The recent visual and virtual reminder of the need for strong student privacy laws

The recent visual and virtual reminder of the need for strong student privacy laws

I think the internet just exploded. At least, that’s what I’m thinking based on the number of articles I’ve seen come out in the last few days on the latest hacking scandal involving the Apple iCloud storage system involving “private” stolen celebrity photos of their, uhm, privates. You would think the world was coming to an end, that Russia really had started World War III, that North Korea finally nuked the South (or themselves accidentally). These are not the most important hacking stories or concerns by far, certainly not compared to the massive security breaches of Target, Neiman Marcus, Amazon’s cloud service (that now defunct inBloom was planning to use to store all student data), defense contractors, and various banking institutions around the world at the hands of Russian mobsters, Iranian Hacktivists or Chinese “State sponsored” hacking consortiums. Researchers had even discovered as far back as 2011 that it was possible to use Google Search to hack (or access without authority) various clouds throughout the world, so the term “Cloud security” has really always been more of an oxymoronic concept, not a legitimate claim anyone with any IT background should really make – except in assisting the marketing department with lawyerly vetted, non-binding, sales literature.

To me it looks like the media and the public are much less concerned about coverage of those stories than the lack of “coverage” of various celebrities.

For those of you unsure what a “cloud” is let me define it in what may be an overly simplistic way but which will help you understand why cloud computing is both powerful and dangerous. Most of you know what a hard drive is. Most of you know what a local network is. Some of you may know what a “shared” network drive is. A cloud service is simply a shared network drive that everyone in the world has access to from anywhere all the time. Additionally the “clouds” we are talking about from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, store redundant copies of data throughout the world, on actual physical servers throughout the world and often in foreign countries because it’s cost effective to do so. Imagine taking the hard-drive from your computer or memory form your cell phone and making 100 copies of it and shipping it to 100 different countries. You can access your data with your password. So can anyone else who intercepts your password or guesses it, or hacks directly into one of the various servers throughout the world hosting your data or intercepts it enroute (from your phone or computer) like the NSA does by tapping directly into the physical backbone of the internet. Any of those hundreds of thousands of employees might have access to your data too. There are thousands of Edward Snowdens out there, but not all of them are using their access to tell us how vulnerable we really are.

The backbone of the internet is made up of hundreds of underwater fiber-optic cables that stretch for thousands of miles across the ocean. The cables shoot information around the networked world at super-high speeds, up to 19 terabits per second—nearly the speed of light. In fact, light is exactly what’s being transmitted. Fiber-optic cables work by converting electrical signals into waves of light, and then back again at the other end.

It’s pretty nuts when you stop to think about it. The 21st century global economy is being built on strands of glass the size of a garden hose, resting on the ocean floor. And we’ve known for years these cables can be hacked or vulnerable to breaks—if, say, a ship drops anchor in the wrong place, or a natural disaster ruptures the cable.

Via Submarine Cable Map

Google and Yahoo have massive data centers around the globe that are connected via these fiber-optic cables—many of which the companies either own or privately lease to assure (or so they thought) a secure route for their internet traffic. Now it seems the NSA is taking advantage of the inherent weakness in the web’s infrastructure

In 2010 Google e-mail servers were actually hacked by Chinese hackers, but you can be sure it’s happened long before then, and almost assuredly even now transpiring undetected.

But it doesn’t take a sophisticated organization or mastermind to hack into your account and ruin your life as this journalist found out and documented. A kid basically acting alone or a freak living in their mother’s basement, like the latest Celebrity iCloud hacker probably is, can do a lot more by themselves than most people realize.

So you might be asking yourselves, what is the solution here? It sounds hopeless. Hackers are even making clones of silly games that might be attractive to children to download video and image content from phones. How can we keep sensitive information from hackers so determined to violate laws, privacy and just plain decency? I’ve heard of a number of different proposals including multi-tier authentication and physical keys or biometric authentication and/or only storing data in encrypted formats.

There are problems with these methods:

  • These methods are often costly; and some exceedingly so
  • They are cumbersome (negating much of the convenience of conducting business electronically)
  • Most of the public doesn’t understand the risks well enough to protect themselves (especially in such an swiftly evolving environment)
  • Without regulations to mandate universal adoption of strong security measures many businesses report they won’t undertake these measures on their own dime while their competitors lure customers away with cheaper prices and more convenience
  • These measures are not foolproof; and hackers constantly evolve their tactics and techniques to match countermeasures
  • Encryption is not permanent. Technology processing speed has been increasing exponentially. Recognizing this, the NSA is simply storing encrypted data in massive warehouses for a few years while they wait for or build processors powerful enough to decrypt data using brute force processing methods.

So to answer my own question about how to protect your information in a foolproof way . . . the answer is you can’t. If you store data, pictures, anywhere it can be acquired. In fact, when you make a “record” you should plan for the eventuality that it will be seen by someone and exploited. The more places your information is stored, the more likely it will be exposed to hacking by someone, somewhere. The more attractive your target (because of their celebrity status or financial exploitability potential) the more at risk your data and information is. We must assume what we create on our private phones and networks will be seen by someone else (so keep that in mind the next time you take some pictures thinking they are just for yourself or your spouse.)

This is why Louisiana’s recently signed and strongest is the nation student privacy bill (HB1076 by Representative Schroder) that passed in the 2014 legislative session is so important. This bill prevents the State of Louisiana from collecting Social Security Numbers in most cases and requires that the state introduce a student identifier system not tied into SSNs in any way. (it appears parents must sign a form allowing the state to collect SSN’s and other necessary data for the Student Transcript System which is used to award TOPS scholarships and determine financial aid and admissions determinations for students attending institutions in-state. Parents will need to remain vigilant to ensure this data is not merged with the rest of the student data and provided to other databases like the one created for the Workforce Commission or other third party vendors that might follow undetected in inBloom’s footsteps.)

The state is also reportedly purging their existing data bases of legacy SSN’s. The bill also includes civil and criminal penalties for negligent or intentional mishandling of student data. This law became very important recently when the public learned that the State’s Superintendent of Education, John White, shared SSNs and other personal data with third party vendor inBloom (because of yours truly) with no guarantees of privacy, no guarantees of security, no legal liability for intentional or unintentional disclosures. The now defunct inBloom project, which was built with 100+ million in seed money from Bill Gates, even planned to store hundreds to thousands of points of very private, very sensitive data, pictures, medical records, discipline records, psychological profiles of all children (in their ideal scenario) on a cloud computing platform hosted by Amazon. Amazon’s own subsidiary, Living Social, was hacked on Amazon’s very own cloud resulting in the theft of over 50 million users’ information while this proposal was being floated.

Computers and the internet is not going anywhere, and we should not fear it to the point of not using it. However it appears very clear to me that laws, regulators and legislators are not keeping up with the changes as fast as they need to be. We can make ourselves safer by educating our leaders to make more responsible choices on our behalf and by taking some common sense steps ourselves to protect ourselves and our families. Louisiana parents took a very important step this summer by engaging our legislature. Regrettably most legislatures across the country failed their citizens on the student privacy issue, succumbing to lobbyists and pressure from Google, Apple and Microsoft. Louisiana was the first state to boot inBloom due to privacy concerns. We were also the first state, to my knowledge, to pass some very meaningful privacy legislation to address many of the weaknesses introduced by Arne Duncan to FERPA. For a state so often labeled and maligned (often rightly so) as backward and trailing in public health issues, education policy, infrastructure and economics it’s nice to see us acting as the leaders and trailblazers we know we are, and know we should be.

 

Advertisements

Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

Recently I was interviewed by WAFB about the latest developments in Louisiana’s Common Core lawsuit saga and the recent court loss. You can see the full story here: http://www.wafb.com/story/26328975/common-core-debate-continues

On a personal note, I was amused that this was a story I’d watched earlier in the day while working out, but without sound. I remember wondering what the folks were saying, but figured it was just a bunch of face saving and sparring . . . and that I’d probably never know. I wasn’t far off of my analysis, but I was wrong about not seeing it again. A few hours later I was weighing in on the situation myself and ended up appended to the same video. Lol. That’s a strange feeling to be sure. Earlier in the week I was contacted by Motoko Rich at the New York Times to provide some background and commentary. I actually didn’t know I would end up being quoted, I’ve been contacted by reporters at various times and outlets to provide background info from a local perspective and I usually try to point reporters to other folks if I can. Tonight I was contacted by a producer from Al Jazeera, America to explain some of the complex issues and nuances in our Common Core battle. I’ve gotten some feedback that this contact makes people a little uneasy, but I try to keep an open mind. Maybe that’s my strength (or my Achilles Heel)? I prefer to think of it as the former.

Ultimately I can’t control what any of these folks do with the info I provide them, but I feel it is important to provide a counterpoint to the corporately funded Reform line on so many issues important to our community. Mainstream coverage is important and my blogging helps me break into that market. For instance, without mainstream media coverage by folks like Stephanie Simon at Reuters, I have little doubt that inBloom would still be in business selling out children’s data to not just the highest bidder, but any bidder.

Once this information gets out there, it’s going to be abused. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.

In case you were wondering, I think the above linked article by Stephanie Simon was perhaps the most important story in terms of raising national awareness of this issue as an issue that we should all be concerned about. We can’t know who our next Stephanie Simon will be ahead of time though.

I’ve provided info and interviews to folks at the Advocate, Reuters, LPB, Monroe News star, NPR, Louisiana Anthology, WBOK, Al Jazeera, Channel 2, Channel 9, and various New York Times folks on numerous occasions, researchers, documentary makers and many, many blogs. Sometimes it’s been flattering coverage, sometimes not so much. (You’d think I’d be better at it by now too, but hey, we can’t all be reality stars.) I’m still (not so secretly) hoping I get a call from the Daily Show or Colbert Report to do a segment or to even just be an audience member. (They had Michele Rhee on, and she’s a fraud who recently resigned her position at Student’s First in disgrace, so why not me, right?)

But wow, that was a digression, wasn’t it?

Let me bring this back in.

What I can control is the content of my blog.

Let me state up front: I did not initially flag Common Core as a problem. I was concerned with charters, virtual schools, data, VAM, privacy, RSD, school based corporal punishment, accountability, dropout rates, shadow schools, massive layoffs, excessive discipline rates, data quality, TFA taking over LDOE, vouchers, MFP funding, Special Education and 504 issues, poor teacher evaluation systems, and so forth. You’d think that would be enough! J

It took some researching, numerous discussions and investigations and real world experiences for me to see the harm it posed and the great corporate specter behind its creation and implementation. When I looked at my daughter’s homework assignments, Math especially, I became very alarmed and disturbed and wrote about my experiences. A lot of people identified with my raw post, which also contained details about how Common Core was secretly (basically since no one really knew what they heck it was) adopted in Louisiana before the Standards were even published or finalized. But the story didn’t end there.

A lot of parents had problems across the spectrum of Common Core assignments and curriculum. Some parents in some settings had minimal issues, or didn’t care. Organizations like LaBAEO and Louisiana Stand For Children came out strongly in support of Common Core. Most folks didn’t realize these organizations are headed by former senior staffers from the Louisiana Department of Education, Kenneth Campbell and Rayne Martin. I’m not sure of Kenneth’s situation, but I know Rayne is not an educator nor a parent. She is highly compensated by out of state funders and supporters of Common Core. She is a “reformer” that was living in Chicago until former RSD superintendent, the nomadic and politically connected Paul Vallas (former Illinois Governor candidate currently running for Illinois Lieutenant Governor after being chased out of his Connecticut superintendent position he was determined by their court system to be illegally placed in) brought Rayne here a half dozen years ago, and now she runs an organization called Louisiana Stand for Children (of which she has none.)

I showed up to BESE meetings where cadres of redshirted Exxon “Common Core cheerleaders” showed up for a few minutes and testified en masse about how awesome high standards were for STEM careers (ahead of all the parents who had been waiting all day to speak) and then filed out immediately after – after cheering each other on.

I attended meetings and heard stories from parents who had tried to meet with officials from the Louisiana Department of Ed, their BESE members, or in some cases their local school boards, where instead of listening to their concerns, they were lectured. . . for hours, and commanded to sit passively and just listen. At the end these folks giving presentations, like BESE members James Garvey, Holly Boffy and regional leaders like Gayle Sloan could not answer questions and did not register, acknowledge or report parents’ concerns, after wasting so much of parents’ time and patience.

This went on for more than a year into the implementation, and goes on today. The implementation of Common Core in Louisiana was also likely sabotaged by John White on purpose, with dueling implementation dates, conflicting messages, and what looked like (to me) as intentionally mixed signals. It is not even a widely disputed fact that the Louisiana implementation and rollout was terrible, uneven and completely bungled in many cases. Rather than acknowledge the failings, address parents’ concerns, and address or acknowledge widely agreed upon shortcomings in the initial rollout and gaps in the standards, LDOE and so many groups inside and outside the state closed ranks and closed their eyes to the chaos swirling around them; that they created. Rather than address the deficiencies head-on and honestly they chose to ignore them, to point to deficiencies in the old curriculum (in a never ending circular he-said/she-said finger pointing contest), or point to their lofty goals which for which they had no evidence their Common Core standards and curriculum could achieve – even if the goal was something everyone wanted to achieve.

Look! It’s magic, and 100% evidence and fact free!

Parents had and have real problems and questions with Common Core, and all they get are fluff PR pieces like this willfully ignorant infographic. Many of those opposed to Common Core are professionals, Engineers, Programmers, Writers, Doctors, Lawyers, PHd’s, Teachers, University Professors, Scientists. We understand what the STEM careers demand, because we work in them, and we are not buying what the Common Core folks are selling.

I understand this was a very ambitious project. I understand the goals on Common Core (I just happen to not agree with them.) I don’t think the sole purpose of public education is preparing students for community colleges and introductory careers they are never able to grow out of. There may be a place for those, but our current education system allows (or allowed) students to acquire educations in a broad range of subjects, to become informed and responsible citizens and to hopefully learn to enjoy learning for its own sake, and not just for test score or accolade. The US has never been leader in test scores that the Reform movement implies we were; or should aspire to be. We got where we are in the world based on our freedom of thought and creativity, neither of which are quantifiable or test well. Some of our greatest minds were not that scholastically adept or persistent. Bill Gates, who is pushing the college and career ready curriculum dropped out of college to found one of the most important tech companies of the last century (Microsoft) and became the wealthiest person on the planet in doing so.

Add to that list these innovative college dropout billionaires:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_college_dropout_billionaires

Many of who are pushing the Reform agenda and urgent need for increasing test scores. I have to wonder if we’d even have computers (at least to the extent we have today) now if these guys:

  • Michael Del (Dell)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
  • Larry Ellison (Oracle)
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft)

had been subjected to Common Core instead of being able to experiment in their electronics garage hobbies and electives and exercise their imaginations.

I’m not suggesting college is unimportant or that everyone should dropout and try their hand at creating a tech startup. I am explaining why it is hypocritical for folks like Bill Gates to demand this as the only path for everyone and I am suggesting if we forsake education for the sake of test scores we are doing ourselves a vast disservice. This is the ultimate tail wagging the dog situation. Tests were meant to give us a baseline to judge student performance. Tests were never meant to be the end all be all for education. That move is beyond just foolish, it is destructive and ridiculous. But to understand why these successful and smart folks think they know more than you do, in fields they’ve never experienced success but which their vast fortunes allows them access to alter the landscape in fundamental ways. You must understand these folks think in data points. If something is not measurable it is not valued. Many things in life are important but not measurable. Faith. Love. Spirit. Freedom. Imagination. Creativity. Education is one of those immeasurable things too. We can roughly measure how many words you know, or math problems you can solve, but we can’t measure everything you know or might think. Education is not just about numbers and words, not just about what we know, but what we can create with our minds and what we can learn in the future. Once we leave schools, we no longer take tests, but we must always learn to live, to grow in our relationships with each other, to take care of our children, neighbors, family and country, and to master the skills of the various jobs we will hold throughout our lifetime. After formal schooling I’ve learned numerous computer languages, software applications, reporting tools and even picked up an avocation or two that required a great deal of self-study, motivation and very little in the way of formalized recognition and rewards. The latter is learning and education for its own sake. What I have described will be the majority of life for everyone but eternal academics. Preparing students for endless Common Core testing (so we adults can feel better about providing measurably identical “educations”) is not preparing students for life – quite the opposite.

So when Bobby Jindal seemed to come to our rescue in the anti-Common Core camp, I admit I was overly trusting. I had been assured this move was coming for months ahead of time. Bobby Jindal seemed to speak passionately and say the right things (for the most part.) I tried to explain away the warnings I received from numerous sources claiming this was a carefully orchestrated ruse. I really didn’t give him enough credit to pull that kind of ruse off, but I had been told this was a ploy to take the heat off Jindal from the conservative groups, Tea Party groups, and to give Jindal a stance and platform to differentiate himself from other potential Republican presidential candidates. Victories have been few and far between but I liked to think that wasn’t influencing my hopeful thoughts. . . but the pieces weren’t adding up. Jindal donated and channeled massive amounts of funding to candidates that put John White in place. Surely that would give him some pull with some of those folks? But every one of those folks he helped elect not only refused to consider his demand to end Common Core, they voted to sue him. . . personally. . . claiming he was violating the state’s constitution. Not a light matter. But that wasn’t all. Jindal appoints three members to BESE’s 11 member Board. He recently appointed Jane Smith, knowing she was opposed to Common Core, which seemed like a positive move. But she only had two allies on BESE to give them a 3 to 8 voting bloc. Jane has been a valiant fighter, but she’s not enough to alter the basic power equation. Jindal’s other two appointees also ignored their boss who appointed them and also voted (or allowed the others to vote at times) to sue the Governor who has appointed them as his representative voice. I can understand having minor disagreements, but this is a major, big time, enormous departure! Jindal has never been shy about seeking revenge on those who cross him, including a previous BESE member named Tammie McDaniel who Jindal demanded resign after she voted a way he didn’t like on a single issue. Tammie was replaced by Connie Bradford, who remains untouched for her seeming brazen defiance. That was a head scratcher. For a list of some of the other folks Jindal has sacked for even minor offenses look here. So that doesn’t add up one bit. If they were really defying the governor they could be “Tegued” as the term Tom Aswell from Louisiana Voice has coined to describe the consistent (until now) phenomenon of how Jindal handles anyone who disagrees with him to even the slightest degree in public.

But the final and ridiculous last straw is how Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal’s “defense” attorney chose not to defend Jindal’s executive orders to prevent LDOE from purchasing PARCC tests in a partial ploy to exert pressure on John White and LDOE to reconsider remaining in PARCC and Common Core. For the ruling refer to this and pay attention to page 4. I’ve copied the relevant section below, but here’s the gist. Jindal’s team did not present any witnesses, like Kristy Nichols, to explain how the contract procedures are supposed to work. Kristy was available for media statements afterwards and did testify at BESE, just not under oath. Jindal’s team did not explain or refute the claim that the damage irreparable. It was illusory, certainly not irreparable, and any “perceived” damage could be easily remedied numerous ways. Jindal’s team did not even make the correct argument to judge Hernandez, the one that they explained outside of court. Jindal’s team threw this fight. Their argument and approach wasn’t the strongest to begin with, but this loss is not just inexcusable, it’s ridiculous and intentional. I would much rather have an enemy I know, than an enemy masquerading as a friend, that betrays you at the last minute after you had placed your hopes with them. The chaos we are experiencing was intentionally fomented by John White, Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal to distract people and wear them out. This betrayal was planned.

Sadly, this is just another ruse perpetrated by those in power to avoid listening to parents’ real problems, and another reason parents are right to fear and fight Common Core. I expect this distraction to last until Jindal leaves office. John White and Chas Roemer were correct when they stated Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was politically motivated. The irony is that they were quite likely complicit in the deception from the get-go; to increase all of their profiles. That ploy has worked. Now we get to decide if their profiles are ultimately positively or negatively impacted by this fiasco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FERPA does not protect student privacy, and never did

FERPA does not protect student privacy, and never did

I’ve been debating for a few months on how to tackle this topic in a way that is both informative and engaging while providing firmly grounded sources that back up my analysis. I’ve finally decided that might be too ambitious, and certainly a lot to tackle in a single piece Rather than let anymore grass grow underneath my feet on this issue I decided to jump right in and I’ll be amending and updating my work on this topic much as Congress and US ED as amended FERPA continuously throughout the years. FERPA laws, interpretations and guidance are dense and jargon filled. I will refer to some specific passages, but I will leave it to you delve into those documents directly if you are so inclined. I’ve been asked to synthesize and summarize what I know and have read. If you feel more informed and more concerned after reading this piece I will see my work as successful.

FERPA is old and outdated

FERPA was created in 1974, before much of the current technology, we take for granted today, was even imagined by most legislators (except maybe the creator of the Internet, Al Gore.) As such, the framework is suspect and a patchwork of fixes and amendments that really fails to do what many people think it does. FERPA does not protect student privacy to any real degree, not to the extent we would expect a modern law to do. FERPA was written when many computers were housed in underground facilities on universities campuses (to make cooling them easier) and were the size of houses. Here is a state of the art computer from 1973, a GEC 4000.

And a close up of its fanciest part.

You couldn’t exactly hack into one of these and the data they stored was on tapes that had to be manually mounted. A modern thumb drive probably contains more data that the entire wall of tape cartridges shown in the picture, and most had no external connections. There was no Internet and top transmission speeds through dedicated phone lines with connected modems were about 300bps or about 37 characters per second (on a good day.) Todays transmission speeds can top 100Mbps or more which is the equivalent of 13 million characters per second if my rough estimates are correct. The computers millions of folks carry around in their pockets dwarf the processing speeds of even the fastest computers of 40 years ago, that were usually relegated to musty university and government warehouses and not the least bit portable.

So when FERPA was conceived computers and computerized records were not prevalent, data was not very portable, and usage and applicability of any data was almost non-existent. Fast forward 40 years and now computers are the size of wallets and watches. Millions of bits of data, or names and SSNs, can be stored on hard drives the size of a thumbnail that cost a few dollars and can be purchased at convenience stores. If you drive down almost any city block you can pick up dozens to hundreds of WiFi connections that access computers or computer networks, and the internet allows access to almost any computer anywhere on the planet. Messages and data can be transmitted virtually instantaneously to anyone anywhere via radio or satellite transmissions for little to no cost. Credit agencies, insurance agencies, employment agencies, advertising agencies, and government agencies use data collected and aggregated on everyone to sell, hire, investigate, issue or deny credit, fire, provide or deny benefits etc. We now have cyber bullies, phishers, hackers, identity thieves, and online predators to worry about in addition to all the physical threats of yesteryear to worry about as parents and consumers. When FERPA was created none of these threats were known and FERPA does next to nothing to protect against these threats.

For the dry specifics and dates you can refer to this passage, but I will be going into more detail about specific shortcomings and necessities.

FERPA History

Let’s start at the beginning with a brief history of how FERPA came to be.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (“FERPA”), § 513 of P.L. 93-380 (The Education Amendments of 1974), was signed into law by President Ford on August 21, 1974, with an effective date of November 19, 1974, 90 days after enactment. FERPA was enacted as a new § 438 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) called “Protection of the Rights and Privacy of Parents and Students,” and codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g. It was also commonly referred to as the “Buckley Amendment” after its principal sponsor, Senator James Buckley of New York. FERPA was offered as an amendment on the Senate floor and was not the subject of Committee consideration. Accordingly, traditional legislative history for FERPA as first enacted is unavailable.

Senators Buckley and Pell sponsored major FERPA amendments that were enacted on December 31, 1974, just four months later, and made retroactive to its effective date of November 19, 1974. These amendments were intended to address a number of ambiguities and concerns identified by the educational community, including parents, students, and institutions. On December 13, 1974, these sponsors introduced the major source of legislative history for the amendment, which is known as the “Joint Statement in Explanation of Buckley/Pell Amendment” (“Joint Statement”). See Volume 120 of the Congressional Record, pages 39862-39866.

Congress has amended FERPA a total of nine times in the nearly28 years since its enactment, as follows:

P.L. 93-568, Dec. 31, 1974, effective Nov. 19, 1974 (Buckley/Pell Amendment)
P.L. 96-46, Aug. 6, 1979 (Amendments to Education Amendments of 1978)
P.L. 96-88, Oct. 17, 1979 (Establishment of Department of Education)
P.L. 101-542, Nov. 8, 1990 (Campus Security Act)
P.L. 102-325, July 23, 1992 (Higher Education Amendments of 1992)
P.L. 103-382, Oct. 20, 1994 (Improving America’s Schools Act)
P.L. 105-244, Oct. 7, 1998 (Higher Education Amendments of 1998)
P.L. 106-386, Oct. 28, 2000 (Campus Sex Crime Prevention Act)
P.L. 107-56, Oct. 26, 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act of 2001)

Unapproved Changes to FERPA

What you don’t see in this bit of US ED lore is that the changes enacted by the US Department of Education over the last decade (plus) were not approved by Congress. The most recent and significant one I would like to direct you too occurred in 2011 and can viewed here along with a discussion of objections raised and DOEs responses to the objections.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

These are very telling indications of how DOE intends to enforce (or not enforce FERPA) but it is 58 pages so I will excerpt a few of the more concerning sections to direct your attention to throughout my examination.

Before we go there though, let me summarize by saying FERPA was theoretically enacted in 1974 to protect the rights of parents and students under very specific situations that were known or understood at that time. (I would assert it actually defines the rights and preeminence of Federal agencies to oversee education matters and data with a small set of rights for parents under a few limited circumstances.) FERPA has been amended 9 times by Congress, and the primary enforcement mechanism is reduction or disqualification for funding directed at schools and states that fail to comply with FERPA regulations.

Applicability and Scope

This leads directly to the next point I would like to discuss; something many people may not be fully aware of or understand about FERPA. Namely the scope and applicability or in other words what it applies to and how it works and can be enforced.

Scope and Applicability

FERPA is a “Spending Clause” statute enacted under the authority of Congress in Art. I, § 8 of the U.S. Constitution to spend funds to provide for the general welfare. (“No funds shall be made available under any applicable program…” unless statutory requirements are met.)

Let me translate this a bit. FERPA has no defined penalties for folks who willfully and/or negligently and repetitively violate it. I can take your children’s personal data and wallpaper my house with it, use it to wrap all my presents, post it in the newspaper, print it on souvenir toilet paper and make paper airplanes out of it and launch them from atop the State Capital during Mardi Gras (something I’ve always wanted to do, sans the personal data) and FERPA and the US Department of Ed cannot prosecute you and the only sanction available to them is to withhold federal funding, if they so choose. This means any vendor that obtains personally identifiable data is largely immune to any repercussions or restrictions on its use or misuse. This is a matter of settled law and an opinion issued by US ED in the afore-linked 2011 document.

. . .Thus, if an authorized representative receives funds under a program administered by the Secretary, the Department has the authority to enforce failures to comply with FERPA under any of GEPA’s enforcement methods. If an authorized representative does not receive funds under a program administered by the Secretary and improperly rediscloses PII from education records, then the only remedy available under FERPA against the authorized representative would be for the Department to prohibit the disclosing educational agency or institution from permitting the authorized representative from accessing PII from education records for a period of not less than five years. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(b)(4)(B). These are the only remedies available to the Department to enforce FERPA. Remedies, such as assessing fines against any entity that violates FERPA, are not within the Department’s statutory authority. Under the FERPA regulations, and in accordance with its longstanding practice, the Department only will take an enforcement action if voluntary compliance and corrective actions cannot first be obtained. If the violating entity refuses to come into voluntary compliance, the Department can take the above listed enforcement actions. However, in addition to these statutorily authorized remedies, we encourage FERPA-permitted entities to consider specifying additional remedies or sanctions as part of the written agreements with their authorized representatives under § 99.35 in order to protect PII from education records. Written agreements can be used to permit increased flexibility in sanctions, to the extent that the desired sanction is permitted under law.

All vendors are free to use and misuse as much data however they choose without real restrictions or penalties

This means US ED has no authority over vendors or use or misuse data, that it must first try and convince abusers to stop abusing and disclosing the data they have received, and that their only recourse is to forbid school districts from providing data to them directly for 5 years or more. However if they obtain the data from another source, say another vendor, agencies can bypass even this very minor censure. Additionally, since DOE has no enforcement mechanism provided by FERPA, agencies can ignore this decision with impunity. This is why inBloom is not going out of business with no one officially committing to provide data to them. They intend to get this data secretly other ways and through other avenues. FERPA does allow schools, school districts and states to state their own civil penalties in their contracts, but most, if not all, fail to do so. What this means is any vendor for any data system in any school district that has access to data can currently use that data however they want if their only restriction written into their contract is that they will comply with FERPA. FERPA does not restrict or target vendors, only schools and school districts. State agencies are also largely excluded from many of the provisions of FERPA although references to them have been sprinkled in throughout the years. Most of the sanctions and wording it directed at local school districts, not state agencies who subsequently acquire the data.

Additionally, parents do not have the right to sue or take actions against vendors, state agencies, local school districts, or individuals who use, misuse or abuse their children’s data, or their own data under FERPA. All enforcement actions are handled through FPCO (the Family Policy Compliance Office), if they so choose. Parents may make a formal complaint, but those complaints can be ignored and parents have no further recourse.

The Kickboard and inBloom connection

A couple of months ago I was contacted by a parent and technology insider about a new company operating in New Orleans in coordination with Leslie Jacobs, a chief reform figure in Louisiana and one of the principal people responsible for creating RSD an creating the deforms striking across Louisiana and particularly New Orleans. This company is called KickBoard, and run by a former Teach for America alum named Jennifer “Jen” Medbery. Kickboard is an inBloom ally and dashboard provider that goes into schools and school districts to obtain all of their student and teacher data and provide tools and metrics for the teachers. What I have been told is that inBloom is now working with groups like Kickboard to obtain student data indirectly, bypassing contracts and oversight with school districts and state agencies. Please refer to this comment provided below.

I have to commend you and brilliant citizens like yourself for standing up and fighting against the partnership between LDOE and inBloom. As a parent and an EdTech critic, I’m so proud to see that partnership dissolving even if only for now. However, I’ve been alarmed for quite some time at the fact that no one has ever called out or investigated the more direct link between our state’s children’s data and inBloom than through Kickboard for Teachers. A search of your blog and even your readers’ comments pulled up zero hits on Kickboard. Jen Medbery and her self-proclaimed mentor and investor Leslie Jacobs more than likely played huge roles in the backroom deals between White and inBloom. As the poster child for New Orleans Edtech specifically and New Orleans entrepreneurship in general, Kickboard cannot be allowed to falter or worse die. Several prominent groups including Idea Village and the New Orleans Startup Fund have too much riding on Kickboard’s success in spite of the fact that Kickboard remains nearly two years behind on its own growth projections. Why else is there such a huge media blitz for Kickboard originating from Idea Village for each of the past two autumns despite that Idea Village has incubated probably five dozen other start-ups since Kickboard graduated from its program four years ago?

The hidden revenue stream was and probably continues to be to Kickboard from other inBloom members at the expense of our state’s children and their parents. Kickboard is listed alphabetically as the 15th of 21 inBloom partners. Leslie Jacobs took over the New Orleans Startup Fund precisely when the Fund was faltering and had really only one major investment consuming the bulk of its pledges, Kickboard. John White’s severing of his contract with inBloom has only served now to push the Kickboard and inBloom partnership deeper and further underground. And, contracts between Kickboard and the schools and districts it services permit the same data exchange through Kickboard to inBloom that White was permitting from the LDOE directly.

We can only hope that Medbery and Kickboard put our children before profits. Yet, I don’t see them justifying a recent unjustifiable valuation in the millions of dollars which subsequently resulted in them securing a sizable out-of-state venture capital investment without extracurricular income from inBloom partnerships.

I do not have detailed financials disclosing how these partnerships work, but I have been wondering how inBloom could continue to function without student data commitments. To be quite frank, there is no way they could operate as they’ve defined themselves (a centralized student data repository and intermediary) without obtaining data from someone. Initially inBloom was going to provide data to their partners like Kickboard. Now that virtually every state and large school district has pulled out of inBloom, thanks to the efforts of Leonie Haimson, Rachel Strickland, Debbie Sachs and others, the only available path I see to them is obtaining this data through vendors that already have access to it. Their most likely place for inBloom to acquire this data will be via and through their existing partners. There are currently not Federal laws to safeguard or prevent this, which is why State laws must be enacted in every state if you wish to prevent personal, student, teacher and parent data from falling into the hand of anyone and everyone who wants it.

For a current list of partnering companies with inBloom you can go here. If your parish does business with any of these vendors there is a decent chance inBloom and other data aggregators will be able to obtain your children’s data through them.

Please note: I do not have concrete proof Kickboard or any of these partners are actively sharing data with inBloom although I have had reports from sources that they are and have included one of those reports provided to me in this article. I have shown that there FERPA has no teeth to prohibit this, and US ED has no inclination or authority to address this issue. As every state and partner that I am aware of has pulled out of inBloom (or allowed parent opt outs or opt ins) and inBloom has not closed up shop it stands to reason they have plans to get this data another way. Bill Gates has 150 million reasons to see this venture succeed.

Future posts will include an outline on how to craft State legislation to address these issues but suffice it to say specific monetary and criminal penalties will need to be enacted.

Additional Note: If the only protections your vendor agreement defines is that it complies with FERPA, then essentially you have no real protections to safeguard or define ownership of your data or penalties for its misuse.  However, many vendors like JPAMS/EdGear (the largest SIS vendor in Louisiana whom contacted as part of my research for this story) have privacy agreements that go far beyond the use, ownership, storage, sharing and destruction restrictions defined by FERPA.  As a local superintendent or school board I believe it would be a good idea to review my contracts with my vendors and tighten up those that lack appropriate safeguards.  I do not attribute this lack to subterfuge on most of your vendors’ parts.  Many vendors may not even be aware of how poorly FERPA defines safeguards for data, as this lack is not something US ED or the Family Compliance Office actively advertises.

inBloom is the IT equivalent to the Hutzler Banana Slicer

inBloom is the IT equivalent to the Hutzler Banana Slicer

When I read the latest story about a crazy eyed education reformer that was preaching the inBloom gospel I couldn’t help but remember an absurd product I was forwarded on Facebook to by one of my friends about the Hutzler Banana slicer.

Like inBloom, the Hutzler Banana slicer is a real product . . . except the banana slicer is actually more useful.

This is one of my favorite reviews of this product:

5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my marriage July 30, 2012

By Mrs Toledo

What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…. this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. It’s one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old “I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?” and of course, “You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!” These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!

People actually need to slice bananas occasionally, whereas the problem inBloom addresses is an entirely self-inflicted wound that won’t actually be dressed by the inBloom bandaid, it will actually be made worse.

Companies always try to make their products sound indispensible to consumers, and the arguments being made about the benefits of inBloom to parents and districts is no different than any number of ridiculous claims and fixes you can see advertised on TV after midnight.

Like using a spoon like a human and not a chimpanzee. . .

http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/497/627/b5b.gif

Or pouring a drink for the family without spilling soda over your entire family. . . again. . . Oh Mom!

http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/495/030/396.gif

Cynthia Stevenson is a perfect example of someone creating her own problem and then looking for a magic solution to a problem of her own making and incompetence.

Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, Colo., public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible.

What kind of superintendent or leadership purchases dozens of systems to track student information, let alone dozens of systems that are incompatible and can’t communicate with each other? Not only is that practice extremely wasteful (and a little crazy), but enabling that to continue sounds like complaining that your head it too itchy because you have too many head lice and believing the solution is to get a larger skull to reduce your lice per square inch of skull ratio, than to simply get rid of the head lice.

In fact, there were so many information systems — for things like contact information, grades and disciplinary data, test scores and curriculum planning for the district’s 86,000 students — that teachers had taken to scribbling the various passwords on sticky notes and posting them, insecurely, around classrooms and teachers’ rooms.

There must be a more effective way, Dr. Stevenson felt.

Uh, yeah, you would think that wouldn’t ya?

Do you ever talk to your IT folks, Cynthia?

You don’t buy dozens of incompatible systems for starters. If you do, you don’t buy another system to send all the data from your dozens of systems to, at additional cost and without any security for your parents and students. You link your passwords and logins together using Active Directory if you are using Microsoft products, or you use OS X Mountain Lion or later for you Apple systems. Once a teacher has logged in to any system with a single password then they are logged into all their systems for that day. If you have 2 dozen systems that are simply collecting data entered by your teachers and staff, guess what, Cynthia? They still have to do that. Now your IT staff has to build XML export files for all of your systems and load and verify that data on inBloom in addition to all their other projects you have them doing. You have to use system resources to extract and submit those files or you need to allow an external vendor access to all of your servers and databases to pull that information whenever they want. You have to continue to maintain that framework when any of your 2 dozen systems is updated, and if you don’t the new fancy reports you rely on from inBloom will be worthless or at least less accurate than the reports you get from the source systems.

There Cynthia, I just saved you half a million dollars in annual inBloom fees, not to mention a lot of angry parents and legitimate lawsuits.

Do you really have no IT staff that told you this?

Do you think that just because you think you have the best of intentions, anything you do must be right and you can ignore everyone who disagrees?

Were you impressed by the flashy lights and fancy sales people from inBloom who told you what a brilliant visionary you were for agreeing to pioneer this inBloom Hustle, which is little more than a romanticized Hutzler Banana slicer?

I know many people are dazzled by new technology and want to be thought of as technologically savvy. I’m sure inBloom came in and gave you a line that sounded pretty good, and made you think you really needed their stuff and you really knew your stuff for agreeing with them. I imagine the presentation went something like this presentation of the Hutzler Banana Slicer to an assortment of curious wild monkeys.

At least, I sure hope that’s all that is going on here. Because Cynthia, if you were not simply out of your league on the IT aspect of this project, then you are intentionally misleading the parents you serve and harming the children you are supposed to protect. I would withdraw from this real life IT infomercial you’ve landed yourself in and work with you IT folks to build some real solutions. Whoever is buying dozens of incompatible software packages is costing you a lot of money and lost productivity. If that is you, then the best IT decision you can make going forward is to not make any more IT decisions and leave those decisions to someone more qualified. . .like a monkey.

Is Student Privacy Hopeless?

Is Student Privacy Hopeless?

(This will be a long one, and has some ranting folks, so buckle up.)

Is student privacy hopeless?

Sadly, this may be little more than a rhetorical question after the last week of horrible setbacks on the student privacy front. I’ve been gathering information and leads for months now, researching some, and holding onto others. I was hoping some of these issues would become non-issues if EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, was successful in their lawsuit against the US Department of Education’s change to FERPA that allows vendors to use student data and resell it as they see fit, for any reason and without parents or students having any rights or say in the matter. Unfortunately the lawsuit was thrown out because the courts did not believe EPIC had the standing to bring the suit.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court in Washington issued summary judgment for the Education Department, ruling that the plaintiffs have not suffered any real legal injuries stemming from the regulations and thus they lack legal standing to bring their suit.

In order for someone to have “standing”, they must first be victimized. When that happens it won’t be one child affected. The data being transmitted and bartered belongs to every child on any DOE databases, many of which are now adults. We are not talking about just one child, but quite likely millions, if not all of them.  All of our kids data will have to be sent to third party vendors, and then shared or sold based on the policy change, then many years of lawsuits and appeals will have to take place, during which vendors will continue to collect and sell student data for students through cloud based infrastructures, with no liability for the damage they cause. If you went to school after computer records were kept in your state, probably the eighties or nineties, then your data is at risk too. This data can be used, abused and misused by anyone, and because the federal government changed the policy defining what student privacy is, and what vendors can do with this data, even if the lawsuits are successful, this will be of small comfort for the millions of children and adults who have their data permanently dispersed throughout cyberspace, in the hands of criminals, pedophiles, and companies selling information and making employment decisions based on this information. Our students will become adults, and they will never be able to reclaim their data or their identity that other adults like John White and Arne Duncan have stolen from them.

It will be impossible to fix the damage done, to unring the bell and much if this information will be incorrect, and haunt our citizens, our children, ourselves, throughout life. In the very near future, every job interview, every interest rate they or you get, every credit score, every rejection for college or a job, every insurance rate or refusal, every mortgage rate, every failed background check could be directly related to this information, and you will never know, and never, ever, be able to remedy this situation. This will make many people very rich. Many of these soon to rich, or richer, people are those who secretly lobbied the US Ed Department to change this policy to render it worse than worthless. This is not an overstatement. I say worse, because not only does it not actually protect children from the ones their data needs to be protected from most, strangers, thieves, criminals, corporations, hucksters, it outright protects the despicable uses and users. FERPA is now an indemnification clause to allow anyone to harvest and use student data without anyone having any way to stop them.  How can you take any recourse against those who have been told by the federal government to take our data it use it however they see fit?  Are you going to sue the federal government?  Would you sue them for not having a law that does what its supposed to do?  When wouldn’t you sue the government if that was something you could do?  The other harmful thing this law does is It makes average people be deluded into believing there is a federal privacy law that protects them, when FERPA is anything but.  You almost have to admire the corporations that distorted a student privacy law into a legal blanket for themselves to use children’s data however they see fit.

The way the law now works, the less direct contact you have with a student, the less legitimate reason you have for possessing it, the more freedom you have to exploit a child and their data. Schools still have to notify parents if they plan to share student data, but once that data is handed over to a corporation that corporation has no restrictions on use or misuse, no liabilities and the only restrictions they have are ones they place on themselves.  These terms can be modified at any time, as often as Apple modifies your iTunes terms of service, but leaving you with less recourse. If you don’t like the iTunes terms of service, you can throw out your iPhone and discontinue using the ITunes store. You can’t throw out your children or yourself, or disconnect yourself from the data being used against them.

FERPA also protects many of the lying education reformers running US Ed, State departments of education and our local LEAs. FERPA allows dishonest superintendents like John White to share data with whomever they want, with any restrictions they choose to apply or not apply such as was done with CREDO recently. They can also refuse to turn over data anyone for any reason, but the reasons it is being denied right now is to protect people from learning the truth. What is happening in Louisiana and in many states is our state departments of educations are failing in epic ways. All of their reform schemes are colossal utter failures that cost anywhere from 2 to 10 times as much as other solutions, but which gets terrible results, almost without exception. I suppose I should clarify, the results they get are often great for charter schools, contractors, reformers and their bottom lines and salaries. For children and taxpayers the results are nothing short of criminal, but you will never know, thanks to FERPA.

What these DOE thieves and charlatans, like John White, are doing is preparing completely false reports, reports with absurd self-serving conclusions, results that they slice and dice the data to find something remotely positive to report. These results are often reported as percentages without any context, without history, without magnitude, without mitigating factors, without costs either direct or opportunity costs (programs terminated to fund vouchers or teachers fired to pay for Common Core.) These reports in some cases are simply outright false. Our department of education also fails to report anything they can get away with not reporting that shows them in a bad light, even if that same information was used in the past to create a sense of urgency in the public for the need for “education reforms.”

For instance, RSD sucks bad. No pretty phrasing needed for the shithole that RSD, the state takeover of public schools, has become. No RSD schools have ever been returned to their original districts, as was the original intent of the legislation. RSD conquered schools are sold off to unscrupulous charter operators who apply for charter grants they use to pay themselves exorbitant salaries. Many of these charter schools treat students and parents like your butt treats toilet paper, use once and dispose of. Charters falsify exit reasons to hide the fact they exclude disabled students, English language learners, and students with behavior problems. I’ve been told many of them cheat on state tests, remove students that will do poorly after they get funding for them but before they take state exams, or simply don’t administer the exams to many of their students they don’t expect to do well. They report fantastic success, but what they don’t tell you about their high completion rates is that only 5 students were tested. What they don’t tell you is that 90% of the students that could have taken the tests don’t take them so their score look fantastic, for the few students that end up taking them.

Our DOE thinks that if they simply deny access to this data, no one will call them on it, but I am. LDOE is lying to you about graduation rates, dropout rates, class schedules, VAM, COMPASS, test scores, enrollments, student classifications, enrollments and exit reasons and test scores. They are lying outright and through admission and they are using FERPA to do this. I saw the data. I collect the data. I analyzed the data. I knew the data, the data was a friend of mine. And believe me, John White is no data steward . . . but he is a paragon of pure dishonesty and disdain for the people of Louisiana. White has fired, force retired, or driven off everyone who collected or analyzed, audited or evaluated data in LDOE so he can now almost honestly say he has no earthly idea what’s going on. He’s driven off all the programmers that maintained our databases and systems and used their salaries to hire scores of unqualified TFA spawnlings who he gives fancy titles to so they can spread their filthy incompetence and corporate welfare programs throughout the world on the backs of their unearned titles, on the backs of needy children, on the backs of our children. LDOE has no chance of processing accountability scores themselves, collecting data themselves, maintaining data systems themselves and this is entirely a planned situation. This was done so White will have no choice but to contract out data collecting, processing, and analyzing services to vendors who will charge much more, magnitudes more, than it ever cost to do in-house. inBloom was just the tip of the iceberg, which is why White was so cavalier about sharing and selling it our student’s data through them. To him that is nothing, and we are nothing. That data will be given to anyone and everyone if it has not already, through dozens of other contracts we can never hope to keep track of.

Just about everyone who is forced to attend RSD hates it and would rather any other solution which is why in Baton Rouge only 1500 of the more than 6000 RSD seats are filled, and RSD is still seeking to expand until students have not choices, but RSD. (So much for choice, eh parents?) In St Helena RSD made the case that its presence is helping the cause of desegregation. RSD claimed that if the local school board opened up new grade levels, white students would flee and the segregation would be worse. They also claimed they were doing a good job in St Helena. RSD provided data that to a casual observer might back up their case. They removed all the data from their website that might disprove their assertions, but I have folks that archived just enough for me to prove show them as completely deceptive unscrupulous liars that they have always been. St Helena’s white population is increasing since RSD came to town, but only in the non-RSD schools. In RSD the population is declining by about 20-40%, in the elementary school it has increased by that much. The data RSD showed the judge was for a single year, between October and February, which shown as a percentage after students left at mid-year and a few students transferred in looked like a small increase. Over the actual 7 years they have been there the trend is completely opposite. RSD and LDE knew this, they have all the data, but chose to submit a legal document to a federal judge that lied about this. RSD also showed how their schools have been improving. RSD has schools all over the state. Instead of showing the progress at the middle school, which has gotten progressively worse, they showed information about RSD as a whole, including most of the schools in New Orleans. (Incidentally I have evidence of systematic cheating at RSD New Orleans schools to incrementally increase their scores, more on that on part 2 of John McDonogh story .)

Here are a few of the stories detailing St Helena, but replace St Helena with the name of your own school district, because this, or some version of it, will be the story of your district soon enough. The methods and actors might change, but when you have someone without a shred of human decency, honor, or morality determined to destroy you, he will win.

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/the-st-helena-rsd-saga-begins-2/

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/reform-fairytales/

http://exploringeducation.blogspot.com/2013_09_01_archive.html

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/jindals-hypocrisy-the-saga-of-st-helena-parish-schools-an-interview-with-superintendent-kelli-joseph/

Even now, the voucher case Jindal and White are making much hay about is nothing more than poor theatre to prevent people from learning the truth about the voucher program and the destruction it is quietly wreaking on minority communities. Laws and agreements were already in place that Jindal and John White violated with his voucher program, in much the same way Jindal violated our very state Constitution, repeatedly and viciously throughout his tenure as our tyrannical governor. As part of the agreement consent decrees in many parishes throughout the state, White and Jindal were supposed to notify the Attorney General’s office about programs that might have an impact on desegregation progress, as vouchers have clearly done. Jindal and White knew this, and refused to comply with existing law and legal agreements because they were afraid their plans might be stalled or found to be out of compliance, so they willfully violated those agreements and orders. In response a federal judge asked for data to determine whether the programs had a negative impact on desegregation. White and Jindal refused to comply (knowing full well that their voucher program was removing poor black children from public schools and putting them in substandard schools that teach kids with DVDs, teach kids with uncertified teachers, and teach kids so poorly they score on average 30 points lower on state tests than their public school counterparts) and instead characterized that request, that the Federal government was bound by existing law and orders to uphold, into a power grab. Read the MOU for yourself.

So to reiterate the absurdity and dishonesty of John White and Bobby Jindal: In the span of the same three months John White and Jindal argued allowing parents the choice to attend a public school instead of RSD would jeopardize desegregation. (Knowing full well that not only was this not true, but that in fact RSD was driving white students out of the system and intentionally misleads a federal judge with irrelevant data) They also refused to turn over data that would show their voucher program was having a negative impact on desegregation in numerous other parishes, knowing full well that it did. Their argument was that since most of the recipients of the scholarships statewide were black it would be absurd that the impact could be harmful. This is a ridiculous argument. There could be local issues where every single white student in a majority black district pulled out for instance. The vouchers could make the public schools less financially viable (as was the case RSD also made for rejecting St Helena to add grades to their existing schools). The results could be sporadic since they only reported a majority of students statewide, individual parishes could have been unharmed, and some dramatically harmed. As time goes on, these impacts could get much much worse, but Jindal and John White have successfully fended off the feds, and fooled the majority of the public with their grandstanding. Have children been the losers in this equation? Quite likely, but neither of these phonies cares one whit about other people’s children. They care about images and political careers and their donors, not ordinary people.

Our only hope is if we resist the status quo and momentum Jindal and John White have built around their plans, their multilayered deceptions. Drastic methods are required to confront and prevent this and keep them from succeeding. White knows you are onto him, which is why he is signaling his reformer kin to change their tactics and brand parents the enemy. I knew this was coming. I’ve seen it and said it form months now, but he has branded us the enemy now.

“An aggressive form of populism has asserted itself in the rhetoric of our day,” White is expected to say at the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s headquarters in Washington. “I see it in a tone that is skeptical of reformers in the same populist way our country today is skeptical of authority generally. This is, I believe, greatly damaging for an education reform effort that has done good in America and that needs to be sustained. And it needs to be addressed, lest this generational effort wash out with the tide of the next administration.”

“How we manage our newfound authority in a populist time is a critical and tenuous question,” White will say. “Our most important responsibility as reformers is no longer just to clamor for change but to sustain and expand the positive direction of our nation’s education system. The greatest risk we face in doing this is not the validity of our ideas but the pitfalls of authority itself.”

The aggressive populism White speaks of is you, is parents, is children, is teachers who are tired of being told what is good for our children by folks who don’t have them. Teachers are tired of being told how to educate children by folks who took a 5 week TFA correspondence course, or who never taught a day in their life, like Bill Gates, who says his reforms will take 10 years or more to see if they were effective! These bastards want to literally experiment on a whole generation of our children, on their hunches, that data has heretofore proved not just wrong, but damn wrong. The few reformers, who have children, enroll them in exclusive private schools that do the opposite of everything they preach is great for our kids. Put Bill Gate’s kids and Michele Rhee’s kids in a class of 50+ students, glued to a computer all day, learning Common Core drilled mathematics.

They preach choice, but deny us ours. They choose different than what they choose for us! I choose different than what they would choose for us! Who is with me?!?! Do these cowards who hide behind wealthy donors and speak at secret meetings beyond parents dare subject their own children to these education tortures, these heinous crimes against education that they would subject the rest of us to in the name of choice, in the name of global competitiveness they have never documented? Do they dare face us! They are miserable sniveling cowards picked by even more cowards to lead us like lemmings of the cliff while they parachute down to their pavilions paid for on the backs of our children. If that be an aggressive form of populism, letting the people decide what is best for their own children than wealthy overlords, then sobeit. I am a populist. I am a knuckle dragger. I am for the people. I am for what is best for my children and what is best for yours, not what is best for their wallets. When you see them at your schools, at your town halls, at your school board meetings, at your churches wearing their smug smiles of confidence and control, let them know you are onto them and their little game. Let them know you are for people, for your children, for your neighbor’s children, and not the filthy blood money lining their pockets.

it may be hopeless but we fight

Do I seem angry? Damn straight I’m angry. You should be too. This has gone on long enough. The time for politely making 3 minute statements in a highly staged BESE meeting or before an orchestrated legislature is over. They are told how to vote by Bobby Jindal before they even set foot in those venues. They think they have this and you all wrapped up in a pretty little bundle, and I tell you it’s time to blow that package apart.

John White sees this as just a little game where their only problem is the messaging, not the horribly destructive agenda. White is so arrogant he tells us “reformers” are manipulating us with meaningless semantics and “framing.” In White’s play we are merely actors with parts he has written for us. In this passage he says as much.

To prevent that from happening, White is offering a three-part solution. “First, if we are to sustain our positive impact on the future of American education, reform leaders will shift their mission to national responsibility over self-righteous sympathy,” he will say. Reformers who rely too much “on an easy sympathy for the urban poor” can hurt the cause, he will say.

Second, he will call for the narrative around reform to be “refreshed.” This means taking the fight to enemies beyond teachers unions. While White argues that the media paint reformers as “ideologues,” what he calls the real “establishment bureaucracy” — the management of huge federal programs like Title I and Head Start — takes little flak.

“Without the new fight, what we have is stale story,” White will say. “We are letting the populist story of reformer versus working person tell itself.”

But John White is no Shakespeare either. Those of us that were educated before Common Core supplanted real Shakespeare with “informational texts” recognize the real stuff versus a pathetic imitation.

CCSS Shakespeare courtesy of John White
CCSS Hamlet, courtesy of John White

So in answer to my initial question.  Yes.  As long as we have people like Bobby Jindal and John White calling the shots, student and parent privacy is impossible.

 

For those who missed the live WBOK show on 8/26/13: here is the link and summary

For those who missed the live WBOK show on 8/26/13: here is the link and summary

Summary and links to articles you might find relevant to topics discussed.

Once you load the Imperative page you will have to click on the circled portion to listen to the audio portion from the 8/26/13 show.

http://theneworleansimperative.org/2013/03/07/the-new-orleans-imperative-next-show-march-11-2013/ <======

Parents, denied a voice at BESE, speak out here

Parents, denied a voice at BESE, speak out here

At BESE’s august meeting parents were denied an opportunity to speak about Common Core and inBloom.  Because the feedback given so far has been overwhelmingly negative, I can understand why Chas Roemer, John White and their allies would go that route.  Routinely BESE sends out invites to charter organizers, TFA supporters, and other folks that are paid to adore their positions to speak only things that reinforce their opinions and goals.  At the last BESE meeting in June they tried shifting the schedule around to make parents and students who had come to speak students wait all day, and then when that didn’t work, they tried to postpone the agenda items they had come to speak on.  Outbursts from the crowd changed their plans.

This time, however, BESE was able to completely silence their critics, denying them a chance to speak.  When they did this, not only did they succeed in silencing their critics in a public, taxpayer funded forum, they made a mockery of Democracy; and rule of the people, by the people, for the people.  Our board was purchased with millions of corporate dollars, not to serve us, but to serve those who would make money off of our children.  Our BESE board and our Department of Education are cruel, farcical charades that pat themselves on the back for their own destructive behavior whilst squandering our hard earned tax dollars on their cronies and selling our children into a data zoo where they can be gawked at, poked and prodded for the amusement of others.

While corrupt politicians have succeeded in barring parents and students from speaking in a public forum, they cannot (yet) prevent them from speaking in private ones that are made available to the public.  Here is Nikki Gaspard’s letter.  A concerned public school parent who was denied an opportunity to comment on policies and programs paid for by and with her tax dollars and about a recently aborted plan that sells her child’s data companies to use and profit from as they see fit. (Nikki was one of the folks instrumental in uncovering the latest set of inBloom and DOE letters many of us had failed to get for so long. . .)

Hello, I have a few things that I would like to go over.  I have a letter from Mr. John White to Inbloom dated April 19 in which he states that he is withdrawing Louisiana from InBloom.  I also have a letter dated June 17 from InBloom addressed to John White saying that InBloom is concluding their relationship with John White.

I do not have a fancy job title.  I am just a mom, but even I can look at these two letters and deduce that SOMEONE is being DISHONEST!  I have a form from the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR that lists it’s grant recipients.  LOUISIANA IS ON THAT LIST!  The LA Workforce Commission was granted nearly ONE MILLION DOLLARS in order to collect and link information to the US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.  The information that is being linked includes EDUCATION DATA.  The contact person is listed as Ms. Raj Jindal.

     In a phone conversation between Mr. Garvey and Mr. White, which took place last Friday, Mr. White acknowledged that he WAS AWARE that LOUISIANA COLLEGES were sharing private and personal information with the LOUISIANA AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, but that he was not aware that the LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WAS ALSO INVOLVED IN THIS.

     As a concerned citizen and parent in Louisiana, the ONLY conclusion that I can draw from that conversation is that either Mr. John White is being dishonest to Mr. Garvey OR Mr. White is (at best) doing an EXTREMELY POOR JOB PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN’S VERY PERSONAL AND INTIMATE INFORMATION.

     Now to my next subject.  I have a letter to a senator in New York from the SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS of New York dated August 7.  In the letter he discusses the fact that only 30 to 37 percent of students scored proficient on the COMMON CORE assessment tests given in April.  That was a SIGNIFICANT drop verses test scores before COMMON CORE INVADED NEW YORK.  He goes on to say that the ONLY thing that changed this year was the CURRICULUM AND THE TESTS.  What changed he said, was giving the tests before students were properly prepared.

     TO ALL OF YOU, I would like to say that COMMON CORE has already caused my daughter who is an honor roll student and who has already earned COLLEGE CREDIT to feel like a (her exact words) ” WORTHLESS, STUPID HUMAN BEING”.  I have seen my precious child spend hours upon hours EVERYDAY at my kitchen table working on what common core calls “math”.  I have watched her being tutored 2 to 3 times EVERY WEEK to try to understand the Common Core Math.  I have watched her be reduced to an ANXIETY-RIDDLED MESS which ends with her CURLED UP CRYING ON MY KITCHEN FLOOR because she now feels like she is stupid.  If that is what the COMMON CORE CURRICULUM does to an HONOR ROLL,gifted,talented student who has an ideal home environment with a mother and father who encourage and support her, what EXACTLY do you think the Common Core is going to do to the rest of the kids in Louisiana?

     My daughter came home with a paper on the first day of school which lists the telephone numbers of places such as CRISIS COUNSELORS and THE ST. TAMMANY SUICIDE PREVENTION LINE! It’s as if the powers that be are EXPECTING  suicide rates to go up in Louisiana.  I just DO NOT UNDERSTAND why this is being ALLOWED to take place in OUR SCHOOLS!

     I would ask that EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU  make a decision to look into this and to do the right thing for the CHILDREN. 

     The right thing is NEVER the easy thing.   It is rarely, if ever, the popular thing. IT IS STILL the RIGHT thing!
Thank-you for taking the time to read this.

Sincerely, Mrs. Gaspard