Monday, 16 July 2012

Big Brother and Education Data Collection

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One of the more disturbing aspects of the U.S. Department of Education is its obsession with data collection. But it all makes perfect sense if you see it from the point of view of the educational totalitarians whose aim it is to use behavioral psychology for the purpose of modifying and controlling human behavior. Thus, the National Center of Education Statistics has been designated by the psycho-educators to be the recipient of the full computer dossiers on every school child and teacher in America.

According to Beverly Eckman’s Educating for the New World Order, the super computer already exists. It is called the Elementary and Secondary Integrated Data System, and it is linked with all of the other federal computer networks collecting data on American citizens. It was former Vice President Al Gore, as a Senator, who introduced the Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1985 which Congress enacted into law.

That this data collection program has been in the works for some time is indicated by the existence of a Handbook issued in 1974 by the National Center for Education Statistics on State Educational Records and Reports. In their section on Student/Pupil Accounting, they list the major categories of student information. A three-digit system is used to categorize the data. For example, Personal Identification falls under 1 00: Name 1 01, Student Number 1 02, Sex 1 03, Racial/Ethnic Group 1 04, etc. Note the use of an identification number which will probably be the individual’s Social Security Number, which has become the American citizen’s all-purpose ID number.

Family and Residence data fall under 2 00, Family Economic Information 2 40, and Family Social/Cultural Information 2 50.

Physical Health, Sensory, and Related Conditions fall under 3 00, starting with the Student Medical Record Number 3 01, and then covering every aspect of the student’s physical health and medical life.

Mental, Psychological and Proficiency Test Results and Related Student Characteristics fall under 4 00. All data collected through psychological testing will be placed under that category, with Specific Mental and Psychological Characteristics under 4 30.

Enrollment information falls under 5 00, with Type of Program entered 5 23, and Type of Class for Instructional Grouping 5 24. Performance falls under 6 00, Transportation under 7 00, and Special Assistance under 8 00.

The most recent version of the Student Data Handbook for Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education that we’ve had a chance to study in depth was released in June of 1994 (NCES 94-303) and the Staff Data Handbook: Elementary, Secondary and Early Childhood Education (NCES 95-327) was released in January 1995. But who will have access to all of this intimate private information, and for what reason? Will potential employers, recruiters, and police departments be given this data? Is the U.S. government now to become involved in dispensing private information about its citizens as a new information service? Suppose that some of the information may lead to emotional harm of the individual? Who will be responsible for that harm? 

Indeed, who will own all of this information? If the government is not going to make this private information available to others for whatever reasons, why then are the bureaucrats, at great cost to the taxpayer, collecting it?

The government of a free people does not collect dossiers of personal private information on all of its citizens. A police state does. Have we become a police state? According to the Declaration of Independence, the purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of its citizens, which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Is not privacy one of the most important rights of a free people?

The 2001 edition of the Data Handbook states its purpose:

To make appropriate, cost-effective and timely decisions about students, educators must have accurate and complete information. Recognizing this need, most education systems have moved from paper documents in filing cabinets to automated student information systems. These systems provide teachers and others concerned with effective program design with day-to-day access to information about the students’ background, learning experiences, and performance. They also provide the flexibility necessary to supply aggregate data to school boards, state and federal governments, and other interested parties; and to conduct program evaluations. To be effective, however, these systems must record data accurately and comparably for all students, in all places, and at all times.

The Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education was developed by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to provide guidance concerning the consistent maintenance of student information. This handbook is useful to public and private education agencies, schools, early childhood centers, and other educational institutions, as well as to researchers involved in the collection of student data. In addition, the Handbook may be useful to elected officials and members of the public interested in student information. This handbook is not, however, a data collection instrument; nor does it reflect any type of federal data maintenance requirements. It is presented as a tool to help the public and the American school system make information about students more useful and effective in meeting student needs.

The writers of the Handbook seem to contradict their own words. The Data Handbook is indeed a data collection instrument. What else could it possibly be, especially since every individual in the system is identified with his or her own number? Of course, it may also be used for general information gathering purposes. For example, since the religion of a child is part of the data collected, the government can release general information about how many Catholics, or Baptists, or Mormons are in the public schools. But they can also identify the religion of any individual in the system.

The federal government’s original rationale for collecting all of this data was that it was needed to see if the nation was reaching the national education goals set by Goals 2000. Well, Goals 2000 have come and gone. The program was a failure. But the government nevertheless keeps collecting more and more data on students and teachers.

To understand how all of this works, you have to get down into the bowels of Washington’s educational bureaucracies. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the grand overseer of all of this data collection. In 1991, it awarded a three-year contract to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) “to facilitate the implementation of a national education data system.” The project was called the Education Data System Implementation Project (EDSIP). Two years prior to EDSIP, the NCES began constructing “an interstate student records transfer system currently called ExPRESS,” an acronym for Exchange of Permanent Records Electronically for Students and Schools. The function of ExPRESS is as follows:

The activity has included the development of standard data elements for inclusion in an electronic student transcript and a pilot exchange of student records across school districts and from districts to institutions of higher education. The system is now ready for further development, including the appointment of a Governing Board, making formal arrangements with a communications network for exchanging the records, and expansion to more sites.

EDSIP also included implementing a Personnel Exchange System for sharing state expertise in solving education data problems, the development of an Information Referral System for sharing information to improve data systems across states, and the development of student and staff data handbooks.

The CCSSO has carried out two other projects for the NCES. The first, the Education Data Improvement Project (1985-88), “analyzed each state’s capacity to provide standard, comparable and timely data to NCES on public elementary and secondary school and school district, staff, students, revenues and expenditures.” The second project was the New Education Data Improvement Project (1988-91) to provide technical assistance plans for each state, which addressed the state’s problems in responding to Common Core Data requirements.

It is obvious that the long-range goal of this linking of all of the states’ education data to a central computer in Washington is to further the nationalization of American public education. Public schools have always depended on local real estate taxes for their financial support because the local people technically controlled their local schools and were concerned about their performance. But this quiet building of a national data collection network is just a prelude to the kind of total control the totalitarians in Washington hope to achieve over all the schools in the country. 

That is one good reason to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education and return the public schools to local control, where they belong. There is no need for bureaucrats in Washington to control the public schools. Neither Goals 2000 nor No Child Left Behind improved American education. For example, Goal 5 of Goals 2000 stated: “By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

Yet, in 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts released its grim survey on the decline of literacy in America. The survey, entitled Reading at Risk, reported that more and more young Americans are reading less and less. The Endowment’s Chairman, Dana Gioia, stated:

This report documents a national crisis. Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy. To lose this human capacity — and all the diverse benefits it fosters — impoverishes both cultural and civic life.

As I have amply documented in my previous articles, the decline of literacy in America is the result of a carefully thought-out plan by the progressives to lower the literacy level of the American people, beginning with John Dewey’s 1898 essay “The Primary School Fetich.”  And there is no one in the federal government education bureaucracy who will acknowledge this. In other words, the only way to address our ongoing education crisis is to get the federal government out of the education business. As soon as this is done, local communities can begin to address the problems of their local schools in a manner that makes sense.


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