Saturday, January 25, 2014

TN will not share student data with Federal Gov as part of Common Core

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has formally pledged that personal student information will not be shared with the Federal government as part of the State's participation in Common Core.  He joined 33 other state school commissioners in signing a letter to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to that effect. 

The Common Core State Standards  is a joint effort led by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop a common core of K-12 standards in English language arts and Mathematics and was developed by education experts from 45 states. The 45 states, the District of Columbia (D.C.), and 2 territories and Department of Defense Education Activity have formally adopted the set of core standards for kindergarten through high school in English language arts, mathematics, and grades 6-12 literacy in science, history/social studies, and technical subjects. 

Recently their has been push back against Common Core and some states have backtracked on their commitment. Some of the criticism of Common Core is that it does not raise the bar on what a child is expected to learn.  While that may be true in some states with high education standards, it is not true in those states with a poor level of education achievement. In any event, the Common Core standards are a measure of a  minimum level of education attainment; not a cap. Nothing would prevent a State from having standards higher than Common Core.  Tennessee has traditionally ranked near the bottom in education and while we have shown recent improvement, meeting Common Core standards would elevate education in Tennessee.

Other criticism of  Common Core is that some of the reading selections in the curriculum are offensive. There is no Common Core curriculum. States would still select their own text books and define the curriculum.  There is no mandated master reading list.

I have generally supported Common Core. With the United States falling behind many of the advanced countries of the world and even falling behind many third world counties, I do not think the status quo is acceptable. We must do something to improve the quality of American education to maintain our standing in the world. Also, America is a very mobile country. In my view, when an "A" student in Tennessee moves to another state he should not now be a "D" student.  There should be some expectation that a student in the 5th grade in one state has most of the same skills and knowledge as a 5th grader in another state.

One of the criticism which I think has merit is the privacy concern.  I do not want the federal government to have the academic record of every child in America. This letter from 34 of the state commissioners  of education addresses the privacy issue.  This is encouraging and reassuring. 

There are several bills in the state legislature that addresses the privacy issue as it relates to Common Core. Senate Education Committee chair Dolores Gresham  has introduced a bill that would restrict the state from releasing a student's academic data to the federal government. There are also a couple other bills and resolutions introduced that address the issue.  The state legislature should go ahead and pass a bill that puts into state law the position stated by our Commissioner of Education.  This would even give more more comfort and assurances that student privacy will not be compromised by Common Core. I know I would be more comfortable with Common Core if such a bill passes.

Below is the text of the letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from the 34 state commissioners of education.

January 23, 2014

The Honorable Arne Duncan
United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Secretary Duncan:

As chief state school officers in states participating in the two common assessment consortia, we appreciate your continued leadership and collaboration with states as we work to raise our standards, improve our assessments, and strengthen our accountability systems.

Our states have been collaborating for the last three years to design and develop next generation, computer-based assessment systems that will give students, parents and educators better information about children’s progress toward preparation for college and careers. This work is critically important, and we are committed to the success of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Over the last several months, some concerns have been raised about whether states’ transition to the consortia assessments will create new requirements for states to provide student information to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) or any agency of the federal government.

We are writing today to confirm that the consortia will not share any personally identifiable information about K–12 students with USED or any federal agency. Our states have not submitted student-level assessment data in the past; the transition to the new assessments should not cause anyone to worry that federal reporting requirements will change when, in fact, the federal government is prohibited from establishing a student-level database that would contain assessment data for every student. As we have historically done, our states will continue to provide USED with school-level data from our state assessments as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended in 2002. Our states and local education agencies will continue to retain control over student assessment data and will continue to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations with regard to the protection of student privacy.

We understand that it has long been USED’s practice not to require states to provide information from assessments about individual K-12 students. We are confirming that our states will not provide such information to USED and that everything we have said here is consistent with our understanding of the cooperative agreement between the consortia and USED.

Thank you for your consideration and your continued commitment to our states success.


(Following is the signature and title of 34 state education commissioners.)
For more on this development follow this link and this link

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