Privacy Bills in the Senate, a First Look: Andy Kerr Wants to Send Student Data to State Colleges without Actually, you know, Asking the Students
by Eileen | 2:25 pm, January 28, 2013 | Comments Off
WHAT: SB 13-053, Facilitating the transfer of student data from secondary to postsecondary systems
WHY: It sure as hell ain’t for the kids.
This is all about transferring the oodles and oodles of data that the public school system gathers on kids to the state college system, without any consideration of how much of that data should be transferred, or even collected at all. And it has all the boilerplate babble about complying with the 1974 Privacy Act and FERPA.
It is NOT about sending a student’s information to a school once she has already chosen to apply or been accepted. It’s just about giving that data to public colleges. Oh, goody.
Backed by two career public system educatocrats, one of whom sits on the committee that will hear it, SB 053′s chances are good, too.
My problem is that it’s an unfunded mandate; the text is quite clear that all that data transfer is to be “administered at no charge to local education providers, public institutions of higher education, or students.” By requiring that none of the direct ‘beneficiaries’ of this bill may be asked to pay for it, the cost will be off-loaded to everyone in Colorado not currently in public higher education.
And it could be a significant cost. Training a horde of bureaucrats to handle sensitive data with respect for privacy and managing a computer system capable of protecting all that data are tall orders. It’s great to say you respect the Privacy Act and FERPA. But if you intend to move that much data about students and you aren’t considering the cost, I really don’t think you understand what you’re suggesting.
I also chafe at the fact that SB 053 isn’t even pretending to be a benefit for students. This is all about the state’s unwieldy higher ed system and its administrators. By way of justifying the bill, we are told:
Systems that allow for the direct, electronic exchange of student data from the department of education to the department of higher education improve the understanding of student success rates related to high school graduation and first-year student success in postsecondary education as well as developmental education outcomes in postsecondary education.
Right off the bat, it’s worth mentioning that the first sentence is an unsupported assertion. If there truly no way to get good metrics without yet another bill about sharing data? Is more legislation our best bet? Let’s just accept for now that the level of reliable transmission of accurate data can only be done in statute. Fantastic. I love rigorous analysis of data with a keen eye to improving student performance. And all the ease-of-access to data won’t do a damn thing to improve public education so long as the unions are around.
Next, we have this:
These enhancements promise to decrease the administrative burden for institutions of higher education related to identifying students matriculating from high school to the postsecondary system as well as increase the accuracy of student information
Well, yeah. But ‘easing the administrative burden’ is not the same as saving the taxpayers money. As fat as identifying students are about to graduate highschool and consider college, isn’t that properly the student’s choice?
Where they have got a point is in the accuracy. A really slick data transfer system could increase the accuracy of information that gets shared with colleges, which could improve offers of admission (to the extent that public undergraduate institutions are all that selective) and make it harder for students to get away with misrepresenting their GPAs or related data. It could also mean that any mistakes on a student’s records will be blasted to the entire CU system. It’s a mixed bag nut not an entirely unworthy idea.
Then we get to the real problems:
The procedure should be flexible enough to accommodate the exchange of additional relevant data as the department of education’s access to more detailed data relevant to college admissions increases, with the long-term objective of pre-populating admissions applications for students.
Just what plans has the great and sovereign state of Colorado got to give itself access to more ‘relevant’ data? I think the standard items requested on a college admissions form cover the bases nicely. I know the legislature is only trying to make sure it doesn’t find its hands tied, but I like to see politicians with tightly tied hands. By the bill’s own logic, we’re talking about data that would already be in the secondary education system’s files, but as schools track more and more about their students, I am terrified as to what might get automatically sent on to state colleges.
As for pre-populating applications, that’s just creepy as hell. If I log on to a CU school’s site and am asked to provide data, say a DoB and SSN, only to get a form filled out with my life to date, I think I’ve just made my decision about whether or not I fit at that school. Also, why the hell does every public school in Colorado get my information whether I apply or not? We’re talking about 17 and 18 year olds; I think that’s old enough to make choices about where to apply absent the pushing of the state.
Except, I’m arguing for the sake of students and this bill is, among other things, trying to make it easier for public colleges to recruit and enroll students. Would it be too, too cruel for this private school grad to suggest that the state system is having trouble attracting the best and brightest? I’m not trying to be a b***h so much as to draw attention to the fact that it’s downright slimy for public school recruiters to use the law to get data about students that private schools and schools outside the state don’t have and then chase students down.
Children are not the property of the state. Public colleges don’t have any innate right to get the first bite at prospective freshmen. If the CU system needs this to fill out it’s classes, the problem is not with the students. That this bill is in no small part about doing recruiters’ work for them is, oh what is the word?….ah, yes, obvious.
THE DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION SHALL SHARE STUDENT UNIT RECORD DATA WITH COLORADO PUBLIC
INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION FOR RECRUITMENT, ENROLLMENT, AND PLACEMENT PURPOSES.
THE DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION MAY USE COLORADO PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS’ STUDENT UNIT RECORD DATA TO PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH RELEVANT INFORMATION CONCERNING THE TRANSITION FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
What valid and important factoid could a public school possibly tell students about the transition from high school to college that requires advance access to their entire student record? Bring lots of quarters for the laundry? You can’t drink as much as you think you can? The bookstore will rip you off on everything – get your books online and your dorm furnishings at IKEA?
I’m not minimizing how traumatic and surprisingly difficult the first steps into pseduo-adulthood are. I’m saying giving data to a school you may or may not be remotely interested in attending won’t help on that count. I imagine the intent of the bill is to pre-inform schools when an individual has a history of acting act or suffering problems in school. And I don’t think the way to deal with people who have mild mental health issues to to send a mass data blast to everyone who might interact with them. In fact, the impact on a kid of getting cold called by student health and informed he’s been pre-selected for counseling can’t be good.
On the matter of student privacy, the Department of Education is instructed to get permission from students “where necessary and practicable.” In other words, only when they absolutely have to, which is not the spirit of respect for student privacy that I would like to see. For one thing, we’re talking about a great deal of data created when these students were far too young to understand or have any say in what went into their records.
I initially thought I could find some good in this bill. But it’s the extent of the state’s roll in student records to send them where the student asks – nowhere else, no presuming what that student would want, no giving your own schools the inside track on recruiting. I don’t even care to parse precisely how the privacy and security of data in transfer should be handled. This proposal just shouldn’t be done at all.
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