Authors of the study Emmett McGroarty, Joy Pullmann, and Jane Robbins make the case that by means of the nationalized Common Core standards, which states were lured into adopting through competitive grants in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top (RttT) stimulus program in 2009, the federal government has used grant funds to induce states to build identical, increasingly sophisticated student data systems.
McGroarty, executive director of the Education Project at the American Principles Project (APP), said the study, entitled “Cogs in the Machine: Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing,” exposes “an idea that dates back to the Progressive era.”
“It is based in a belief that government ‘experts’ should make determinations about what is successful in education, what isn’t,” he said, “and what sorts of education and training are most likely to produce workers who contribute to making the United States competitive in the global economy.”
Though violations of citizen privacy have become major news stories of late, the federal government has urged private sector design of student data collection systems at the same time it encourages individual states to participate in data collection initiatives such as the Data Quality Campaign, the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, and the National Student Clearinghouse, all of which help to increase the collection and sharing of children’s data.
In addition, the National Education Data Model suggests that states provide for the collection of over 400 data points on every child in the construction of their data systems.
Last year, Congress gutted the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), leaving protections for student data significantly weakened. As more private companies donate education apps to schools in exchange for children’s information, the increasing threat of hacking the data of vulnerable children has become very real.
The U.S. Department of Education (USED), however, in its report published last year and titled "Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance," expressed a strong interest in monitoring students’ “beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, values and ways of perceiving oneself” and to measure non-cognitive attributes such as their “psychological resources.”
USED goes on to suggest that researchers employ “functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and physiological indicators [that] offer insight into the biology and neuroscience underlying observed student behaviors.”
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