It is very telling that over the past few weeks (just as the dashboard selection due date approached), several districts across New York State have chosen to withdraw from Race To The Top.    “I don’t know” and “probably” were not sufficient responses to the many concerns about privacy and the depth of the data required.

Here are the districts that have withdrawn recently:  Spackenkill (See here); Hyde Park (See here); Pleasantville (See Here); Comsewogue (See Here); Rye Neck,  Pelham, Pocantico Hills, Hastings-on-Hudson, and Mount Pleasant(See Here) Districts considering doing the same include Dobbs Ferry, and South Orangetown (See Here).

Interestingly, Pearl River’s Superintendent attended a meeting with NYSED Representatives less than two weeks ago and when he asked questions whether information not currently being collected would be in the future, the response:  They don’t know!  (See his letter to parents here)  Sure, their RTTT funds are not as high as ours, but there’s is a small district with less revenue from property taxes. (See here- a third of the size of our district)

The alleged “information read in newspapers,” “rumors,” and “stuff from Facebook” about the actual threat to our children’s privacy rights are actually FACTS, not opinion or rumors.

First, please read the quote below – it is taken from the New York RTTT program phase 2 application.

“NYSED is working with social service agencies, workforce development organizations, health agencies, criminal justice agencies, and community organizations to coordinate all parts of education, from early childhood through graduate school. The goal is to create a P-20 system that will follow individuals from birth through adulthood and provide the support needed to improve education and other life outcomes.”

“There currently is a lack of shared knowledge among all the agencies and stakeholders who are responsible for children and adults. Therefore, the essential bases of this P-20 coordination must be: the seamless sharing of information through a multi-institutional database, and follow-up actions developed through an analysis of that information. NYSED’s major tool will be a continuously updated electronic transcript that will follow an individual from early childhood through all aspects of education and into the workforce and include an “early warning system” of data indicators that will enable each agency or organization within the system to intervene early, as soon as the individual appears to need help.”

Source: (See RTTT assurance signed by former Governor Patterson and NYSED)

This is positively Orwellian!  When little Johnny gets suspended for fighting in 7th grade (regardless of whether or not he was simply defending himself), his suspension will follow him for the rest of his adult life? – College admissions reps, potential employers (“workforce development organizations”), criminal justice agencies – etc…  The potential for abuse is too risky.   OR when little Amanda is sexually abused by her uncle, she’ll be listed as a victim- for others to see – for how long?  If a child has a behavioral issue in 2nd grade that is corrected by years of therapy and/or parental guidance, that will follow them throughout their adult life on some database?

This is INSANE!

Second, while Commissioner King can keep stating “the data is already there,”  an EngageNY Portal Manager says differently:

“The tools in some ways are only as good as the data that’s supplied to power them,” Singh said. To get good operational analytics back, districts will need to get into the routine of providing updates to the repository on an ongoing basis rather than only periodically. The data will also become more interesting when other applications used by the districts begin to both feed the repository and take advantage of the data it has collected.” (See Here)

Thus, the districts will be “feeding” the repository when they are connected to EngageNY via the dashboards.  WITHOUT the dashboards, EngageNY cannot be fed – especially not with new data NYSED continues to request.

Third, as I have already informed our superintendent, I spoke with another district’s superintendent on Friday.  Their BOE voted to withdraw from RTTT last week.  He advised that NYSED is NOT requiring the district to reimburse any funds they have already received.  They will simply not receive the rest of their grant money.  For us, the amount we have not yet received is approximately $96,000. Our RTTT grant was $240, 944 over a period of 5 years which equals $48,000 per year.  Three (3) years have passed, so there should be approximately $96,000 left that we should receive. That amounts to about $10.43 per child (using an approximation of 9,200 students in the district.)

Even if those of us who see the risk and fear the unknown are completely wrong, I’m certain if you polled parents and asked them their opinion, they’d agree to pay the district the $10.43 to insure their children’s privacy.

Finally, according to Public Consulting Group (the company that NYSED contracted with citing FERPA § 99.31(a)(3)) the NYSED has the authority to re-disclose the data without districts’ consent!

“In the Preamble to the final regulations, ED clarified that the redisclosure of PII under §99.31(a)(6)(ii) does not r equire the consent of the educational agencies and institutions that disclosed the PII to the FERPA-permitted entities. The FERPA amendments become effective on January 3, 2012.”

These are my concerns.  I am respectfully requesting that each of you look through this information, reflect back upon when your children were in school, and ask yourselves this:  If there was a risk for your child, would you take it?