​What Data Is Your Child’s School-Issued Google Drive Account Collecting?

Springfield Public Schools, the school district for the third largest city in Missouri, are at the center of a frightening breach of data privacy.  Any student or staff member with a district-issued Google Drive account could have personal data compromised.

Cheri Kiesecker at Missouri Education Watchdog reported earlier this month:

What is reportedly happening with Springfield Missouri Public School’s use of Google Drive offers a rare glimpse into Google’s potential to collect data.  School-issued student Google accounts connect to Google Drive which can allow for the ability to Auto-Sync devices to Auto-Save passwords, browsing history and other digital data points from numerous devices used by a single user. For students in SPS this could include digital data from non-school related accounts. 

Fox 5 KRBK originally broke the story reported on what one family, the Elys, found:

Springfield residents Norman and Diane Ely went before the school board earlier this year and asked that the district check into safety concerns regarding private information that was being stored on SPS’s Google Drive. They claimed that since that meeting, nothing has changed.
Tuesday, the Ely’s addressed the board again with more alarming discoveries.

The Elys claim that the SPS Google Drive, given to all SPS employees and students, automatically begins to store information from any device the drive is accessed on. This includes browser history, but also personal information such as files and passwords. They add that even if you log out of the drive, it stays running and recording in the background.
After bringing their concerns forward this past May, they say that despite the evidence presented, no serious action has been taken on behalf of the district.

“They have a lot of evidence and have had it since December, and we have not heard one word from any of them, said Dianne Ely.

With more searching, the Elys have now found even more sensitive information that’s been stored to their daughter’s Google Drive, including 139 passwords to both her and her husband’s different accounts and also voice recordings of both her and her children. 

“My voice to text was being stored as well as any search my kids did, and I could say ‘sure my daughter was searching on Google,’ but my phone uses Safari. When I used my texting app on my iPhone, it recorded my voice, as well as typing out the words and saving it on my Google Drive,” said Brette Hay, the Ely’s daughter and a teacher at Pershing Middle School.

Cheri raised a pertinent question: “Why is Auto-Syncing of devices and Auto-Saving of passwords allowed on any school-issued Google account?”

It shouldn’t be allowed. Cheri notes this breach represents potential problems of several federal laws including Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. Read Cheri’s piece as she addresses different questions related to each law.

There’s more to this story at PogoWasRight.org, a privacy news website,  they reported what is even scarier than the data collection, but the accessibility of that data.

To their horror, Henderson and Hay (school district employees) could see what they estimate as the school and personal account credentials of more than 25,000 students and employees in the district. The credentials could be viewed in plaintext and made accessible to anyone with a SPS google account.

So this information was being collected without their consent, but it was accessible by others with district-issued Google Drive accounts and one employee was dealing with identity theft as a result.

The data collection wasn’t limited to school-owned devices, but parents’ personal and work devices as well if they logged into their student’s Google Drive account.

Parents if your student has a school-issued Google Drive account you need to start asking questions. Here are three pertinent ones to ask:

  • Can the school district disable Google Auto-Sync and Auto-Save? 
  • Did the school district inform parents and students about the types of data collected by Google Drive?
  • Who in the school district, as well as, Google can access that information?

I would also encourage parents and students to only log into a district-issued Google Drive account on a school-owned device and only allow your student to do schoolwork on it. At least maintain this practice until your school district can explain to you exactly what data is being collected, who has access to it, and how they are protecting it.

Fireworks in Missouri Over Common Core

MissouriStateFlag1The St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday wrote an op/ed that said Republicans continue to peddle a Common Core lie.  They write:

Some Missouri Republicans are playing their constituents for chumps. As soon as certain national Republican political consultants decided that calling Common Core a federal plot by President Barack Obama to take over schools (it is not) was a political winner, they began a national campaign to defeat the raised standards that states around the nation had worked to develop. Republican governors (especially those running for president, like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Chris Christie in New Jersey) reneged on their support of Common Core. Money from wealthy donors started flowing into campaign coffers of those who would stand up and oppose the alleged scourge of Common Core.

Anne Gassel with the Missouri Against Common Core Coalition told Truth in American Education that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made one glaring omission.  “Gretchen Logue and I were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that declared SBAC an illegal interstate compact which is what the legislature was responding to with next year’s budget, so we were particularly irritated by the Post’s omission of that critical detail,” Gassel said.

Gassel said that the editorial was so full of lies and half-truths that they felt compelled to respond.  “Oddly, they simultaneously accuse the Republicans of working to keep Common Core (our state board president they call a conservative Republican and show that he wants to retain Common Core), and blame them for creating the opposition to Common Core. By their metrics, the Republicans can’t win,” Gassel added.

You can read their longer response at Missouri Education Watchdog and their shorter rebuttal below.

In “Republicans continue to peddle the Common Core lie” the editorial board lamented that Missouri took two steps back in education policy. The piece was such a work of fiction, it barely qualified for the opinion page.

We’d like to set the record straight about “the Common Core lie” and ask questions of clarification.

Fiction: Missouri legislators (especially, Kurt Bahr) are playing their constituents for chumps because HB 1490 did not eliminate common core. Fact: Governor Nixon would not to sign a bill with language explicitly eliminating common core. HB 1490 instructs work groups constituted in 2014 to “develop” academic learning standards, not rubber stamp copyrighted ones. Representative Bahr sent a written communication to the work groups stating that the intent of the bill is for Missouri to have standards in public domain.  According to the editorial, “Those standards are likely to mimic Common Core. And even if they don’t, the Board can (and will) dismiss them.” Question: Is the Post suggesting that the State Board of Education intends to defraud the public, by rejecting the work submitted by the work groups a priori.

Fiction: the Republicans, responding to wealthy campaign donors, are off loading common core as an Obama initiative. Fact: several Republican presidential candidates and governors have been stalwart in their support of common core, even in the face of increasing public rejection of the standards. Question: Is the board making a back-handed endorsement of Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee who support the common core standards? Why did the board finger wealthy campaign donors for messing with education policy and, not mention funding from wealthy private (Gates) and corporate (Pearson) underwriters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Is the Post suggesting that the 1% is only philanthropic in giving?

Fiction: legislative meddling caused a succession of tests that inhibits comparison of scores.

Fact: In February, Cole County Federal Judge Daniel Green, ruled that the SBAC Consortia is an unlawful interstate compact and prohibited payment of SBAC membership fees.  Further, SBAC failed to meet the terms of its existing contract, putting superintendents around the state in a very difficult position of trying to provide adequate preparation for the full summative tests this spring. Question: is the board suggesting that the legislature ignore the ruling or violation of contract?

Fiction: the SBAC assessment was “adequate.” Fact: To date, no published data are available to support statements that the SBAC is technically “adequate.” No validity, no reliability, no legal defensibility of decisions based on test scores. Question: How did the board determine SBAC was more adequate than an assessment DESE could develop?

It would have been gross dereliction of duty for the legislature to fund SBAC membership fees or tests or leave Missouri vulnerable to an indefensible assessment plan. How is protecting the public and following the law taking two steps back in education policy, and who is really telling the common core lie?


Missouri Judge Places Restraining Order on Smarter Balanced Payments

Missouri Education Watchdog reports that a Missouri Circuit Court judge has temporarily blocked payments from the state to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green on November 25 that the lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Fred N. Sauer, Anne Gassel, and Gretchen Logue against Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had a chance of success.  The plaintiffs, suing on behalf of Missouri taxpayers, said that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an unconstitutional interstate compact that Congress never authorized which they say is in violation of the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Smarter Balanced is one of two (the other being PARCC) interstate consortia that were drafting assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  It was largely funded through the U.S. Department of Education through stimulus money.

Judge Green found that “Plaintiffs have made a preliminary showing of likelihood of success on the merits on their claim that the Consortium is an unconstitutional interstate compact to which Congress has never consented, in violation of the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Green also found that the Plaintiffs showed that they would be irreparably harmed if the State were to disburse membership fees to an unconstitutional entity.  His order temporarily blocks the state of Missouri from paying over $1 million in membership fees to the consortium pursuant to a recent invoice.

The Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution states that “No State shall, without the consent of Congress … enter into any Agreement or Compact with any other State.”  In their lawsuit, Sauer, Gassel, and Logue contend that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is just the sort of interstate agreement that must be authorized by the U.S. Congress under this Clause.  The lawsuit contends that the consortium threatens the authority of the U.S. Congress because the federal Department of Education’s action in creating the consortium contravene Congressional prohibitions on the creation of a national curriculum.  The lawsuit also contends that the consortium threatens the freedom and authority of non-member states by attempting to create a de facto education “cartel” aligned with Common Core.

You can see a copy of the temporary restraining order here.  To read more about the legal arguments against the Common Core State Standards in general, and these assessment consortia specifically check out a white paper American Principles Project co-sponsored with Pioneer Institute, Pacific Research Institute and The Federalist Society entitled The Road to a National Curriculum written by Kent Talbert and Robert Eitel.

Cross-posted from American Principle Project’s blog.

Feds Bypass States to Get Local Districts to Sign “Future Ready District Pledge”

1024px-US-DeptOfEducation-SealMissouri Education Watchdog first reported today that the U.S. Department of Education has sent out a letter to Superintendents of local school districts explaining their “future ready district pledge.”

You can find the letter here and I also have the text below:

Dear Superintendent,

As one of more than 16,000 superintendents leading school districts across the nation, you are on the forefront of the transformation of public education. Technology now allows for personalized digital learning for every student in the nation so long as leaders have the technological infrastructure and human capacity in place to ensure success.

The Future Ready District Pledge is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve that success and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship. The U.S. Department of Education seeks to encourage and support superintendents who commit to taking a leadership role in this transition with recognition and resources to help facilitate this transition to digital learning.

In June of 2013, the President launched the ConnectED Initiative to provide 99% of students in the nation with access to high-speed Internet connectivity at the classroom level. Coupled with two billion dollars from the federal E-Rate program, increased flexibility in the use of federal funds, and billions of dollars in additional commitments from the private sector, progress towards improving the nation’s physical infrastructure has already been dramatically accelerated.

However, in order for these resources to leverage their maximum impact on student learning, schools and districts must develop the human capacity, digital materials, and device access to use the new bandwidth wisely and effectively. The Future Ready District Pledge establishes a framework for achieving those goals and will be followed by providing district leaders with additional implementation guidance, online resources, and other support they need to transition to effective digital learning and achieve tangible outcomes for the students they serve.

The U.S. Department of Education is calling on superintendents like you who lead district, charter, and private schools to join us in taking the Future Ready District Pledge and working to develop, implement, and share your technology plan with other districts so they can learn from your successes and challenges along the way.

Thank you for all you are already doing to improve the education for our nation’s students. Do not hesitate to reach out to us for support. We stand ready to help you become a Future Ready district.

Richard Culatta
Director, Office of Educational Technology
Office of the Secretary

Seth Andrew
Senior Advisor & Superintendent in Residence
Office of the Secretary

Here is the text of their pledge:

Future Ready District Pledge

I, _______________________, Superintendent of _________________________ do hereby affirm the commitment of this district to work with students, educators, families, and members of our community to become Future Ready by engaging in a wide range of activities such as:

Fostering and Leading a Culture of Digital Learning Within Our Schools.
Future Ready district leadership teams work collaboratively to transform teaching and learning using the power of technology to help drive continuous improvement. We work together to protect student privacy and to teach students to become responsible, engaged, and contributing digital citizens.
Helping Schools and Families Transition to High-speed Connectivity.
Future Ready districts conduct comprehensive diagnostic assessments of the district’s technology infrastructure and develop a sustainable plan to ensure broadband classroom connectivity and wireless access. Future Ready districts work with community partners to leverage local, state, and federal resources to support home Internet access outside of traditional school hours.
Empowering Educators through Professional Learning Opportunities.
Future Ready districts strive to provide everyone with access to personalized learning opportunities and instructional experts that give teachers and leaders the individual support they need, when they need it. Future Ready districts provide tools to help teachers effectively leverage learning data to make better instructional decisions.
Accelerating Progress Toward Universal Access for All Students to Quality Devices.
Future Ready districts work with necessary stakeholders to ensure that all students and educators across the district have regular access to devices for learning. Future Ready districts develop tools to support a robust infrastructure for managing and optimizing safe and effective use of technology, so students have opportunities to be active learners, creating and sharing content, not just consuming it.
Providing Access to Quality Digital Content.
Future Ready districts align, curate, create, and consistently improve digital materials and apps used in the support of learning. Future Ready districts use carefully selected high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards as an essential part of daily teaching and learning. Teachers are able to share, discover, and adapt openly-licensed materials and teaching plans.
Offering Digital Tools to Help Students And Families #ReachHigher.
Future Ready districts make digital resources available that help access expanded college, career, and citizenship opportunities. Future Ready districts promote ways to leverage technology to expand equity through digital activities such as completion of the FAFSA online, virtual counseling services, college scholarship search tools, and online advising access, all of which help to return America to the nation in the world with the highest college completion rate by 2020.
Mentoring Other Districts and Helping Them Transition to Digital Learning.
Future Ready districts work to design, implement, and share their technology plans. Future Ready districts join regional summits, participate in an online Connected Superintendents’ community of practice, and publish their Future Ready technology plan at a site such as www.MyDistrict.org/FutureReady.

There are numerous problems with this pledge which Anne Gassel highlights at MEW, but the most troubling aspect to this is the trend of the U.S. Department of Education bypassing states.  They have done it with the District Level Race to the Top program and other federal grants, with the Principal and Teacher Ambassador program, and now this.

Just a reminder… there is no constitutional role in education for the federal government.

Missouri Governor Signs Bill to Review and Replace Common Core

MissouriStateFlag1Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog reported late yesterday afternoon that Governor Jay Nixon signed HB 1490 into law.  He had until August 28th to sign the bill or veto the bill.  He could have also let the bill go into effect without his signature.  The bill will keep the Common Core State Standards in place while educators and parents  give recommendations on how the standards can be improved.

The Missouri Coalition Against Common Core said in a released statement, “The Coalition expresses its appreciation to Governor Nixon and the Missouri Legislature for this first step to enable Missourians to direct and develop education for Missouri students.  We believe this is an important step forward that applies the appropriate caution when implementing a new and untried system to protect our teachers, districts and students from consequences that are not supported by valid data.

“We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature in the next session to further educational excellence for Missouri students.”

After the bill was first passed, MCACC said that this was not the ideal bill, but it was a start.

“We would have liked the language to be a lot stronger in terms of rejecting the Common Core State Standards. We will have to rely on the professional integrity of those selected to be on the various work groups to really focus on what is best for our students and teachers and not be swayed by outside political or financial interests,” said Anne Gassel a co-founder of MCACC in a statement released after the Missouri Legislature passed the bill.

In a nutshell this bill…

  • Mandates the state board by October 1, 2014 to convene work groups comprised of educational professionals who will develop and recommend academic standards by October 1, 2015.
  • The law also specifies (see bill text below) the types of individuals who will be appointed to those work groups (section 160.514).
  • The law requires three public hearings to be held (also in section 160.514).
  • The state board of education shall adopt and implement academic performance standards beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.  The board will then have to develop a statewide assessment system that is aligned to those standards.
  • The law states that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall pilot the Smarter Balanced Assessment during the 2014-2015 school year.  What happens during the 2015-2016 school year is unclear.

The law also reiterates local control exists… “Local school districts and charter schools may adopt their own education standards, in addition to those already adopted by the state, provided the additional standards are in the public domain and do not conflict with the standards adopted by the state board of education.”

With curriculum… “the state board of education and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not be authorized to mandate and are expressly prohibited from mandating the curriculum, textbooks, or other instructional materials to be used in public schools.”

Also in regards to appendix B, etc. of the Common Core State Standards, “The state board of education and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not require districts to use any appendix to the common core state standards.”

In regards to a school’s performance with assessments, “The state board of education shall suggest, but not mandate, criteria for a school to demonstrate that its students learn the knowledge, skills and competencies at exemplary levels worthy of imitation by students in other schools in the state and nation.”

You can read the entire bill (now law) below:

Missouri HB 1490 (Final)

Anne Gassel’s Common Core Action List

This weekend I spoke this weekend at an event called “Exposing the Common Core” in Collinsville, IL (outside of St. Louis, MO).  Anne Gassel, the co-editor of Missouri Education Watchdog, also spoke.  I gave an overview of the Common Core and problems I had with it.  She presented an action list which I really liked and learned from.  With her permission I’m publishing it below.

  1. Join forces with other like minded people and spread the word as far as you can throughout the state. Most people don’t know about common core, where it came from, what its purpose is and where public education is heading. You will need large visible groups to get your point across that you are not the fringe. You are the average informed person.
  2. Recognize that what is going on in education, while new, has also been creeping in for a long time. We have unconsciously assigned our responsibility as parents to teach our children to publicly paid employees. We assumed they were doing a good job and had our children’s best interest at heart. Getting rid of common core will not address many of the problems with public education. This is a long mission. We must be more vigilant of what is happening in our schools and not be afraid to speak up against the little things, because those are often just the first steps towards a radically different public education.
  3. Get to know all the other parents in your child’s classroom. If you ever need to go to the administration with a problem, groups of parents will make it harder for the administration to ignore or marginalize you. Show them you are ALL watching what they do and you will make your concerns known.
  4. Identify people who can do research. Research critical dates for your state. Find copies of MOU’s signed by your officials and DOWNLOAD THEM before they disappear. READ YOUR STATE STATUTES REGARDING EDUCATION. Find our what local district’s rights are. Find out what kind of authority your state department of education has. What responsibility do they have to your legislature? Where are the checks and balances in your system? When you fight this you will need to use the law and their words against them. These will be your strongest weapons!
  5. Demand documentation for every claim proponents make. The entire education industry claims they want to make decisions based on data, so let’s agree with them. Make them share their data before you share your tax dollars.
  6. Make it easy to share your findings. Don’t make others recreate the wheel. There simply isn’t time.
  7. Keep your eye on the final goal. Don’t get caught up in power struggles, ownership, pride or the need to be seen as THE expert. Always ask if what you are doing will lead to your final goal and can many people benefit from your work.
  8. Be clear on where the right pressure points are. Don’t hound your local district for things they must do because state statute says they have to. Go to your legislature for those things. Don’t waste your time badgering your teachers about CC. They are the most impotent in all of this. Do network with teachers who also oppose CC. They can give you great insight into what is happening in the schools and where they are experiencing problems.
  9. READ WHAT YOUR KIDS MUST READ FOR SCHOOL (textbooks, worksheets etc.) . CC is just a set of standards and doesn’t have a ton of specific ideology in it. What it does, however, is allow textbook and curriculum suppliers to market products with a lot of ideology under the guise of being “aligned to CC.” The proponents of CC will tell you YOU still have control of curriculum so assert that control any time you see materials that you think are unacceptable. CC is not solely responsible for this liberal moral relativity stuff. It has been creeping in for many years, but we have remained mostly silent. In their minds, silence equals agreement. Don’t be silent.
  10. Write letters to the editor. Keep your position in front of the public. They are trying to marginalize you. Show them that there are a lot of you who think the same way about national standards and data collection on students.
  11. GET ON YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD or work to get someone you trust on there. The right candidate has time to do research on things presented by the district, is not afraid to question the status quo or demand that the voice of the public be heard. The school board must correct the role of the superintendent. He/she answers to them, not the other way around. Get the board to sign the resolution against common core.

Missouri Common Core Transparency Bill Passes Out of Committee

missouri-state-capitol-riverThe Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee passed SB 210 out of committee on a 17-0 vote yesterday after a 2 hour-long public hearing which included 900 written witness statements by those who supported the bill and testimony by the Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro who I was told didn’t really address the content of the bill.

SB 210 requires the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to hold public hearings on the Common Core State Standards in every congressional district.  Prior to the first public hearings the department will be required to conduct and post a fiscal analysis of the Common Core State Standards cost on the state and local school districts.  They are also required to compile a report of what data will be collected and what entities will receive that information.

The bill also requires public notifications of the meetings, fiscal study and report on data collect by DESE and local school districts so parents can attend and have access to that information.  All hearings are to be conducted by December 31, 2013.  DESE is then to compile a report to be issued to the President Pro Tempore of the Missouri Senate, Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives and the joint committee on education that summarizes public testimony on the Common Core State Standards.  This is due by January 31, 2014.

This bill is informational only so a repeal bill will still be needed.  Talking to Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog I was informed that the bill is expected to pass out of the House Rules Committee (all bills go through this committee prior to a floor vote).  She said it may go to the floor for a vote as early as today.  If it passes, and she thinks that it will… it needs to sit for 24 hours before it can go back to the Senate.  The Senate needs to revote on it since accreditation language unrelated to the Common Core was taken out of the bill.  Logue expects that it will pass out of the Senate once again.  It is likely that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will not sign the bill, but after a period of time due to a veto-proof majority the bill will become law.

Anyway, it’s looking very, very good.

Photo Credit: Donald Hilt, Jefferson City