Data Collection in Education Concerns Parents


It looks like the National Security Agency isn’t the only one infringing on citizens’ privacy by collecting mass amounts of data. As reported previously by Common Core is a spying program on American students.

According to Politico, student data mining is all the rage in education. And one company, Knewton, a data analytics firm, has  collected data from more than 4 million American students.

“By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday,” wrote Stephanie Simon for Politico.

At a time where the NSA is being scrutinized for its’ data collection, companies like Knewton and the data mining practice has been lauded by both democrats and republicans. The Obama administration actually even relaxed federal privacy law to allow school districts to share student data more widely.

The data is collected is being sold as a “beneficial purpose” — to help track a student’s progress and find areas where a student needs help. But private firms are using this data for their money-making enterprise.

Politico examined privacy policies, terms of service and district contracts and found gaping holes in the protection of children’s privacy.

It also found a tremendous amount of data being collected. Educational start-ups and small business have the opportunity to collect more data on its users than even companies like Netflix, Facebook or even Google.

“Students are tracked as they play online games, watch videos, read books, take quizzes and run laps in physical education. The monitoring continues as they work on assignments from home, with companies logging children’s locations, homework schedules, Web browsing habits and, of course, their academic progress,” wrote Simon.

Parents are growing concerned, because these companies aren’t clear with how they’re using this data. Even school districts aren’t exactly kept in the loop as to how this data is used or sold.

Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira finds such concerns overblown. When parents protest that they don’t want their children data-mined, Ferreira wishes he could ask them why: Is it simply that they don’t want a for-profit company to map their kids’ minds? If not, why not? “They’d rather the NSA have it?” he asked. “What, you trust the government?”

The  Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act passed in 1974, gives school districts the right to share students’ personal information with private companies to further educational goals.

Though they legally have the right to do it, school districts are potentially opening a can of worms by engaging in data collection, which has gotten parents rightfully worried.

“Knowing so much personal data is in a private company’s hands worries some parents, especially in the wake of the cyber attack that stole credit card numbers from tens of millions of Target customers last winter.”

As technology advances and how our children learn and are taught evolves, so do things like privacy concerns.

Parents are leaving government schools in droves due to privacy concerns and the lack of quality in education. Homeschooling is rising and activists are advocating for school choice programs.

In South Carolina, Ray Moore, candidate for Lt. Governor told told an Evangelical tea party crowd that government schools should not reformed, they should be abandoned completely.

“It (government schools) cannot be fixed, the socialistic model, and we need to abandon that. As conservatives and Christians, if you think you’re going to win this war you’re in, and leave your children in those schools, it will not happen.”