Cape Gazette
http://capegazette.villagesoup.com/p/1051138

School year starts with stacks of paper

Data collection mostly stays local
By Melissa Steele | Sep 12, 2013
Source: Syracuse.edu Data mining has become a profitable business, but education officials say student data is not shared with the public or companies.

School is back in session and along with it come tons of paperwork for parents to fill out. Emergency forms, waivers, permission slips all blend together in a pile that is sifted through later that night. Making sure all the x's are crossed and i's are dotted is a chore in itself.

So what happens to all the paperwork sent back to school?

For the most part, it stays in the school, says Alison May, spokeswoman for the Department of Education.

“We do not release data to the public,” she said.

The issue of sharing information - commonly referred to as data mining - was a topic raised at several school board meetings over the summer. Participants who protested the state's adoption of Common Core curriculum for Delaware public school students also said certain technology companies would benefit from student information collected by schools.

Specifically, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their affiliation with Microsoft was targeted because the foundation contributed financially to the development of Common Core Standards. Some people said IBM would receive student information; others suggested iris screening would soon be used to gather information from students.

None of this is true, May said.

What the state does gather is student information during their school years, said Pat Bush, director of Technology Resources and Data Development.

This includes information on a student's health, discipline, test scores, grades, attendance and demographics.

“The intent of the data is for use within the schools so staff has access to serve students,” Bush said.

Data also is housed with the Delaware Department of Education, but access is allowed only on a “need-to-know basis,” Bush said.

The state collects student information for Title I, special education and other federal programs that it reports directly to the federal government, May said.

Besides that, she said, academic researchers often request data for studies or other academic pursuits.

“They may be studying something like the closing of the achievement gap,” she said.

A researcher must present a proposal to the Department of Education outlining exactly what they intend to do with the data. The proposal is approved before the data is released, May said.

She said the department receives about three requests a month for data, but the requests are not automatically granted.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents school officials from releasing student information to the public, May said.

"Both the state and federal government has to abide by FERPA, too," she said.

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