Wednesday, September 11, 2013

From Class Size Matters, Two Ways to Protect Your Child's Privacy

Read about two ways that you can fight the NYS Department of Education's plans to share your child's sensitive information.

1.       The Diane Ravitch talk tonight at Judson Church is sold out; but we will be live streaming it starting at 6 PM; please be sure to watch.  A nice profile of her is in today’s NY Times.

2.        Districts are being mandated by New York State Education Department (NYSED) to sign up with one of three companies by Sept. 27 that will produce data dashboards, to be populated from the inBloom cloud.  More about that in yesterday’s LoHud article here.  A few districts have opted out of the dashboards; the list of those that are participating (called RTTT districts) and those that are not is here.

HOWEVER, even if your district has opted out of the data dashboards, the state is still sharing private information from all the public school students in the state with inBloom, as this DN article makes clear.  According to the state, the data at minimum will include your child’s name, address, grades, test scores, proficiency levels, economic and racial status, as well as highly sensitive disciplinary and disability information.  In addition, the state is encouraging districts to provide even more confidential student data to inBloom and to the vendors producing the dashboards – as well as to other companies that will be providing software “learning tools.”

We have two suggestions for what parents can do who are concerned about this issue:

·         First, you should write an e-mail to SED demanding to know what specific data has been shared about your child with what third parties, and over what period. You have this right according to the state’s Personal Privacy Protection Law, and the state is supposed to respond within five working days.  You also have the right to correct any information that might be wrong.  A sample e-mail/ letter is below; but please remember to attach a scanned version of ID, like a driver’s license, to your email or in your letter.  If you don’t hear back in five working days you have the right to appeal directly to the Commissioner.  More about this law is here.

·         If you are in a RTTT district, you should write your District superintendent immediately, and demand that your child’s information not be shared with any vendor or 3rd party, including any of the companies involved in creating the data dashboards.  In its latest missive, the state implies that while it will not encourage districts to allow parents the right to opt out, it is leaving it up to them to decide how they want to handle these requests.  This does NOT mean that your child’s information will be spared from being uploaded into the inBloom cloud, but the less this highly sensitive data is transmitted through the internet to third parties, the less likely it will breach or be used inappropriately.

3.        Please don’t forget to let us know what the class sizes are of your child is this year by filling out our survey here.

Sample e-mails to SED and to your district superintendent are below; please keep me in the loop as to how they respond.

Thanks, Leonie 

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

Privacy Compliance Officer/ Records Access Officer
NY State Education Dept.
Albany, NY
Via e-mail or snail mail
89 Washington Ave, Room 121 EB
Albany, NY 12234

Dear Privacy Compliance Officer/Records Access Officer:

Under the provisions of the Personal Privacy Protection Law, Article 6-A of the Public Officers Law, I hereby request copies of all the records and data that you have in your possession pertaining to my minor child, [name], as well as the names of entities or organizations to which you have disclosed any such information, including inBloom Inc.

My child [name] is in [x grade] in [x school] in [x school district] this year. Last year, s/he attended [x grade] at [x school] in [x district]. Please inform me of all the data/records about my child you have provided to third parties including inBloom Inc. , for as many years as you have provided this data, and the dates of any such disclosures, as required by S. 94 (3) of the Personal Privacy Protection Law.

If you have not yet disclosed these records, please let me know when this will occur and what specific data and records of my child you plan to disclose.  If there are any fees for this request, please inform me before you complete the request.

If all or any part of this request is denied, please cite the reason(s) which you think justifies your refusal to release the information. As you know, the Personal Privacy Protection Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of its receipt. Also, please inform me of your agency's appeal procedure.

In order to expedite consideration of my request, I am attaching a copy of _____ [some document of identification, like a driver’s license].

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Name /e-mail/phone/street address/ Town or city/ zip

Dear District Superintendent:

I am a parent with a child [name] in [x grade] in [name], a district public school.

As you are aware, most of the districts in the state have been mandated to sign up with companies that will produce data dashboards populated through the inBloom cloud.  While the State Education Department has written in its latest FAQ,  dated July 29, 2013 that “NYSED is not aware of additional disclosure, notification or opt out requirements for districts supplying data for tools that directly support instruction and program improvement like those currently provided in school districts and those provided in the ENYP,” there is nothing in NYSED’s instructions or the law that would or should stop any district from allowing parents to opt their children’s data out of this scheme, which in my view, puts my child’s privacy and security at risk.

Thus, I ask that you abide by my wishes, and ensure that my child’s personal data is not shared with any vendors, including the companies that will be providing the data dashboards.

Please let me know if you will respect my request.

Yours sincerely,

Name, parent of [X child] in [X grade] in [X school].
E-mail, phone, address

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dr. Ken Mitchell, Superintendent of South Orangetown Central School District wrote the following letter to his district's parents and community members regarding the 2013 NYS test scores. Dr. Mitchell is the president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents.

August 9, 2013

Dear Parents and Community Residents,

You may have seen in the media an overview of the latest student assessment results reported by the State Education Department. Earlier this year, students in grades three through eight were required to participate in New York State’s English language arts and math assessments. These assessments were based upon the new more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards, which were introduced in the 2012-2013 school year.

Prior to the implementation of these assessments, school officials throughout New York expressed strong concerns to the State Education Department and the Commissioner of Education, John B. King. Jr., regarding the validity of the assessment outcomes. These concerns were validated in a memo from Commissioner King dated August 2, 2013. In that memo, he stated, “Scores are expected to be significantly lower than the 2011-2012 scores…effectively creating a new baseline measurement of student learning.”

We believe the significant decrease in this year’s assessment results, experienced across the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State, is not attributable to a decline in student performance, but instead, reflect the fact that the assessments were prematurely implemented before students could be effectively instructed in the new, more rigorous, Common Core Learning Standards curriculum. While the SED established the cut scores, which determined the new proficiency levels, it should be further noted that it is impossible to accurately compare student progress using prior year’s assessment results.

In reviewing the assessment data, we also find it quite interesting that New York State’s Commissioner of Education cites success on the Regents exam as an example of college and career readiness. If that is the case, we are puzzled about the following:

108 eighth grade students took the Integrated Algebra Regents Exam with 100% passing and 90% at mastery. The average score was an 89%. Out of the 108 students who passed the Regents, 24 of them did not reach proficiency on the NYS Grade 8 Math test. How can it be that middle school students excel on a high school Regents exam yet do not achieve proficiency on the basic Math 8 assessment? How can students be “college and career ready” on one New York State exam yet not on the other? Something’s amiss.

We strongly believe there is no correlation between these latest assessment results and our students’ ability to be college and career ready. In addition to results on Regents and Advanced Placement exams, this opinion is supported by the high percentage of recent graduates attending many of the most prominent and prestigious colleges and universities in the country, as well as the significant recognitions our students achieved on all grade levels during this past school year.

Our district has paid close attention to the State Education Department’s plan to rapidly roll out these assessments. While we have provided staff with some initial training and revised some curriculum, we have strongly discouraged a “test-prep” regimen that district leadership believes could diminish the quality of instruction.

We take great pride in the quality education we provide to all students in South Orangetown. This year’s 3-8 assessment results are not an accurate reflection of our students’ ability to learn or on the instructional skills of our professional staff.


Ken Mitchell, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools