The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA?

One of the deals that we made with the devil when it came to accepting Race to the Top dollars is the relinquishing of our children’s information.

Gates and others have begun to collect information about our children from New York to LA and it is about to happen in Seattle thanks to the efforts of the Road Map project, school administrators are falling all over themselves to receive a pittance of educational funding, $40 M to be split between 7 districts in our state. That’s $5.7M for each school district, if it were to be divided equally.

To put that into perspective, West Seattle High School’s budget for this year is a little over $6M and that does not include building upkeep or other building costs including utilities.

The money will not go into established programs or to help with our budget crunch which happens to be a $32 M shortfall in Seattle, but is to go to “assessing” students starting in pre-school. Assessments basically mean testing on a long-term basis. This is not sustainable but oh well, there is some pie in the sky reasoning about receiving yet another largesse from Bill Gates, and maybe someday we would be able to continue to pay for everything that we have promised to deliver forever.

One of the items on that checklist of deliverables is data and lots of it. That “data” is information about our students.

Per a previous post, A Race to the Top Winner. Really?, the following is the information that people want culled from our students’ “data”.

Road Map On-Track Indicators

The following is a list of the Road Map Project on-track indicators. These are reported annually against specific targets.

% of children ready to succeed in school by kindergarten

% of students who are proficient in:

3rd grade reading

4th grade math

5th grade science

6th grade reading

7th grade math

8th grade science

% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 1*

% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 2*

% of students who graduate high school on time

% of graduating high school students meeting minimum requirements to apply to a Washington state 4-year college

% of students at community and technical colleges enrolling in pre-college coursework

% of students who enroll in postsecondary education by age 24

% of students continuing past the first year of postsecondary

% students who earn a post-secondary credential by age 24

* Early warning indicators are for 6th and 9th grade students. EW1: Six or more absences and one or more course failure(s). EW2: One or more suspension(s) or expulsion(s)

Other Indicators to be Reported

The following is a list of the Road Map Project contributing indicators. These are reported annually or whenever possible, but do not have specific targets. These contributing indicators combined with the on-track indicators make up the full list of Road map Project indicators.

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds

% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs

% of licensed childcare centers meeting quality criteria

% of families reading to their children daily

% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool

% of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten

% of students taking algebra by the 8th grade

% of students passing the exams required for high school graduation

% of English language learning students making progress in learning English

% of students taking one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses

% of students absent 20 or more days per year

% of students who make a non-promotional school change

% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school

% of students attending schools with low state achievement index ratings

% of females age 15-17 giving birth

% of 8th graders reporting select risk factors on the Healthy Youth Survey

% of students exhibiting 21st century skills

% of students who graduate high school by age 21

% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program

% of eligible students who complete the College Bound application by the end of 8th grade

% of graduating College Bound students who have completed the FAFSA

% of students who directly enroll in postsecondary education

% of students who did not complete high school on time who achieve a postsecondary credential

% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

Quite frankly, by the time all of this information is mined and correlated, there will be no money left for all of the wonderful programs that the Road Map Project professes will diminish the achievement gap forever. But, oh well, we won Race to the Top money! Woo-hoo!

Oh the excitement when Seattle found out we were receiving RTTT funds! Front row center, Dr. Susan Enfield, former Acting Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools (SPS), now Superintendent at Highline School District, right front row, former Superintendent of Renton School District, Dr. Mary. Alice Heuschel, who brought TFA Inc. into the district over parents' objections last year and is now Chief of Staff for Washington Governor, Jay Inslee. Coincidence? 2nd row far right, our present SPS Superintendent, Jose Banda.
Oh the excitement when Seattle found out we were receiving RTTT funds! Front row center, Dr. Susan Enfield, former Acting Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools (SPS), now Superintendent at Highline School District, right front row, former Superintendent of Renton School District, Dr. Mary. Alice Heuschel, who brought TFA Inc. into the district over parents’ objections last year and is now Chief of Staff for Washington Governor, Jay Inslee. Coincidence? 2nd row far right, our present SPS Superintendent, Jose Banda.

Now about FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

This is the pertinent proviso in FERPA per the Department of Education’s website:

      • Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
      • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
      • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
      • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
      • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
      • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
      • Accrediting organizations;
      • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
      • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
      • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

It does not appear that what the state and various districts have signed onto jibes with a student’s right to privacy. And why is that? Read on.

Update: From Diane Ravitch’s post, What You Need to Know About Your Children’s Privacy Rights:

In 2008 and 2011, amendments to FERPA gave third parties, including private companies, increased access to student data. It is significant that in 2008, the amendments to FERPA expanded the definitions of “school officials” who have access to student data to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.” This change has the effect of increasing the market for student data.

In Seattle student information was placed in the hands of a marketing company. See: Should the School District Be Allowed to Give Our Kids’ Phone numbers, Addresses and Photos to Every Tom, Dick and Pollster?

Needless to say, a system can also be hacked into but at this time, there is no need to hack into a system when people within the district will pass off information to anyone considered having an “interest” in a student’s education.


At least in Massachusetts they are trying to stop the flow of untethered information of our children. Consider the following, a letter from the ACLU to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

February 5, 2013

Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

75 Pleasant Street

Malden, MA 02148

Dear Board Members,

It has come to our attention that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education intends to share confidential student and teacher data with the Gates Foundation, as part of its Shared Learning Collaborative, consisting of personally identifiable information including student names, test scores, grades, disciplinary and attendance records, and most likely, special education needs, economic status, and racial identity as well. 

The Gates Foundation is building a national “data store” of such information, and intends to hand all this information to a new, separate corporation, which in turn plans to make it available to commercial vendors to help them develop and market their “learning products.”[1][1] The operating system of this “data store” is being built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of the News Corporation, which has been investigated for violating the privacy of individuals both here in the United States and in Great Britain.[2][2]

The Foundation has stated that this new corporation, inBloom, will be financially sustainable and independent of philanthropic support by 2016, meaning that states, districts, and/or vendors will likely have to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the “data store,” which is to be placed on a cloud run by[3][3] Of particular concern, inBloom has stated that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted” to third party vendors.”[4][4]

We have grave concerns about this unprecedented plan to disclose highly sensitive information with private entities, and we urge you to take the following steps to ensure that student privacy rights are fully protected:

1. 1.   Provide and post publicly the contract between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Gates Foundation concerning this matter;

2.  2.  Hold hearings and explain to the public what specific confidential information will be shared and for what purposes;

3.  3.  Require parental consent before a child’s data is shared with the Gates Foundation or any other private corporation that intends to store it and/or make it available to others, as FERPA requires[5][5];

4. 4.  Promise that this data will never be used for commercial purposes;

5.  5. Ensure maximum protections against data breaches and explain who will be held liable if a child’s personal information leaks out or is used in an unauthorized fashion;

6.  6. Explain what resources are being used to facilitate this project, and what further costs will accrue to state taxpayers for the long-term maintenance of this “data store,” once the new corporation becomes independent of philanthropic support;

7.  7.  Create an advisory group to oversee this project, including public school parents, advocates, independent experts in data security and privacy, and other stakeholder groups.

The Federal Trade Commission has recently strengthened restrictions on the capture and use of a child’s personally identifiable information, in recognition of the huge risks to safety and privacy that occur when commercial entities obtain access to it.[6][6] The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should be leading the effort to protect this data, rather than involved in facilitating its disclosure. The Board should have as its top priority securing the privacy rights of the state’s schoolchildren and their families, rather than serving the interests of private corporations. Until and unless the above steps are taken, we trust that you will not allow any disclosures to occur.

We await your reply,

ACLU of Massachusetts

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Citizens for Public Schools

But there’s more bad news:

K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents

A guard helps a student cross an intersection in Pelham,
A guard helps a student cross an intersection in Pelham,

By Stephanie Simon

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares.

But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database 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.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

Entrepreneurs can’t wait.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.

CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products – educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states – Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts – have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.


Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

The database also gives school administrators full control over student files, so they could choose to share test scores with a vendor but withhold social security numbers or disability records.

That’s hardly reassuring to many parents.

“Once this information gets out there, it’s going to be abused. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.

While inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

Parents from New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

To read this article in full, go to REUTERS.

So you see folks, for a mere pittance of cash that our students will never see, all of their data will be collected and sent off into a great unknown called Wireless Gen, to be used in any fashion deemed acceptable by people who we will never know.

And who do you have to thank for this? I’d start with our school board members and the superintendent. At least they can be held accountable even if Gates can’t.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

For more information see InBloom and the need to protect student privacy:

Overview for parents, teachers and students.