for America’s gold plated digs…and more.

  1. Nina
    March 19, 2013

    Thank you for the update! I first came across the privacy issues when after the SAT test my daughter began to get mail from different universities. It seems that her address was shared automatically, which kind of shocked me, just because being a Finn expat and not understanding education being big business – silly me!

    Also, I find TFA ideology very scary. Being trained as a teacher I know it takes time to learn enough pedagogy and educational psychology to be able to support each individual student’s learning. So how could these “fast track” teachers provide anything else but standardized solutions? Meaningful and transferable learning happens in interactions, not in standards.
    ~ Nina
    http://notesfromnina.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/situational-learning-and-teaching/

  2. Molly
    March 18, 2013

    Dora,
    Thank you for doing this very valuable service of keeping us informed of these issues that are so very important to our nation. As a teacher, facing these issues daily is very taxing. Reading your blog of info and stories of those who are fighting the good fight to save our public schools, i.e., our students and therefore our country, gives me hope.

  3. Linda
    March 17, 2013

    Dora,

    Thank you for putting together these weekly updates. I look forward to your posts every week.

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