Tracking Your Child from Preschool into the Workforce in the Name of Improving Education
As the debate over the Common Core State Standards heats up both nationally and across the State of Wyoming, elected officials have cause to take notice. Parents, teachers, administrators and citizens are growing increasingly concerned about this nationally driven attempt at education reform. The local control we once enjoyed has been turned over. Interestingly, little attention has been given to the creation of a State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) that is now being built in Wyoming.
The State Longitudinal Data System is a direct result of Wyoming’s agreement to take State Fiscal Stabilization Funds under the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Wyoming agreed to build this data collecting behemoth when they took $57 million dollars from the federal government.
The purpose of the SLDS is to collect and store data on students that can be used to analyze education policy. This data will be collected on children beginning before kindergarten and continue for four years into the workforce. It makes sense that policy makers would want to know if the Common Core State Standards are really ensuring “college and career readiness”….especially when they’ve never been field tested in any U.S. classroom. So you may ask, why do we need to collect data on Wyoming public school students from Pre-K into the workforce? Answer: to document whether or not this experiment on our students actually works.
More concerning, is the fact that over 20 state agencies are now signing a contract (MOU) to begin sharing data. This is unprecedented and in fact was never before possible, due to FERPA law. This law was designed to protect private student information. However, the US Dept. of Education amended FERPA law in 2012, so that state agencies can now share data. Interestingly, the US Dept. of Education did this through a regulations change, not an act of Congress.
The obvious question then becomes; what state agencies will now be sharing this information? The answer is currently, more than 20. In fact, additional agencies can request to become a party to this data sharing agreement. Right now, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, Workforce Services and Health are only among a few who will now be able to view and share data on Wyoming public school students.
In the 2012 budget session, the Wyoming Legislature approved Enrolled Act 29. In that budget was an appropriation to fund the SLDS, but it was buried in section 326. The appropriation was for over $5 million. Data collection on Wyoming students is authorized by Wyoming statute W.S.21-2-204 section (h). This statute authorizes the collection & usage of student data for educational purposes. However, the scope of the SLDS far surpasses educational purposes. How does the ability of Wyoming Department of Health to access and view student data improve a child’s public school education? The inclusion of non-education and non-assessment data in this repository is beyond an overreach of government control- it’s an invasion of privacy.
All parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials ought to seek to understand the risks involved when collecting massive amounts of data on citizens. The benefits are arguable, but the ramifications are serious. Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on funding the SLDS, perhaps the state would do better to fund things that really help our students succeed.
For a document outlining the concerns with the SLDS, please visit: http://wyomingcitizensopposingcommoncore.com/concerns-slds/
Kelly Simone is a practicing Physician Assistant in Urgent Care Medicine. She is a Jackon Hole High School alumni. She has two daughters, ages 6 & 8, and they are THE REASON she has dedicated much of her time to researching data changes and education reform in Wyoming and our nation. Kelly and her husband have been married for almost 11 years, and currently reside in Cody, Wyoming.