Friday, January 10, 2014

Read the latest from Class Size Matters on inBloom & Governor Cuomo's avoidance on addressing excessive high stakes testing, private data collection and Common Core.

 Reposted from:

Dear folks,

1.        I have good news on our lawsuit to stop the state from sharing any more personally identifiable student data with inBloom.  NYSED officials said in December that that they could not put off uploading student names, etc. to inBloom Inc. any later than Jan. 22, and our court date asking for an immediate injunction was set for state court this Friday.  Yet just yesterday, the Attorney General’s office informed our attorneys that the NYSED has moved back its date for the transfer of the student data to inBloom to no earlier than April 1, 2014. 

According to the AG office, NYSED claims the delay is because their “contractors” are behind schedule. However, it must be considered that the nearly unanimous opposition of NY parents, educators, school board members, and elected leaders of both parties to the sharing of this data with inBloom-- and most recently Speaker Silver calling for a moratorium -- may be the actual reason for this delay. In a tweet yesterday, the inBloom CTO, Sharren Bates said, “Our dev backlog is public & shows no current tech delays.”

In any case, this gives us more time to organize around legislative restrictions to data-sharing. Please also sign the anti-inBloom petition posted by two Long Island parent activists.  There is also a webinar today on data privacy, Thursday at 3:30 PM, sponsored by the Ed Writers Association (which gets Gates funding); including Joel Reidenberg who did this valuable Fordham study on data computing in the cloud vs. two officials who favor personal student data collection sharing, Aimee Guidera from the Data Quality Campaign and Jim Shelton of the US Dept. of Education; you can sign up here.

When there is further court action scheduled we will let you know. Meanwhile, there are some very disturbing aspects of the State’s legal filings, revealing a plan to transfer all the state’s student data, including presumably personally identifiable information, to the state archives after six years following a student’s graduation; with the data remaining there in perpetuity, with restrictions on access unclear.

2.        Sadly, in his State of the State speech yesterday, Gov. Cuomo did not mention the widespread opposition to data-sharing, the Common Core curriculum or testing. Instead, he proposed two measures that could make the situation worse:  a merit pay proposal that would give an extra $20,000 to teachers rated “highly effective” and a $2 billion bond initiative to expand online learning throughout the state.

Why are these proposals inadvisable?  Merit pay has never worked anywhere in the country, and the state’s evaluation system based largely on test scores is widely recognized as unfair and unreliable.  Not to mention that last year, half of the teachers in the state were rated “highly effective” – though not the teacher of the year.  If half of all the state’s teachers got this bonus, it could cost as much as $2 billion. In his accompanying booklet, Cuomo gave more details which seemed to restrict the proposal to districts that opt in and teachers who agree to teach at struggling schools; however, basing any teacher’s eligibility for this stipend on the state’s invalid evaluation system would still be wasteful and, could lead to even more test prep in our schools. (Here’s
 another petition you can sign against this proposal.)

Cuomo’s other major education proposal – a $2 Billion bond act to expand online “personalized” learning is also disappointing.  Digital instruction via computers has yet to show positive results and most parents do not want their kids subjected to data-mining software or to sit in front of computer screens for more hours in the day.  True personalized learning can only come from smaller class sizes, that have increased sharply in recent years because of budget cuts, the tax cap and inequitable state funding – none of which Cuomo addressed in his speech.

Instead, this expansion could also further facilitate the sharing of data and the online testing linked to the Common Core –the last thing students need.  The only saving grace in this proposal is that he suggested capital funds might also be used to provide facilities for expanded pre-K, though he offered no extra state aid to pay for Universal pre-K in his speech.  

3.       Finally, save the date!  I will be speaking on inBloom and data privacy at the District 3 President’s Council on Wed. Jan. 15 at at 6 30pm at PS 208 Alain L. Locke at 21 West 111th in Manhattan (map here); and at the Ardsley Middle School in Westchester on Jan. 23 at 7 PM (flyer here).

The Network on Public Education will be holding a national conference in Austin, Texas on March 1 and 2, which among other great speakers and break-out groups will include a panel discussion on data privacy, featuring parent activists who are working on this issue throughout the country.  More details on this soon; you can also sign up here.

More soon,

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


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