USPIE: Merger Will Compound Harmful Federal Education Mandates

Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss and President Donald Trump at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, FL

Last week, U.S. Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) released a statement critical of the Trump Administration’s proposed merger of the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor to create the U.S. Department of Education and the Workforce. 

Read the statement below:

USPIE opposes all efforts to convert American education into a workforce development system and opposes enabling massive data collection of citizens, especially children, facilitated and coordinated by the Federal government. USPIE believes the effort to make this dramatic conversion through government schools is misunderstood by most Americans and nearly all elected officials.

The mission of USPIE is to close the US Department of Education (USED) and end all Federal education mandates. The merger proposed by President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to combine the Federal Education and Labor Departments directly contradicts USPIE’s primary goal.

USPIE recognizes the intended goals of the merger — smaller government, streamlining, and saving taxpayers’ money — are all positive efforts. However, USPIE cannot support the merger because it moves the ball in the wrong direction for ending workforce development-based education and the collection of data from children. In fact, the proposed streamlining could make these troubling Federal education mandates more entrenched, more powerful and more destructive. Despite departmental staffing and cost reduction efforts, USED continues to usurp local and parental control in the heavy-handed oversight of ESSA State Plans, and by over-ruling State laws protecting parental rights. Likewise, State ESSA Plans impose Common Core-aligned standards and tests on all schools without local school board approval.

The Executive Order initiating the OMB Reform Plan, which recommends the merger, says the plan; “shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and merge functions;” and
“shall consider… whether some or all the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the Federal Government or would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise…” 

USPIE firmly believes education is best left to States, local communities and parents. 

OMB utterly neglected the opportunity provided by the Executive Order to at least begin this process.

Moreover, the OMB Reform Plan itself says:
               “It is no longer appropriate to avoid having foundational discussions about services that might be better served by direct State, local, or even private-sector stewardship.” 

USPIE welcomes the opportunity presented by the merger proposal to engage elected officials and the American public in a discussion about workforce development education and massive data collection of children mandated by the Federal government through both USED and the Department of Labor. 

If the goal of President Trump’s merger is to save tax payers money, and if President Trump is still interested in ending Common Core and returning control of education to parents and communities, following the USPIE Blueprint to close the Department of Education is a much better plan and one that has the support of many American parents who want to make American education great again!

Is American Government Rejecting Capitalism & Embracing a Managed Economy?

While skilled workers are needed to build new infrastructure and for our expanding economy after the tax cuts, the reauthorization of the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006 tries to accomplish those goals via the wrong method – replacing capitalism with central planning. The new bill, called The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, HR 2353, just passed Congress on voice votes and signed yesterday.

The increasingly centralized federal education and workforce system, of which Perkins is a part, is multifaceted: the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the proposed merger of the Departments of Labor and Education, Common Core for use with digital badges,  computerized  “personalized” learning (PL)/competency-based education (CBE), and older laws like No Child Left Behind, Goals 2000, and School to Work. 

This longstanding, unconstitutional federal interference in education and labor markets, picking winners and losers, has not improved and will not improve academic or economic outcomes. Even worse, Perkins is the latest example of racing away from capitalism to embrace principles of government/corporate control found in European social democracies and failed command-and-control economies littering the 20th century.

The Perkins reauthorization contains multiple passages embracing central economic planning. The bill requires the use of “State, regional, or local labor market data to determine alignment of eligible recipients’ programs of study to the needs of the State, regional, or local economy, including in-demand industry sectors and occupations identified by the State board, and to align career and technical education with such needs… What happened to individual students and free markets making those decisions? 

The “State board” refers to government-appointed bureaucrats, including corporate bigwigs, on state workforce boards set up under the Workforce Investment Act (predecessor to WIOA) signed by President Clinton. This scheme elevates the needs of business over student desires, while playing Carnac to predict economic trends. 

These boards were essential to Marc Tucker’s plan to centralize the entire U.S. education and workforce system, outlined in his now infamous 1992 letter to the Clintons. It was and remains Tucker’s plan to “to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum, including “national standards” and “job matching,” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

In 2001, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and policy analyst Michael Chapman described key components of Tucker’s system implemented via three federal laws signed by Clinton, including:

  • Public/private [unaccountable] non-profits provide design, policy, and seed money as a catalyst for systemic change.
  • The Federal Department of Labor chooses which private industry sectors are promoted in each state. 
  • K-12 and state colleges dump academics for job training in local “targeted” industries. 

They used the following diagram to illustrate the system, which served as the foundation leading to the various other programs listed above. These others could then be added on appropriate sides of this triangle:

Billionaire busybodies like Bill Gates adopted the Tucker/Clinton vision, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs like Smaller Learning Communities that required students to choose career paths in eighth grade, Common Core, and other education/workforce/data mining debacles. 

In Tucker’s recent letter to Secretary of Education DeVos praising Europe’s managed education-workforce systems, he continues the theme of government/business control of CTE, believing “business and labor” should “own it, period.” He giddily describes the Swiss system, in which business and labor “set the standards” for various system components, “define the progressions,” and “even examine the candidates seeking credentials.” 

This idea of corporations examining candidates underlies Tucker’s 1992 desire for national standards that became Common Core. The Common Core standards are used as data tags to hold everyone accountable to the government system, including expansion of social-emotional learning.  This concept also inspired Big Data’s push for constant assessment, data mining, and psychological profiling in PL/CBE, including use of Facebook-style student personality profiling being pushed globally. 

Perkins contains numerous references to CBE, data collection, and the manipulative Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (a system of universal student behavioral screening and potential psychological modification). All this can ultimately feed into subjective, murky algorithms that will channel children into government/corporate-desired societal roles. 

Yet – as history shows — government is utterly incapable of predicting economic trends and workforce needs. Five-year plans have failed spectacularly. Even Tucker, when recently discussing CTE, admitted his scheme’s great danger is to “condemn a large fraction of our youth to narrowly conceived training programs at the very time that advances in artificial intelligence and related disciplines are on the verge of wiping out entire industries…” 

Although Tucker and colleagues tout European education-workforce systems, none have produced or will produce American levels of freedom and prosperity. Will America choose the Tucker/Gates/Clinton failed methods that view “human value only in terms of productive capability” or our children as “products” (per Rex Tillerson)? Or will we return to promoting, as framed by C.S. Lewis, education over training so that American civilization continues to produce the freedom, prosperity and generosity that have made it the greatest civilization in human history?

The Public/Private Takeover of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

The proposed merger of U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor will hurt our kids, and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants parents to concede to the public/private takeover in education. Unfortunately, we are well on our way. Facts are facts, and regardless of what state you live in, initiatives for Public/Private takeover are common and homogenized for all states.  Let’s take my state of Minnesota for example.   

Standardized testing requirements and opt-out:  In May of 2017, the Minnesota Business Partnership pressured our Minnesota Senators to financially incentivize school districts, so that schools would earn more money when students tested at a higher percentage beyond the Federal 95% participation requirement.  During the hearing, it was postulated that Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA’s)/Pearson participation would soar to near 100% as others noted the outcome would remove parental voice and rights to opt out their children out of the federal-corporate corruption.   

Additionally, our legislature gave away the parental authority of writing a parental opt-out letter to the MDE, who was tasked with writing a “Commissioner’s Opt-Out Letter.”  Thanks to early ESSA documents Minnesota jumped into line with labeling opt-out kids as “non-proficient”.

Ultimately that changed, but only after intense testimony and parents taking a stand.  Later, it was discovered the MDE didn’t update their commissioner opt-out form so that schools and parents could understand the new law, creating mixed messages for parents and the public on the latest MDE changes.  

Local control has taken on an entirely new meaning, as reports came in that school boards bullied parents into believing they had no right to opt their child out of standardized testing without themselves going through a senseless barrage of red tape paperwork.  

Data collection:  In Minnesota, our state statute governing education and technology dates back to 1980, with relatively few updates since according to Minnesota legislator Eric Lucero who chief authored several data protection bills.  Yet, even after five years of pounding the pavement at the grassroots level, legislators can’t seem to get a bill passed due to the collusion of businesses and big industry involvement in our education system as seen this past legislative session.  

That’s not to say businesses and business leaders are “bad.”  That’s not to say that learning a trade is “bad.”  What is in serious question is the level of comingling of both government and business affairs in education as young as preschool, hence the further invasion of unethical data collection on children as young as three.  Why?  So they can cram a child into yet another cookie cutter mold to fit a corporate model.  How’s that for innovation?

World’s Best Workforce:  This is our own Minnesota duplicate of Federal education laws:  Goals 2000, School-to-Work, No Child Left Behind and lastly, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and business organizations and foundations (aka Chamber of Commerce) which was pushed on our schools which before it was fashionable to the degree we see today.   

U.S. Congress:  One of the saddest moments in education regarding the recent, and incredible, “happy bi-partisanship” under the Obama administration was through the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Not only did Congress codify Common Core in ESSA, but this version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allowed furthering the highly controversial and manipulative Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  SEL is nothing more than glorified psychological profiling, making teacher’s unlicensed social psychologists when they actually should be teaching, as well as replacing logic with emotion when approaching subjects and problem-solving.  

FEPA, FERPA, and SELDS:  Did you ever in your life wonder how our government can keep up with their own acronym creations?  We have legislators running education roundtables that don’t even know what ESSA means, nor its implications regarding both family and education data privacy.  President Trump did sign new guidance guidelines for state education agencies and school districts on their responsibility to protect student privacy when facilitating college-admissions tests such as SAT and ACT.  However, this has still left grassroots education leaders fed up with years such a disorganized top-down government agenda in education.  

Here’s a hint:  Please stop trying to reinvent the wheel with more initiatives.  While encouraging on the surface, there is still very far to go, being that our state has signed onto nearly every Federal Education initiative available (just follow the money).   We have not yet heard anything on how FERPA will be given back to the parents, rather than a school entity and global industry who is controlling where a child’s data goes and who it gets sold to.  President Trump’s campaign promise was to dismantle the Federal Department of Education and get rid of Common Core, not merge more departments and create an even bigger form of government in education.  

All this being said – and this is so small in comparison to the larger issues at hand – I have seen nothing concrete on the dismantling of Fed Ed and how that will be handled, only that there is a proposed merger between the two departments.  Frankly, this tells me nothing as a parent, a concerned citizen and active grassroots participant.  

I will end my comment here with a quote I told our Minnesota Education Chair last summer upon testifying before committee: “Madam Chair, with respect, it’s about Liberty.” I believe Ms. DeVos needs to hear just that. Fed Ed doesn’t need reorganizing – it needs dismantling and dismantling should NOT include a merger with the Department of Labor.

What we need is a REPEAL of the workforce law in our education system, pull back the latest version of ESEA, then dramatically reduce the reach of the USDED.  Sprinkle in FERPA reform and we may just have a chance at dismantling a system that has broken local control and parental voice.

Mary Byrne Discusses Proposed Merger of U.S. Education and Labor Departments

Dr. Mary Byrne, a parent, former Congressional candidate, and activist in Missouri, was on a local radio program – KSGF Mornings with Nick Reed heard on 104.1 KSGF FM in Springfield, Missouri – to discuss the proposed merger of the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor.

You can listen to the interview below.

Duke Pesta Discusses Proposed Education & Labor Department Merger

Dr. Duke Pesta and Alex Newman with FreedomProject Media note that despite being marketed as an effort to shrink the federal government, the Trump administration’s proposal to merge the U.S. Department of Labor with the U.S. Department of Education is being criticized from all sides. Especially critical, though, have been many leading conservative education activists, who argue that the plan fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of education.

They discuss.

White House Petition Against Education and Labor Department Merger Launched

Karen Bracken, a parent activist in Tennessee, launched a White House petition for citizens to express their opposition to the proposed merger between the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor.

It reads:

Education was never about getting a job. When we make education about getting a job we are no longer educating future American citizens we are training human capital to meet the needs of the corporate world. A truly “educated” citizen is capable of learning anything to be successful. A “trained” citizen becomes an obedient slave. The schools are to educate. The employer is to train. Using the education system to provide trained workers is NOT education. C. S. Lewis said it best “If education is beaten by training, civilization dies,” NO MERGER!!

You can go here to sign if you like.

The petition needs 100,000 signatures by July 24th to receive a response from the White House. At the time of this writing, they had 494 signatures. So if you oppose the merger I’d encourage you to go sign.

DeVos, Foxx Celebrate Announced Merger of Education and Labor Departments

Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Committee
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

After the White House announced it’s government reform plan on Thursday that includes a proposed merger between the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lauded the decision.

“President Trump campaigned and won with his promise to reduce the federal footprint in education and to make the federal government more efficient and effective. Today’s bold reform proposal takes a big step toward fulfilling that promise. Artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long. We must reform our 20th century federal agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” DeVos said in a released statement.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools. I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality,” she added.

First, the fact that DeVos issued a statement, but U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta did not, gives us an idea who will remain a part of President Trump’s cabinet.

Secondly, DeVos celebrates the elimination of “artificial barriers between education and workforce programs.” What artificial barriers?

She’s not allow in celebrating. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce lauded the proposal as well.

“The federal government is long overdue for a serious overhaul. The proposed Department of Education and the Workforce is recognition of the clear relationship between education policy at every level and the needs of the growing American workforce. At the Committee on Education and the Workforce, we make these connections in everything we do. We welcome the administration’s focus on education and workforce issues together, and as we continue our oversight over the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, we look forward to working with the administration on the proposal and how the new department could function to best serve American students, workers, job creators, and families,” Fox wrote.

No word from U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the U.S. Senate HELP Committee, however. Which makes me think the proposal may have a harder time passing the U.S. Senate.

As I said yesterday, this institutionalizes “workforce development” as the education model and that is being celebrated this week.

The Trump Administration Proposes to Merge Education, Labor Departments

Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss and President Donald Trump at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, FL

***See update below***

The White House plans to propose today merging the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

A source within the Trump Administration with knowledge of the proposal told the Wall Street Journal that the plan is the result of a review of Cabinet agencies ordered by the President to look for ways to shrink the federal government.

This proposal would require Congressional approval since an act of Congress established both departments.

I have mixed feelings about this:

  • This proposal will not end federal involvement in education; it will just move the responsibilities and oversight to a new department. So, unfortunately, it will not diminish their influence.
  • The merger of the Education and Labor Departments will further institutionalize the workforce development model of education. This idea is what led to the testing and accountability reforms, Common Core, a hyper-focus on STEM, and corporate influence in K-12 education.
  • There are data privacy concerns as far too much student data has been shared with the U.S. Department of Labor as they have been funding state databases to link workforce data with education data. This merger, I’m afraid, will advance preK-workforce tracking.
  • On the flip side, since I favor limited government, reducing the bureaucracy is welcome, I would rather see the U.S. Department of Education eliminated. The Department of Justice can address civil rights abuses in schools.  The Department of the Treasury can disburse Title I funding to states, preferably in the form of block grants or, better still, eliminate federal funding. Federal funding is a small piece of the education funding pie but drives many of the regulations.

I don’t want to discourage government reorganization or finding ways to reduce the size of the bureaucracy in DC, but the Trump administration does have to consider the implications of certain mergers. I hope that they would go big and eliminate an unconstitutional department.

Update: It’s official. The plan is to merge the two departments and create a “Department of Education and the Workforce.” You can read the details below.

U.S. Department of Labor Funds States to Link Workforce to Education Data

The U.S. Department of Labor announced they awarded $11.4 million in state grants to “develop, enhance state workforce databases.”

Here’s the text of the press release from Friday:

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today the award of $11.4 million in federal Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants. The grants are designed to increase efficiency and effectiveness of these programs.

The department awarded six grants – each approximately $1 million – to eligible State Workforce Agencies in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Missouri for the development or enhancement of a state workforce longitudinal administrative database. These databases include information on programs that provide training and employment services and allow tracking of similar information on identical subjects at multiple points in time.

For the first time, the department awarded two grants of $2.7 million to SWAs for the integration of their states’ case management, performance reporting, and/or fiscal reporting systems with their states’ longitudinal administrative databases. The grants are awarded to SWAs in Mississippi and Rhode Island.

“This administration is committed to reinvigorating workforce development systems in America,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Access to high-quality data is essential to making good, evidence-based decisions. These Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants help states and local agencies improve the quality and breadth of workforce data, which will benefit businesses, workers and job seekers.”

Grantees will be expected to use their longitudinal databases to conduct research and analysis aimed at determining the effectiveness of workforce and education programs, and to develop tools to better inform customers about the benefits of the publicly funded workforce system.

WDQI databases include information on programs that provide training and employment services, and connect with education data. They may be linked at the individual level and are capable of generating workforce training provider performance information and outcomes, including information and outcomes relevant to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act performance reporting, in a standardized, easy-to-understand format to help customers select the education and training programs that best suit their needs.

Grantees will be expected to achieve multiple objectives during the three-year grant period. Objectives include:

  • Developing or improving their state workforce longitudinal administrative databases.
  • Connecting workforce data with education data.
  • Improving the quality and breadth of the data in workforce longitudinal administrative databases.
  • Using longitudinal data to provide useful information about program operations.
  • Evaluating the performance of education and employment training programs.
  • Providing user-friendly information to consumers to help them select the education and training programs that best suit their needs.
  • Integrating performance, fiscal, and/or case management systems with the longitudinal administrative database.

One of the objectives is to connect “workforce data with education data” that “may be linked at the individual level.” Sure, what could go wrong here? *Snort*

This isn’t new. Student data privacy advocates have warned about the expansion of these databases to track your student from birth or preschool all the way to their participation in the workforce.

Common Core & Data Collection

privacyA particularly troubling aspect of the Common Core scheme is the emphasis on massive data-collection on students, and the sharing of that data for various purposes essentially unrelated to genuine education. U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said:

Hopefully, some day, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career . . . . We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data. We want to know know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and then completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult.

To know all this, of course, we have to know pretty much everything Johnny does, throughout his lifetime.

The underlying philosophy has its roots in early-20th-century Progressivism. The Progressives believed that the modern world had become so much more complex than the world that existed at the time of the American founding, that the old principles of individual freedom and limited government were no longer sufficient. In the modern world, experts would be needed to address increasingly complex challenges. Experts – armed with sweeping data on the citizenry – offer the best hope for societal progress.

An essential component of this “necessary” data is data that can be gleaned from the captive audience of public-school students (and maybe private and homeschooled as well). Progressive education reformers such as Marc Tucker, of the National Center on Education and the Economy, have long advocated the creation of massive student databases that can be used to track children from birth into the workforce. This is what Arne Duncan, quite openly, wants to do.

Now the problem here, from Duncan’s point of view, is that a federal statute prohibits maintaining a national student database (20 U.S.C § 7911).  What to do? What the federal government has chosen to do – and this predates the Obama Administration – is to incentivize the states to build identical databases so that the data can be easily shared. We end up with a de facto national student database.

All this was done, of course, through the power of the federal purse. In 2002 the federal government began something called the Statewide Longitudinal Data System grant program to offer grants to states that agreed to build their student data systems according to federal dictates (20 U.S.C. § 9501 et seq).  The most recent iterations of this grant program were the infamous Stimulus bill of 2009, which required the construction of particular data systems in exchange for money from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.  and then the Race to the Top program. A successful Race to the Top application required the state to adopt the Common Core Standards, to adopt an assessment aligned with Common Core, and to commit to expanding its student database.  This is what states, like Kentucky for instance, agreed to do.

What kinds of data are we talking about? The National Education Data Model includes over 400 data points, including health history, disciplinary history, family income range, voting status, religious affiliation, and on and on.

Well, is this really connected with Common Core? Yes. The most direct connection is through the national assessments, PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Each of those consortia has signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Education in which the Department is allowed access to all student-level data the consortium gets through the testing. This access is to be allowed “on an ongoing basis” for purposes including undefined “research.” Parents will not be allowed to object to this; indeed, they won’t even know it is happening.

Even for those states that have had the good sense to opt out of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments, the privacy threat remains. The U. S. Department of Education is becoming increasingly aggressive about demanding personally identifiable student data in conjunction with all sorts of federal grants, as can be attested by the states that are not in Common Core. And the federal government is encouraging widespread sharing of student data within states, such as with departments of labor, public health, corrections, etc.  The idea is that the State (upper case) should know everything there is to know about a student, so that he can be better directed toward his proper slot in the economic machine.

We are told not to worry about this, because any sharing of data will comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). But as of January 2012, FERPA has been gutted, and no longer protects our children’s data from almost unlimited sharing.  Under the new regulatory interpretation, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) (and in fact state departments of education) may disclose personally identifiable student data to literally anyone in the world, as long as the disclosing agency uses the correct language to justify its action.

Pursuant to this enthusiasm for sharing student data, where might that data end up? One illustrative example (and an obvious one, in this workforce-development model) is departments of labor. In fact, USED and the U. S. Department of Labor have a joint venture called the Workforce Data Quality Initiative, the purpose of which is “developing or improving state workforce data systems with individual-level information and enabling workforce data to be matched with education data.” Student education data are to be shared, to the extent possible, with labor agencies to promote the goal of workforce development.

Of course, under the new regulations that gutted federal student-privacy law, data can now be shared with literally any agency if the correct enabling language is used: the Department of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security . . . the IRS?

USED is supporting a plethora of other programs that encourage states to build ever bigger and ever more “useful” data systems on students. It’s funding something called “Common Education Data Standards” to help states develop a common vocabulary for their data – the better to enable interstate sharing. It’s funding “Digital Passport,” which will allow interstate sharing of data on students who move across state lines. It’s funding the “Assessment Interoperability Framework” to “allow for the transfer of assessment-related data across applications within a district, between a district and a state agency, and across state lines.”

So although the federal government assures us it is not building a de facto national student database, everything it is doing in the area of technology is designed to allow for just that.

Both USED and state education officials further insist that privacy concerns are overblown, because student-level data will be anonymized. In the first place, this is simply not true – the data coming from the Common Core assessment consortia, and the workforce tracking data showing which students participated in which education programs and then earned which salaries, are necessarily student-specific.

In the second place, in the era of Big Data, there really is no such thing as anonymization. When there are multiple, perhaps hundreds, of items in the database, the absence of a name or a Social Security number becomes a mere inconvenience, not an obstacle to identifying the student.

There are many examples of data re-identification.  For instance in Kentucky in 1999, a researcher was able to match over 2,300 students who appeared on anonymized lists of test-takers – and the match had 100% accuracy.  And this was almost 15 years ago – long before education bureaucracies were collecting the myriad data they are now.

One scholar who has studied this problem has explained that “[u]tility and privacy [of data] are . . . two goals at war with one another. . . . [A]t least for useful databases, perfect anonymization is impossible,” (Paul Ohm, Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization, 57 UCLA LAW REV. 1701, 1752; 2010).  And USED fully intends for student data to be enormously useful to the Progressive machine. Anonymization will be impossible.

Where are we headed with all this? It is instructive to look at what USED itself is working on and writing about.

One report that appeared on the Department’s website in February of 2013 is called Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance. The thesis is that education must inculcate these qualities in students, and that their presence or absence must be measured in some way. How? The report suggests assessment of physiological reactions that a student exhibits to stimuli such as stress, anxiety, or frustration. These reactions could be measured through posture analysis, skin-conductance sensors, EEG brain-wave patterns, and eye-tracking, (pg. 41-45).  And the report barely mentions the appalling invasion of privacy this kind of physiological measurement would entail; rather, it focuses on the “problem” that this isn’t practical for the classroom – yet, (pg. 45).

The Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance authors also drew a direct line to the Common Core Standards, noting that the math standards expressly require perseverance in struggling through problems, (pg. 6).  If it is in the Standards, they reason, it must be measured.

Another USED report that came out around the same time focused on the enormous windfall of student data that will result from digital-learning technologies and digital assessment.  This report was authored primarily by Karen Cator, who now heads up another federal data-development project. The type of digital learning that the Cator report promotes is not simply an alternative means of accessing text or lectures. Rather, it’s the type of computerized products that work by stimulus-response – the student sees something on the screen and has to choose a response, which leads to another prompt, and so on. Think Pavlov. This type of technological interplay generates enormous amounts of data on each student’s behaviors and dispositions; the term for it is “data exhaust.”

The Cator report urges that this data exhaust be used to develop individual profiles on students, that it be shared with various institutions and other stakeholders who may have an interest, and that it be used “for studying the noncognitive aspects of 21st-century skills, namely, interpersonal skills (such as communication, collaboration, and leadership) and intrapersonal skills (such as persistence and self-regulation).”

USED also emphasizes that the gathering of this “extremely fine-grained information” on students will help with the implementation of the Common Core Standards, which promote “deeper learning objectives” rather than acquisition of academic knowledge.

In October 2013, USED hosted a conference to explore the possibilities of implementing Common Core with the help of this intrusive digital learning. They called this conference “Datapalooza.” The CEO of one educational technology company waxed enthusiastic about the future. He said, “We are collecting billions of records of data . . . pulling data from everywhere . . . tens of thousands of places.” This data, he said, will help students develop the “21st-century skills” that the government has determined students will need.

And how are these “21st-century skills” being promoted in the classroom? Through Common Core. “Common Core,” he said, “is the glue that ties everything together.”

I haven’t even mentioned the ever-present problem of data-security. Hacking into student databases will occur, and in fact has already occurred. The wealth of data collected on students and their families is a hugely tempting target for people with malicious motives. But as serious as this problem is, the deeper problem is that the government has deemed our children little machines to be programmed, “human capital” to be exploited. Progressives have yearned to do this for at least 100 years – now they have the technology to do it. And the Common Core Standards, which diminish academic knowledge in favor of the “21st-century skills” that are developed and measured by this technology, are their passport to the Progressive future.