Campaign Seeks to Dispel Common Core Data Mining Claims
Around the State
Although Florida remains on board with the transition to Common Core for the 2014-2015 academic year deadline, opponents to the national education standards are gathering steam, calling for a discussion -- and abolishment -- of what they see as a federal program collecting the personal data of students across the country.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has already been adopted by 45 states -- including Florida -- and many are preparing themselves for the changes that will come with the new standards. Florida itself has been paving the way for total implementation of the standards through seminars and an education summit to discuss and clarify what the next steps for Common Core will be.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and perhaps CCSS's greatest champion, said this in an oped Thursday in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "While many concerns surrounding the Common Core are politically fueled alarmism, we should be wary of those who would use this well-intended, state-driven effort for other means."
Bush was emphatic that school districts continue to be left in control "of the means to meet the standards, (that they) not hand over additional control to the federal government, (nor) compromise the private information of students."
Wrote Bush, “We must remain vigilant about these concerns, but also committed to creating an internationally competitive education system for students."
Despite articles condemning Common Core for the data-mining threat and the negative implications for students across the country, according to the Data Quality Campaign, federal law protects students' individual information.
The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that, according to their website, “leads a partnership of nearly 100 organizations committed to realizing the vision of an education system in which all stakeholders -- from parents to policymakers -- are empowered with high-quality data from the early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems to make decisions that ensure every student graduates high school prepared for success in college and the workplace.”
DQC provides a national forum to work with lawmakers to integrate data use in state policy “to improve system performance, increase transparency, and most importantly improve student achievement.”
The nonprofit organization is working to dispel myths about the program's data collection practices. DQC says that federal law prohibits the government from reporting student data on an individual level, and says that according to law, the government is only allowed to publicly report student data on an aggregate level.
“We realized that in this debate about Common Core opponents are throwing around a lot of information that isn’t backed up by fact,” said DQC Executive Director Aimee Guidera.
DQC has created several documents in an attempt to clarify whether the federal government is actually collecting data as a result of Common Core. As a result, its website includes a "Myth Busters" document.
“There are four federal laws that prohibit [collecting data on individual students],” Guidera told Sunshine State News. “It would take an act of Congress to be able to do what some of these falsehoods are saying. These are pieces of information that people pick up on a website somewhere and kind of loop them together to make them sound like plausible things that are happening, but they’re just not.”
Guidera emphasized that it is important for teachers, legislators and members of the public to have conversations about what data is being collected, what the value of the data is, and how it will be used.
“There are very legitimate concerns that are coming up in terms of how this data is protected,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that we should stop using data and that we should put all these prohibitions on the use [of] data and continue to have a lot of falsehoods take the day in these conversations because that’s irresponsible and it’s scaremongering, and it’s not responsible conversation for the American public to be involved in.”
DQC aims to work with state policymakers and maintains it is the policymakers’ responsibility to “protect the privacy, security and confidentiality of students’ personally identifiable information.”
Common Core has already received significant backlash from state legislators, parents, the public and some teachers. Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, filed legislation Wednesday to delay the implementation of Common Core in Florida until certain requirements are met. The bill would require a public hearing on Common Core in each congressional district. It would also withdraw Florida from PARCC.
The Sarasota County GOP has also voiced strong opposition to the state standards and is petitioning them. Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, also openly opposed CCSS.
Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have also raised concerns about Florida’s readiness for the PARCC testing, which they believe will be very costly and time-consuming.
Nevertheless, the League of Women Voters of Florida on Thursday made sure Floridians know where it stands. It urged "the swift adoption of Common Core ... (to) help ensure that students have a rigorous common body of knowledge in public schools across the nation from kindergarten to high school, rather than having each individual state determine what educational 'excellence' is."
"Raising standards to national and international levels is a 'no brainer' for Florida. What parent doesn't want their child to compete for the best jobs?" said League President Deirdre Macnab.
"Excellence takes courage, and we urge our state leaders to move forward in a swift and purposeful manner in implementing these standards," Macnab said.
Common Core is set to be fully implemented in Florida by the 2014-2015 school year.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at email@example.com.