The advocates of this massive data collection, in which individual students are clearly identifiable, claim that this is necessary to enable policymakers and educators to evaluate student and teacher performance. They assert that this enables educators to predict which students are in danger of dropping out, determine which are better teachers and better curricula, and track trends in academic progress by ethnicity and income level.
The advocates of this massive data collection seem to have little or no concern for privacy protection. Some 80 percent of states do not have a system to delete student records and therefore are likely to maintain them indefinitely.
Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has an important ally in the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) for promoting this unprecedented student data system. All 50 states now have in place at least five of the DQC's 10 "essential elements" for a statewide longitudinal data system, and 47 states plan to have eight or more elements in place within the next three years.
DQC was founded in 2005, largely with money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and DQC's January 2010 publication, "The Next Step," praises the "enormous progress" states have made in developing these pre-K through college data systems. The DQC website explicitly supports linking education data with "workforce, social services and other critical state agency data systems."
A recent Education Week article noted that privacy laws make it challenging to link K-12 and postsecondary data in states that prohibit schools from storing students' Social Security numbers. However, the Fordham Center reports that at least 16 states already record each child's SSN.
Those who object to this organized invasion of student privacy warn that some states might change their laws about Social Security numbers in order to receive federal grants offered by the Department of Education for the building of longitudinal student databases. The changing of such laws may be what the DQC has in mind with its plan to help states "identify and put in place the necessary policies and practices" to implement longitudinal data systems.
This massive collection of private information on all schoolchildren is an ominous imitation of the file (called dang'an) on each student's performance and attitudes, from school years through employment, compiled by communist China on every individual in order to exercise totalitarian control over the population. In China, it became impossible to get a job unless the individual had a dang'an approved by the authorities.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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