on Data Mining, Part 1

Several weeks ago I wrote about the coming invasion in privacy in education due to illegal regulatory changes to the FERPA law and the US Department of Education funding of State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS) to track student data via million dollar grants. Since Iowa was one of those states who received over $12 million to create such a system, I wanted to know exactly what information they were gathering and with whom they will be sharing it. After waiting 5 months, and finally having to engage the state Ombudsman in order to get a response, I will share in two installments what I found out.

In this first installment, I will share the mountains of data gathered on your child that has nothing to do with their education. Keep in mind, none of this data remains just in the local school district, or even just with the Iowa Department of Education. But I will share more on that in my next installment. In the meantime, here is the list of the information Iowa school districts currently gather on our children:

  • Name, address, social security number, birthdate, gender, race, language
  • Military status of parents
  • School name, entry and exit to the district, teacher names, including homeroom teachers
  • Grades and assessment data (including kindergarten), and any reason why students may not have assessment data for math, reading or science
  • Entry type: dual enrolled (with reasons why), if on tuition assistance, in private school, homeschooled, on foreign exchange, in foster care, in a residential facility for drug, alcohol, behavioral issues, or if incarcerated
  • Days enrolled, including those that were unexcused
  • If the child is in foster care, what the parental right status is & if they are in any special education/IEP (Individualized Educational Program) status
  • Type of school service provider/facility type: AEA school, community college, day treatment or residential treatment center for alcohol, drug, or behavioral issues, in a youth shelter, detention center, foreign exchange program, awaiting trial, or receiving psychiatric treatment in a residential facility
  • If they have been expelled, incarcerated, have behavioral issues, on an IEP, along with entry/exit data
  • Participated in 21st Century Learning center (a before & after school federal program)
  • If student is at risk for not meeting established goals of the district education program: either academic, personal/social, career/vocational
  • Received Coordinated Early Intervention Service (CEIS) for additional support based on academic or behavioral criteria set by the district
  • On free or reduced lunch or if families received any kind of supplemental services
  • If homeless or unaccompanied homeless
  • If gifted or talented
  • Migrant, immigrant & in English language instructional program, including English proficiency level
  • If in preschool, the program type & how it is funded
  • If student was transferred due to bullying or victim of violent event
  • If the student created an unsafe school situation, by bullying, violent act or bringing a weapon to school (toy weapons are included under their definition of “weapon”)
  • Title I in Math or Reading (for underperforming students)
  • College courses students are enrolled in, with school accreditation data
  • Graduation status, along with post-graduation location & future plans

Currently the state of Iowa SLDS database now has 8 years of information on every child that ever touched a public school in any way or used a state or federal education program within our state. They plan to gather all this information not only from Preschool through High School, but also all the way through to college and the workforce. When asked how long they plan to hold onto this information they did not answer. When asked if there is the ability to expand the database, they said yes but that they have no plans to do that – for now. When asked if parents had the ability to opt out on providing any of this information they said no. That’s right, NO. So basically, you are paying millions for the creation of an expandable, centralized database, to specifically gather and store the history of everything your child ever did or was subject to, both good and bad, to be accessible forever by anyone (including private parties) that the government deems now or in the future to ever have a compelling interest, and you (or your child) aren’t even allowed to have a say in it. Are you uneasy yet?

More on this next week.

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