The following is testimony that I will be giving at the Seattle School Board meeting on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 regarding the approval of Race to the Top funding that is to be approved by the school board.

Good evening.

As many districts around the country have discovered, Race to the Top money comes with strings attached. Many districts have been loath to meet their part of the bargain after understanding what the price would be. States and districts have pulled out of the race after discovering that their part of the bargain could not be paid for, literally.

I understand the importance of funding education but this easy money has come with a price. For us, the payment for this funding is the loss of privacy for our students.

There are 38 items of information that we are to provide to the US Department of Education about our students. This list can be viewed on the home page of the Seattle Education blog. This information will in turn be uploaded into a data bank such as inBloom, a platform created with $100M of Gates money to store data ultimately on every student in every state. The protections of FERPA have been peeled away through amendments that were made to it in 2008 and 2011 by the Obama administration so that any interested third party can have access to this data.

Besides the loss of privacy, another promise that we have made is to have all students, starting in pre-Kindergarten, be assessed with no end date agreed to. Assessments means testing, possibly as much as three times each year as is done with the MAP test. This information will also be available to any third party with an interest in making a profit by selling everything from software to books and lesson plans to districts and marketed as customized to those students. This information will stay in place for an unlimited amount of time because without the previous FERPA protections, a parent now cannot request that this information be erased out of the data bank.

Assessment testing of this magnitude will cost millions of dollars and before the board approves this proposal, there should be an understanding of how much we will have to pay in terms of assessments and the gathering of information and for how long this is to continue.

Some of the highlights of the 38 “indicators” that are to be provided, besides test scores, is as follows:

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds
% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs
% of families reading to their children daily
% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool
% 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 females age 15-17 giving birth
% of students exhibiting 21st century skills
% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program
% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

By the time all of this information is mined and correlated, there will be no money left for the programs that the Road Map Project promised will diminish the self-professed achievement gap.

Please take a look at the promises that we have made to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in terms of the information we are to provide to ensure that we are not burdened with a bill we cannot pay.

Thank you

Post Script:

A must watch by all parents is this video of Parents Across America Co-Founder Leonie Haimson discussing inBloom and data security in Chicago on November 22, 2013, at a forum hosted by Parents United for Responsible Education and More Than A Score:

To follow are links regarding the issue of student privacy and the pushback by parents:

CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy

Privacy concerns grow over Gates-funded student database

NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom

From Politico:

INBLOOM OFF THE ROSE? — Another state has pulled out of using the Gates Foundation’s $100 million technology service project, inBloom. The withdrawal further shrinks the project after other states pulled out in part because of concern about protecting students’ privacy. Guilford County, N.C. told POLITICO on Wednesday that the state decided to stop using the service, which is designed to hold information about students including names, socioeconomic status, test scores, disabilities, discipline records and more in one place, and ideally, help in customizing students’ education.

Guilford schools’ departure doesn’t put the project in any kind of jeopardy, inBloom said, although Louisiana withdrew in April and other states once affiliated with the project no longer are. That leaves New York, two Illinois districts and one Colorado district as firm participants for now; Massachusetts is on the fence. At first inBloom will be free, but by 2015 states and districts using it will be charged $2 to $5 per student for the service.

InBloom and the need to protect student privacy: Overview for parents, teachers and students

Chicago School System Decides Against Partnership With inBloom

Parents say no to sharing student data

Parent Opposition Slims Student Data Collection

Submitted by Dora Taylor