“Noncognitive” Factors: Are they Fair Game for Data Collection and Instruction?

In February 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a draft of Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. To many who were aware of this report, it was alarming and controversial. In the summary of this report it says. “There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success.” It seems typical that when the U.S. Department of Education releases a report like this the groundwork has already been laid for implementation of the ideas, if they have not already been embedded into existing and newly proposed practice. (this report does not seem to be available on the ed.gov website anymore)

The Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA S227) would allow for the collection of data on “noncognitive” factors like those mentioned in the summary (see above). Karen Effrem has done a wonderful job of presenting issues and recommendations for SETRA in the brief she has prepared called Issues of Data Privacy, Parental Rights, and Federally Sponsored Psychological Screening in the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA)/Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) in the Context of Current Federal Law and Programs. Karen Effrem, M.D., is the president of Education Liberty Watch and Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition. She identifies and expands on four major issues and makes recommendations about them. The four major issues she addresses in this document are:

  1. SETRA seeks to expand federal psychological profiling of our children.
  2. SETRA only appears to prohibit a national database.
  3. There is continued reliance on a severely outdated and weakened FERPA.
  4. Reliance on PPRA that allows sensitive data prohibited in surveys to be collected in curriculum and assessments.

The Summary Response to the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee March Hearing “Strengthening Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students” is a brief summary that Karen has prepared.

A one page handout has been prepared for people to download and share. This one pager is a good initial attention getter that may be followed up with Karen Effrem’s brief.

You should be able to download a pdf copy of this one pager by clicking in the upper right hand corner of the document or by clicking here.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) intends to begin assessing “noncognitive” factors. To do so, they will collect data on socio-economic status, technology use, school climate, grit, and desire for learning. The NAEP is making a leap from gathering academic content knowledge data to gathering “noncognitive” data. In making this move to gather data on “mindsets” that could be used for psychological profiling, NAEP will likely be in violation of federal law. For more information about this, you are encouraged to read the letter RE: Proposed National Education Assessment Plan and student/parental rights that the Liberty Counsel has addressed to Dr. Karen Effrem.

There seems to be a whole industry involved in the collection, storage, and sharing of student data, including “noncognitive” factors. Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins have written an article called The War on Student Privacy that features some of the players in this industry.

The education system, legislative bodies, government agencies, and industry all seem to think and act as if they are entitled to student data, including student-level (personally identifiable information) and “noncognitive” factors. Are student data, including student-level (personally identifiable information) and “noncognitive” factors really fair game? Many parents would not think so.


APIA Blasts Congressional Leadership for Attempting to Ram Child Data Collection Bill Through Congress

Washington, D.C.–American Principles in Action is calling on Congress to oppose S.227, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA), which would violate the privacy of millions of students and parents.
SETRA is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday, February 25th in the U.S. House—even though the Senate has not yet voted on the bill. Congressional leadership intends to call a vote on the matter in both the House and the Senate this week, despite neither body holding a hearing on the bill.
“SETRA is dangerous legislation that would expand federal psychological profiling of children through expanding research on ‘social and emotional learning,’” said Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at American Principles in Action.  “It would facilitate sharing of education statistics across states and agencies. It would continue to rely on the now-gutted FERPA statute to protect student data. SETRA must be defeated to protect student privacy rights.”
Emmett McGroarty, Director of Education at American Principles in Action, said, “Leadership is betraying the Constitution and the American people by rushing this bill through. Having so blithely disrespected the American people, it is difficult to see how they will ever regain their trust.”
American Principles in Action’s concerns with SETRA are three-fold:
1.) SETRA reauthorizes ESRA, the Education Sciences Reform Act, first passed in 2002, which facilitates intrusive data collection on students. ESRA began the idea of state longitudinal databases, which created the structure that would facilitate a de facto national student database. ESRA also eliminated previous penalties for sharing and otherwise misusing student data.
2.) SETRA allows for psychological profiling of our children, raising serious privacy concerns. Section 132, page 28 of SETRA: “…and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively…”
This means the federal government will continue to promote collection of students’ psychological information. APIA does not support allowing the federal government to maintain psychological dossiers on our children.
3.) SETRA depends on FERPA to protect student privacy, legislation that is now outdated and has been gutted by regulation. FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed in 1974, and is no longer sufficient to protect student privacy in the age of technology. Even worse, the Obama Administration gutted FERPA so that it no longer offers the protections it once did.
American Principles In Action is a 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to preserving and propagating the fundamental principles on which our country was founded. It aims to return our nation to an understanding that governance via these timeless principles will strengthen us as a country.
For further information or to schedule an interview with Jane Robbins or Emmett McGroarty, please contact Kate Bryan at American Principles in Action at 202-503-2010 or kbryan@americanprinciplesproject.org.


Government’s Latest Personal Information Grab

When it comes to light that corporations such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft are collecting personal data, Americans rightly raise Cain. But who notices when government does the same thing?

The federal government is in the process of linking various databases of very personal information from a wide range of state and federal agencies. It wants to track individuals from kindergarten through death. It’s stated purposes include the ability to conduct more effective research and better evaluate education and workforce training programs. But dig a little deeper, and it’s clear that what’s at stake is whether government should be able to shape the lives and character of citizens.

The federal Department of Labor is funding states to develop comprehensive databases of citizens’ personal information. Labor offers an example of how the database system should track a Jane Doe. It will follow her as she drops out of school, accesses government programs, and accepts a job in another state. Along the way, says Labor, it should access educational, workforce, mental health, public assistance, and prisoner-reintegration records. It lists the state workforce councils – federally funded entities managed by select private interests – as key stakeholders in the project.

Labor is now awarding grants to twelve states to develop such tracking systems, called the Workforce Data Quality Initiative. This follows an earlier round of similar grants to thirteen other states. Labor’s stated purpose is to link its data operation with a massive data-collection effort underway at the Department of Education.

Education launched its database project in 2009. To receive money from the Stimulus bill, a state had to agree to construct massive databases of private student and family data, blandly called Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDs). All fifty states took the stimulus money, and promised to build the databases.

The Department of Education also claims that the data-sharing is only for purposes of research and evaluating programs. But it wants much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic scores (not that those are any of its business). It wants information on health history, religious affiliation, voter registration, extracurricular activities, assessments of mental and social well-being, and safety education. All told, it wants over 400 data categories collected. This is the data that Labor looks forward to accessing.

The implication of this Education-Labor joint venture is clear: To the federal government, the education system should be a training ground for employers. Under that view, government social service agencies and public-private partnerships become stakeholders in the education of children. It is a radical departure from principle that a child’s upbringing is the realm of parents and the parent-child relationship.

Beyond the ever-present danger of unauthorized use or negligent release of information, the federal government has arrogated a right to collect information and share it with other agencies and individuals without the consent of the individual. Where have the people, or of more importance, the individual, consented to government’s tracking their lives across states lines, from job to job, in sickness and in health?

The grave danger here is that government will use the data to conjure “studies” showing that particular behaviors and mindsets make poor students, poor employees, or poor citizens.  Sound far-fetched?  In the Florida legislature, a subcommittee recently approved a bill under which schools will grade parents on criteria set by the school board.  The “evaluation data” will become a part of the student’s permanent record and, under 2012 regulatory changes pushed through by the Obama Administration, could be shared with any government or private entity.

There’s a free-market problem as well. Government cannot anticipate the power of entrepreneurship and the creativity of the free market.  Attempts to use data to craft the workforce invariably favor the status quo. The state workforce boards, for instance, are federally funded but controlled by private-sector members who bring their own biases to the table.

Call it what you want. These efforts diminish liberty, and they build the structure for engineering society and the economy. They upend the idea that the people, not the state, are the ultimate sovereign. It is another giant step, along with Obamacare and the Common Core Standards, toward transforming government into a human resources manager along the lines of education reformer Marc Tucker’s 1992 proposal to Hillary Clinton.

In contrast to what private corporations face, why is there no public outrage on this? The answer, perhaps, is that the executive branch is so massive, and operates so secretly, that it is out of control. There is no effective check on its power. Maybe if people begin to realize what is happening, they will reassert their right to be treated as free-born citizens, not as lab rats in the grand government experiment.

Originally posted at American Principles Project

State broadens student tracking

State broadens student tracking

Besides tracking trends in the great mass of the state’s public school population, online capabilities allow parents to track their children throughout the year. A system called NC WISE allows parents with an online password to track the homework missing, credits earned, standardized test results and days absent. The service, which the Data Quality campaign says is now provided by only a handful of other states, is popular with parents and PTAs.

That service for tracking missing homework, credits, standardized test results, and days absent may be popular with parents and PTAs (even though no evidence is provided) but it does not mean those parents and PTAs are even aware that info is a part of a larger data system…   and that others are being given access to that data…  and would that be popular with parents and PTAs?


U.S. Education Department Announces New Measures to Safeguard Student Privacy

U.S. Education Department Announces New Measures to Safeguard Student Privacy
DECEMBER 1, 2011  ED.gov

The U.S. Department of Education today announced new regulations to safeguard student privacy while giving states the flexibility to share school data that can be helpful in judging the effectiveness of government investments in education.

“Data are a powerful tool needed to improve the state of education in this country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “At the same time, the benefits of using student data must always be balanced with the need to protect students’ privacy rights and ensure their information is protected.”

The regulations announced today will strengthen the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by protecting the safety of student information, increasing the Department’s ability to hold those who misuse or abuse student data accountable and ensuring our taxpayer funds are invested wisely and effectively.

In the past, uncertainty about where state sunshine laws left off and where FERPA picked up created confusion for institutions about when and with whom student information could and should be shared. Schools need the flexibility to pursue routine uses of information without getting prior consent while allowing them to prevent those who may misuse or abuse student information from accessing it. The regulations announced today allow schools to do just that.

The new regulations announced today will also help the Department of Education more effectively hold those who misuse or abuse student information accountable for violating FERPA. When FERPA was first conceived in the 1970s, it only applied to institutions with students in attendance—like high schools and colleges. Since then, a growing number of institutions and entities without students in attendance—like student lenders for example—have access to student records that should be protected by FERPA, but aren’t. Today’s announcement fixes that gap in student protection.

The changes announced today will also help policymakers determine if state and federally funded education programs are adequately preparing children for success in the next stage of life, whether that is in kindergarten or the workforce. States will be able to determine which early childhood programs prepare kids for kindergarten. High school administrators will now be able to tell how their graduates did in college. And states will be able to enter into research agreements on behalf of their districts to determine how best to use limited education funding during tough economic times.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of several efforts undertaken by the Obama Administration to ensure that private student data is protected. These include the appointment of Kathleen Styles as the Department’s Chief Privacy Officer, the establishment of a Privacy Technical Assistance Center, and the publication of guidance documents on best practices for protecting confidential information about students.

The full regulation may be found at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

Calif. Forgoes Data Grant, Jeopardizes Other Stimulus Funds

Calif. Forgoes Data Grant, Jeopardizes Other Stimulus Funds
Michele McNeil on August 9, 2011  Education Week

When California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed spending $2.1 million in federal funds to help build a longitudinal data system for teacher information, he might have done more than just jeopardize that particular grant.

By giving up federal funding to implement this data system, California seems to be willfully flouting the rules governing the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

This may be one of the Education Department’s first major tests of holding states accountable for stimulus spending.

Another Call to Action. Register Your Written Opposition to Common Core Standards.

Another Call to Action. Register Your Written Opposition to Common Core Standards.

I received the attached email today asking for comments on the second draft of common core standards. These comments will be gathered until August 15 and are directed to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) which compiles data information on your child. This email is from the Common Education Data Standards Initiative which promotes the implementation of common core standards, and receives support from pro-common core organizations, such as the Melissa and Bill Gates Foundation and the Department of Education.

The email states: It is the Initiative’s hope that the standards will garner wide acceptance and voluntary adoption across all sectors of the education community to increase the ability to share and compare data consistently, allow more informed decision-making at all levels, and promote better educational outcomes for all students through early childhood, K12, postsecondary completion, and the workforce.

Remember, the common core standard initiative will allow intrusive personal data to be gathered on families and students when and if the FERPA regulations are amended. It truly is a cradle to grave program facilitated by the Federal Government. Make your opinion known the role of government is NOT to track citizens. We are against common core standards and would hope you would make your comments against the takeover of state education rights and unfunded mandates. You can read about Common Core standards at this non partisan site devoted to standards issues, Race to the Top mandates and longitudinal data system information:


“Truth in American Education” was started by educational advocates across the country who are not lobbyists for common core standards and have no financial interest in their implementation. This information will give you the FACTS about these standards which are unproven, costly, and unconstitutional.

You may also find an anti-common core manifesto signed by educational advocates and citizens here. We would urge you to add your name to this manifesto to show your support for stopping this nationalization of education.

Here is YOUR chance as a taxpayer, student and/or parent to comment on the implementation of common core standards. YOU are the one paying for educational services, YOU are THE MOST important stakeholder. This invitation should be shared in all school districts to ALL taxpayers. Let your opinion be recorded. After all, it’s your money and your child. YOU should have some decision making power in how your tax dollars are being spent.


Common Education Data Standards Public
Comment Period Begins Today

The Common Education Data Standards Initiative announced today the release of Draft One of the Version 2 Common Education Data Standards (CEDS). Everyone is encouraged to review this draft of the standards and make comments – the draft can be found here.

CEDS supports the development of a common vocabulary. It is a collection of definitions and formats for the most commonly used education data elements. CEDS does not dictate how individual data systems collect, store, and report data. It is the Initiative’s hope that the standards will garner wide acceptance and voluntary adoption across all sectors of the education community to increase the ability to share and compare data consistently, allow more informed decision-making at all levels, and promote better educational outcomes for all students through early childhood, K12, postsecondary completion, and the workforce.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is leading the development of CEDS with the guidance, input and participation of a broad range of education stakeholders. Version 1 of CEDS was released in September 2010. The first draft of Version 2, released today, includes additional elements of interest to both K12 and postsecondary stakeholders. The second draft of Version 2 is scheduled to be released for public comment in the fall of 2011 and will include: additions to the K12 and postsecondary elements seen in the first draft; early learning data elements; assessment elements; and changes to the first draft based on this public comment period.


  • Follow up with your staff to be sure they comment on the standards. We have shared this information with your staff – please be sure they go here to review and comment on CEDS. NCES is logging and reviewing every comment made so your voice will be heard. In order for comments to be considered prior to the release of draft 2 of Version 2, they must be submitted by August 15, 2011.
  • Review and improve the policy landscape for CEDS. Are there policies or other barriers that will affect the implementation of CEDS in your state? What opportunities for collaboration are available with your colleagues and other stakeholders to improve the political environment for adoption and implementation of CEDS? Please let us hear from you.
  • Keep up with CEDS’ progress. Stay informed about all of the work of the CEDS Initiative by frequently visiting our website.

The CEDS Initiative is made up of stakeholders from all levels and sectors of education in a collaborative effort to develop the Common Education Data Standards. The initiative consists of a two-pronged approach:

  • The CEDS Consortium, facilitated by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the State Higher Education School Officers (SHEEO), participates in the development of the standards and is responsible for their advocacy, communications, adoption and implementation. The Consortium is comprised of representatives from CCSSO, SHEEO, Data Quality Campaign (DQC), Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA), Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education (ex officio).
  • The CEDS Stakeholder Group is coordinated by NCES and is responsible for prioritizing the scope of the CEDS based on community feedback, reviewing existing data definitions and standards, publishing draft CEDS elements for comment, incorporating comments and finalizing each version.

Originally posted by STLGRETCHEN at the Missouri Education Watchdog.  It is re-posted here with permission.