reflectively assessing my professional goals

Obstruction FOI practice may be very prudent
I’ve been studying the topic of digital citizenship and student privacy rights rather intently of late because I’ve been trying to develop a course of action and teacher’s guide for student blogging. It’s all part of my grow plans but it stems from a continuum do Ed Tech initiatives in SD23, my role as a teacher-librarian and supporter of student technology initiatives. Just as Audrey Watters outlined so nicely, Diane Ravitch recently blogged about the growing concern of student privacy in the USA.

PRIVACYPrivacy and protection is critical and BCs FOIPPA laws provide clear and maybe oppressive boundaries yet we know there is a large digital elephant in the education room. It appears as if the rapid corporatization and Chartering in the US, which has given rise to massive information sharing by Pearson, Google et al, may have started an ugly precedent that will not be easy to roll back. In that front, we in BC should be happy about the conservative pace we’ve connected our children at school. Keeping strings attached to our FOI may be very prudent even if it appears obstructionist at times.

We need to be very vigilant about who and what genie we let out of the bottle…. protecting student content of all kinds, not just demographics or achievement, is a prudent but also very professional essential aspect of instructional design. – Al Smith , Kelowna

“What lies ahead for student privacy when private companies, government agencies, and a wide range of researchers have greater access to student data and information? I mentioned earlier the “business of education.” …. Business is booming and groups like CCSSO are benefiting. Technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year.” (

In 2008 and 2011, amendments to FERPA gave third parties, including private companies, increased access to student data. It is significant that in 2008, the amendments to FERPA expanded the definitions of “school officials” who have access to student data to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.” This change has the effect of increasing the market for student data.

For example, the amendments give companies like Google and Parchment access to education records and other private student information. Students are paying the cost to use Google’s “free” servers by providing access to their sensitive data and communications.

The 2011 amendments allow the release of student records for non-academic purposes and undermine parental consent provisions. The changes also promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records.

These amendments are critical to supporting initiatives like Common Core that depend on collection of student data to monitor implementation and measure success. Schools across the country will contract with third-party vendors to provide products, programs, and services in order to meet the Common Core requirements — and government agencies and researchers will be mining student information for studies and databases. The FERPA amendments are paving the way toward greater accessibility to student data while providing no meaningful sanctions or protections against breaches of student privacy. As amended, FERPA will loosen privacy protections while helping to promote the business of education. (


Comments are closed.