Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Leaving Student Privacy at the Schoolhouse Doors?

School districts are sharing significant amounts of student data with the education technology industry all as part of the mandated testing of students by NYS. Are parents' rights to approve the sharing of information about their children being circumvented by schools?

Senator Markey (D-Mass), a students' privacy advocate, sent a letter to Sec. of Education, Arne Duncan and wrote, "Such loss of parental control over their child's educational records and performance information could have longstanding consequences for the future prospects of students."

When I spoke to Robert Freeman, Director of the NYS Committee on Open Government, he mentioned that the FERPA (student privacy) laws had been weakened in recent years.  Sen. Markey refers to this weakening of FERPA in the questions to Sec. Duncan. He writes, "In 2008 and 2011, the Department issued new regulations with respect to FERPA that addressed how schools can outsource core functions such as scheduling or data management and how third parties may access confidential information about students. These changes also permit other government agencies that are not under the direct control of the state educational authorities, such as state health departments, to access student information." 

~ Are there strict federal guidelines and standards to protect students' privacy? I doubt it.
~ Have parents' rights been trod upon? Certainly.
~ Have the possible consequences of sharing so much confidential student information with private corporations involved in an estimated $8 billion industry been fully considered? Not likely.

Students' privacy should not be sacrificed at the schoolhouse doors.

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