The Education Department’s list of recommended data points, developed with state officials, is exhaustive. It includes what type of dental insurance a student carries, whether she’s allergic to dog dander and whether she belongs to a sorority in college. Each disciplinary incident is broken down into more than a dozen data points, including the type of firearm involved, if applicable.
Other suggested data points relate to early childhood and K-12 teachers, who are included — and linked to their students — in many state databases. The department recommends, for instance, tracking their salaries, retirement benefits and union membership.
The department promotes the list as a “shared vocabulary” that will “streamline the exchange, comparison and understanding of data” if adopted widely. It makes clear states don’t need to embrace every element.
But to be eligible for more than $500 million in federal grants doled out in recent years, states had to commit to comprehensive “P-20” data systems, meaning they start tracking children in preschool and continue for more than two decades.
At least 19 states now link school records to workforce data, tracking which students end up collecting disability or unemployment benefits or enrolling in adult literacy classes. Some states plan to build an even richer data set by linking school records to public health, social service or criminal justice databases. Others aim to start even before pre-K, inputting data on infants enrolled in state-funded programs.
Big Brother is here.
But of course it's all for the kids!
Database advocates say there’s nothing sinister about the projects. On the contrary, they see them as a prosaic — if powerful — tool for improving public policy.
Do kids who struggle with mastering emotions as toddlers get suspended more often than their peers as teens? Are they more likely to drop out of high school? End up in low-wage jobs? And which interventions, at age 3 or 4, might improve their trajectory? The hope is that databases will answer those questions.
Advocates also talk with excitement about using the data to identify an individual student’s precise needs — and the best way to meet them.
“The vision is, this changes outcomes,” Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group for data-driven education, said.
It sure does change outcomes - by giving the powers that be even more information to use to control the peasantry:
Another warning from the White House report: “Once information about citizens is compiled for a defined purpose, the temptation to use it for other purposes can be considerable … If unchecked, big data could be a tool that substantially expands government power over citizens.”
That’s what worries Barmak Nassirian, an education policy analyst and father of two who works on privacy issues in his free time.
“Once that rich of a longitudinal database is populated, the urge to tap into it for other reasons will be almost irresistible,” Nassirian said. “Corrections types might want to get into it to understand crime better. I can see Homeland Security looking for terrorists, or the military looking for recruits.”
Even if the database is tapped only by education officials, privacy advocates fear students will be profiled and steered into academic or career paths accordingly.
“The horror story would be what they have in communist China, where they identify kids at age 4 and say, ‘Now you’re going to be a gymnast’,” said Michael Zimmer, director of the Center for Information Policy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“We don’t want to have it happen that because as an 8-year-old you test a certain way, we’re going to tailor the next eight years of your education a certain way,” Zimmer said.
Yeah, Big Data's for the good of the kids.
The truth is, the data-driven education advocates have lost control of the message and they're not going to ever get it back.
Few people in this country trust the government, the corporations or the non-profits these days with anything, let alone their children's information.
Now if we can only get people to see Facebook, Google, etc. in the same way they saw inBloom.
Because the irony is, what parents are fighting against in the K-12 Big Data battles is happening at home on the Internet too.
Even now, Blogger is collecting information on me and you.