Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Feds Build Databases on Americans

The U.S. Department of Education in the Obama Administration is moving rapidly to collect all kinds of personal information on public school students and enter it on a government computer database in order to track students from pre-school through their entry into the workforce. One of the four reform mandates of what President Obama calls the Race to the Top competition is to establish data systems from pre-kindergarten to college-and-career that "track progress and foster continuous improvement."

Department of Education officials believe that collecting personally identifiable data, in which individual students are clearly identifiable, is necessary to enable policymakers and educators to evaluate student and teacher performance and improve schools. They assert that this massive collection of data enables educators to predict which students are in danger of dropping out, determine which are better teachers and better curricula, and track trends in academic progress by ethnicity and income level.

The advocates of this data collection seem to have little or no concern about privacy protection. 80% percent of states do not have a system to delete student records, and therefore are likely to maintain them indefinitely. This massive data collection of private information is supported by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization founded with money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which explicitly supports linking education data with "workforce, social services and other critical state agency data systems."

It's difficult for states to link K-12 and postsecondary data if schools are prohibited from storing students' Social Security numbers. However, the majority of states already record each child's SSN. Storing all this personal data on government computers doesn't sound like the American way.

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