March 17, 2015

We Can Make A Difference!

It's killing me that I don't have time to blog because some important things are happening here in CT and if you are not following along on Facebook or can't look through all those Google alerts yourself, you may be missing it.

This Thursday, March 19th, the Education Committee in Hartford is holding a public hearing. On the agenda is HB 7017 which was introduced by the Education Committee itself and is the final draft of the myriad of bills that came out earlier. AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT DATA PRIVACY protects the privacy of our children when it comes to online vendors that the schools are using (i.e. Google Docs, and Newsela).

The idea is a sound one, but the problem, as this lay person sees it, is that the online vendors are not the real issue:
Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2015) 
    (a) For the purposes of this section: 
         (3) "Covered information" means personally identifiable information, in any media or format [that]
            (C) is gathered by an operator through the operation of the operator's Internet web site, service or application and identifies a student, including, but not limited to, information in the student's records or electronic mail account, first or last name, home address, telephone number, electronic mail address, discipline records, test results, grades, evaluations, criminal records, medical records, health records, Social Security number, biometric information, disabilities, socioeconomic information, food purchases, political affiliations, religious affiliations, text messages, documents, student identifiers, search activity, photos or voice recordings

    (b) An operator shall not:
        (4) Disclose covered information, unless the disclosure is made:
            (B) to ensure compliance with federal and state law

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2015) Upon determination that there is good cause, a local or regional board of education may disclose directory information... to any person requesting such directory information.

So there you have it. The state will protect our kids information from everyone except the state itself. But honestly, they are the ones we really need to worry about.  Because, of course, state law already says:
Sec. 10-10a.
     (b) The Department of Education shall develop and implement a state-wide public school information system. 
            (1) (A) In addition to performance on state-wide mastery examinations pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, data relating to students shall include, but not be limited to, (i) the primary language spoken at the home of a student, (ii) student transcripts, (iii) student attendance and student mobility…
     (f) All school districts shall participate in the system, and report all necessary information required by this section...

So basically this bill will prevent vendors from collecting information from our kids, but all they have to do is ask the state for it and it's theirs anyway.

So I will not be supporting this bill. While some might feel that baby steps are warranted, my fear is that if "the privacy issue" is covered this year, next year all those politicians will be thinking "we already did this" and won't even lend an ear to the real problem, which of course, is the P20 WIN COUNCIL that houses all our kids' information and that the state can share with whoever they want. In my testimony I will applaud the efforts of the committee, but point out that the state can still give out our kids information to anyone that asks for it.

What needs to be passed is HB 6012 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT DATA COLLECTED BY THE P20 WIN COUNCIL which states
That title 10 of the general statutes be amended to require that all identifying information is removed from student data collected by the P20 WIN Council and to clarify what information is permitted to be collected from a student's educational records.
But of course that won't be happening this year.

The other bill I will be testifying on is SB 1100 which was also proposed by the Education Committee. It is entitled AN ACT CONCERNING THE ELIMINATION OF THE REPORTING AND COLLECTION OF CERTAIN STUDENT AND TEACHER DATA:
Sec. 2. Subsection (c) of section 10-10a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2015): 

(c) The state-wide public school information system shall:
     (1) Track and report data relating to student...growth...Such information shall be collected or calculated based on information received from local and regional boards of education and other relevant sources. Such information shall include, but not be limited to
         (A) In addition to performance on state-wide mastery examinations pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, data relating to students shall include, but not be limited to
             (i) the primary language spoken at the  home of a student, 
             (ii) student transcripts, 
             (iii) student attendance and student mobility, 
             (iv) reliable, valid assessments of a student's readiness
                   to enter public school at the kindergarten level, and 

             (v) data collected, if any, from the preschool experience survey...

So it looks like the state is finally getting to the "P" part of the P-20 Database. You know, where they start collecting information about Preschool kids too. And of course let's not forget where they get to the "20" part of P-20, as in 20 years-old:
(c) The state-wide public school information system shall:
     (2) Collect data relating to student enrollment in and
           graduation from institutions of higher education for
           any student who had been assigned a unique student
           identifier pursuant to subsection (b) of this section,
           provided such data is available.
Yes, they really do want to track your kids from preschool to age 20. It's real.

How can you fight it?

Testify in Hartford this Thursday to share your thoughts on all of this. If you can't make it in person to testify, send in your testimony via email to and it will be added to the public record. And if one of your CT legislators is on the Education Committee also send your testimony to her or him directly.

Another thing you can do is to refuse to let your child take any tests that don't count toward their grade; they therefore can't be uploaded to the P-20 system. There is no law that says you can’t refuse to allow your children to take them, and parents need to remember that we get to decide what is best for our children.

For a sample SBAC letter you can send to your principal and teachers, visit Or feel free to use the one that I did:
Dear Mr. _____ and all of _____'s core teachers,

First, thanks so much for all you do for our son _____; he is so happy at _____ and we are glad that he is surrounded by people who genuinely want what's best for him. And because this is the case, we know that you will understand and respect what follows.

We are writing to respectfully and formally inform you that _____ is not to take any tests that do not count toward his grade. This includes OLSAT, Triumph, SRI, SBAC, NWEA MAP, CMTs or anything else that we may not be aware of.

Please note that this is not a "request” and that we are well aware that Sec.10-14n of the Connecticut Education Laws mandates that each student annually take a statewide mastery examination. However, as you likely know, the Connecticut General Statutes also do not dis-allow parental refusals, and we are therefore perfectly within our legal rights to do so. Please note that a "refusal” is not the same as "absent” as they are defined differently, and as such, _____ will not be required to participate in any makeup tests.

We will be informing _____ that he is not to take any tests that do not count toward his grade, and that if he is given one he is not to work on it.

Please be sure to include this letter in his "permanent” district record, for all district personnel to be made aware of.

Please understand that we are truly grateful for the top-notch education _____ is getting at _____ and we know he would do fine on the tests if we allowed him to participate; our concerns lie in the undermining of the privacy laws for our children, the increased data collecting on them, and the increasing federal intrusion on our local school system through various reforms and waivers imposed upon, and embraced by, the state of Connecticut.

Again, we thank you for all you do for _____, and your leadership, and expect that you will respect and comply with our refusal. _____, please confirm your receipt and understanding of this letter.


Common Core, SBAC, #CommonCore, #SBAC, Opt-out in CT, Opt-out of SBAC