My name is Michelle Levell. I represent the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and School Choice for New Hampshire.
The NH Department of Education is exposing our children’s private data to significant risk without adequate protections.
New Hampshire is one of 24 states that are participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as part of our 2010 Race to the Top grant application. The Cooperative Agreement is a legal contract between the US Department of Education (US DOE), the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and the State of Washington, which serves as the fiscal agent, representing all states using the Smarter Balanced Assessment, including New Hampshire. This document is available at a US DOE website.
The New Hampshire Department of Education mandates that all public schools, including charters, will “fully implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment by spring 2015,” and has been piloting the assessment in several schools across the state as of winter 2013. This is per the NH DOE’s FAQ.
This universal assessment requirement places all public school students’ private information at risk and allows the US Department of Education, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and third-party organizations to access our children’s information. There are several references to “student-level data” in the agreement. Nothing in the document says the data is aggregated. This must be emphasized. There is absolutely nothing in this legal contract that indicates that student information is aggregated before providing access to the federal government, its agencies, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or other third-parties.
The current NH student privacy law, RSA 193-C:10, states “These rules shall provide parents and legal guardians with no fewer rights accorded to them under the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA), 20 USC 1232g.
However, given the US Department of Education’s dramatic changes to FERPA in 2008 and 2011, this no longer provides protection for our students’ private information. These new FERPA regulations removed restrictions, which prohibit educational institutions and agencies from disclosing students’ personally identifiable information without first obtaining student or parental consent.
Now the US DOE has the power to share student information with third-party corporations, not just educational institutions, and not only for academic purposes. Key terms including “school officials”, “educational programs”, and “authorized representatives” were redefined so broadly that third-party administrators of any program offered through an educational institution may have access to student information
Further, the US Department of Education initiated a program in 2012 called the Education Data Initiative. This has greatly expanded the data collected about our students and the access to this information. It is an unprecedented compilation of student data and, given the eroded protections of FERPA, exposes our children to unparalleled privacy risks.
Also, it is inaccurate for the NH Department of Education to state that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium does not have access to individual student information. The SBAC is given each student’s assessments to score and would therefore possess each child’s raw data, not aggregated data. Smarter Balanced must receive online real-time data from each and every student in order to provide the appropriate questions based upon the success or failure of previous questions. This is called an “adaptive” assessment.
New Hampshire student privacy is at risk and has grossly inadequate protections in place currently.