Cradle to Grave Data System Includes Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on Children and Adults; Data Shared with National Data System
By: Linda Bell
This is part 4 in our series on data, career pathways and workforce tracking in Minnesota informed by audio testimony given before the Minnesota Data Practices Commission hearing of December 2014.
As cited in the previous article, (http://commoncoremn.com/2015/09/14/minnesotas-data-practices-commission-meets-our-state-dystopian-data-system-novel-in-the-making/) the Hollywood movie, The Giver, foreshadows the current state of career pathways and necessity for data collection. Art imitates life, as the edict goes, and Hollywood does a good job of that. Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was about the communist Red Scare of the 1950s, The Giver, Divergent / Insurgent and The Hunger Games are windows into our current trajectory. Overreaching governments and corporations are attempting, and succeeding, at controlling the lives and destinies of their citizens.
We introduced you last time to the Minnesota SLEDS (State Longitudinal Education Data System). Here we’ll examine how the data is obtained and populated into the SLEDS as well as important testimony given before the Minnesota Data Practices Commission.
First, how are the data points obtained for the Minnesota SLEDS?
SLEDS student data originates at each public school and is sent to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) traveling on to Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). All three agencies jointly manage the SLEDS and receive student data from the schools or colleges in compliance with state mandates. http://sleds.mn.gov/ Private Schools may request to have their student data populated into the SLEDS. Data is entered into the system by teachers and parents. Parents enter their children’s data through MDE-approved vendors, like Infinite Campus and Skyward. These vendors send the information to the SLEDS. This is a list of vendors certified by the Minnesota Department of Education to receive your child’s data in order to configure to a common format before reaching the SLEDS. http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/SchSup/SchFin/MARSSStuAcc/Vendors/058135
The Minnesota SLEDS Charter, set up on April, 2010 states:
“In the 2008 Minnesota legislative session, lawmakers passed statutory language allowing the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education to share data elements each currently collects for purposes of conducting research to answer questions in the vision for the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System.” Here our Minnesota legislature compliantly followed federal law allowing state agencies to openly share data. And to what purpose?
Chapter 298: Sec.2. M.S. 2006, section 13.32 Subd.11. was amended to provide for:
Data Sharing; improving instruction. The following educational data may be shared between the Department of Education and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education as authorized by the Code of Federal Regulations, title 34, section 99.31 (a)(6), to analyze instruction in school districts for purposes of improvement: (1)attendance data, including name of school or institution, school district, year or team of attendance, and term type: (2)student demographic and enrollment data; (3) academic performance and testing data; and (4) special academic services received by a student. Any analysis of or report on the data must contain only summary data.” http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/pdf/MNEdSLEDSCharterApril2010.pdf
Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), aka our Department of Labor, receives student data. Alessia Leibert, labor market analysist at DEED stated: “Minnesota has two systems. A SLEDS longitudinal system and a Local Database hosted at the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Workforce program participant data are included in both systems, with the exception of Vocational Rehabilitation. The DEED database is built on SQL Server 2012 and has a staging area and reporting capabilities.” National Listening Session of the US Dept of Labor, WIOA Initiative. http://www.doleta.gov/performance/pdf/WDQIWIOA_ListeningSession_chatresponses.pdf
Ms. Leibert, in her own words, frames student data as “workforce program participant data”.
What is the process of populating the data points in the SLEDS?
Each student (Early Learning Three and Four Year Olds – 12) in a public school, private school that has signed up to submit student data or homeschooler who is openly enrolled in a public school course or public school online, like K-12 Connections, is issued a State Student Identification (SSID) Number.
“The Student ID Validation System was initially created with error-free MARSS enrollment records that had been reported since Fiscal Year 1997. The state student identifiers are then sent to the MARSS system. http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=060426&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary
“All children receiving early learning scholarships must be assigned a statewide student identification number. The statewide student identification number is the mechanism for identifying children participating in Early Childhood Family Education, School Readiness and Early Learning Scholarships and is critical to the discussion around the alignment of preschool programs and funding to K-12 data.” These are three and four year olds. ELSA SSID User Guide. http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=060426&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary
SSID data is sent to the Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System.
“The Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS) collects student data required by more than one area of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) via one system. Minnesota Automated Reporting Student Web Edit System (MWES) is the system used to gather Minnesota districts information.”
“This crucial data is the primary data Minnesota Department of Education uses to make payment of funds to local school districts. Data collected by MARSS are used for a variety of purposes, including state aid and levy calculations, federal grant allocations, federal and state civil rights reporting, unduplicated child count, and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).” Student ID Validation User Guide for Minnesota. http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=022337&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a federal database, also receives our children’s data. This now proves that Minnesota children have data collected on them within district, sent to a state data warehouse as well as a federal data warehouse. Was this information ever disclosed to you? As a parent, were you ever asked to have your children’s data taken and sent far, far away? Where else is the data sent?
What is “the vision of the SLEDS” and the very reason for their existence?
According to testimony given by Meredith Fergus, administrative lead for the SLEDS, of the SLEDS/Office of Higher Education, before the Data Practices Commission,
“The vision of the SLEDS is to assist in identifying viable pathways for individuals in achieving success for education and work. Four measurements are used:
- Predictors of long term individual success
- Designing targeted improvement strategies
- Improving data-driving decision making
- Meeting our federal funding requirements
When we accepted federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Bill, 2009), we also had federal funding requirements to fulfill.” Testimony from the Office of Higher Education is linked at the end of the article.
TRANSLATION: The SLEDS exist to ASSIST young people with identifying “viable” career pathways, utilizing targeted improvement strategies (testing and survey credentials) for their “long term individual success”! This is the meaning of data-driven decision making. Whether we realize it or not, no longer are 8th graders in consultation with their parents, in the decision making role. A student’s “data” is informing the decision and there will be plenty of it! And lastly, the SLEDS management must first and foremost meet federal funding requirements (read “policies”). In other words, compliancy to federal policies is much more important than transparency with the people of Minnesota.
Once a teen/pre-teen’s career pathway is confirmed, will their high school curriculum be amended to a narrow academic path? Will the student be enrolled on an academic path or a skills-only path? Middle schoolers and parents know themselves so much better than 3rd party tests and surveys recommended and sometimes mandated by schools and homeschool co-ops with the backing of the state/federal government.
What else is collected for the SLEDS? Ms. Meredith Fergus, administrative lead for the SLEDS, Office of Higher Education, a cabinet-level state agency, remarks in her testimony before the Minnesota Data Practices Commission on December 2014:
“Of course as always with any state agency reports, public information is summary data (only contains summary data). This is the data that’s currently included in the SLEDS. So from the Minnesota Department of Education, we do include information that they already have on K-12 enrollment assessments. We purchase results of the ACT exam, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. We do include information for adult basic education students. We do include information from the Kindergarten readiness sample as well as early childhood education for those programs affiliated with Minnesota Department of Education, Career and Technical Education information and staffing information.”
“From the Minnesota Office of Higher Education we include post-secondary enrollments and completions from all public and private institutions in the state of Minnesota. And that is mandated data collection affiliated with state received financial aid. We also include form the US Department of Education, OHE office, institutional characteristics that is information about colleges in Minnesota. From the Department of Economic Development, we do include the unemployment insurance detail records, a limited set of employer details and workforce training participant data. In addition from Pearson we purchase results of those who pass the GED and those who are Minnesota residents as well as Minnesota public high school graduates who enroll out of state. Their enrollments and completion information is from the National Student Clearinghouse.”
Ms. Fergus states that data collected by the SLEDS is collected in the form of summary data. However, Data Practices Commission chair, Representative Mary Liz Holberg, delves a bit deeper to find the personally identifiable information in the SLEDS. A link at the conclusion of the article will take you to the hearing itself.
Mary Liz Holberg: Question: “Are you linking individual unemployment figures with social security numbers with unemployment? What data are you getting from DEEDS specifically?”
Meredith Fergus, “We get the unemployment insurance detail records which does include the employees’ first name, last name, and social security numbers. ”
Mary Liz Holberg: “And so you hold social security numbers in your SLEDS data as well?”
Meredith Fergus: “Correct! Social security numbers are also a part of the OHE data collection.”
28:58 – Mary Liz Holberg: “So help me out here! Going back to… You list all these… We’re talking about pre-school programs etc. – Are we moving toward a position where an individual’s entire educational history ends up in some government database? Umm . . . I was a little surprised by the pre-school stuff, so help a non-education person understand why we would want to, in my vernacular, track students?”
29:38 – Meredith Fergus: Madam Chair:” We do! SLEDS data will contain the entire educational history of an individual to the extent that we can link that information across the system.”
30:32 – Mary Liz Holberg: “So, how do you stay out of the system if you are a parent and you don’t want your child’s information? How would you even know that the state is? Again using my term, tracking your student for research purposes?”
30:51 – Meredith Fergus: “Madam Chair, this is probably one of the areas we’ve struggled with the most. Most of the data that’s collected at MDE and OHE is state mandated data collection, so we do not allow the opt-out for students and parents. . . . So, for a student who opts out at even the college level to share their data it is still transmitted to the OHE.”
38:57 – Mary Liz Holberg: “I’m still struggling with some components of this. If somebody goes in and files for unemployment, do you – how – does DEED push that data to you or do you request it only on a limited set of individuals or how is the? I mean, education data is one thing. Where you’re working? How much you’re being paid? If you’re on unemployment? I mean, that just seems – you know, it’s a big step!!! So, how does the data subject know? Or even do they? Do you only collect those that you tag or are you getting all of the unemployment and wage data from DEED and then sorting it?”
39:47 Meredith Fergus: Madam Chair: “We actually receive the quarterly wage detail records, so we don’t receive information on unemployment insurance benefit recipients. That is the one thing. We do receive the quarterly wage records which is the data on all employees in all companies subject to unemployment insurance. The entire data file is loaded into SLEDS. There’s no filtering done. So it is all workers in Minnesota subject to UI. And that is under the new statutory authority that was granted two years ago.”
40:20 – Mary Liz Holbert: “See, I missed that! So you’re telling me that every single worker in the state of Minnesota that works for a company that is subject to unemployment insurance, their social security numbers and names are in the SLEDS data?”
40:36 – Meredith Fergus: “Correct, Madam Chair.”
40:38 – Mary Liz Holberg: “Wow! That doesn’t make me feel very good. I don’t know about you across this table.”
Thanks to the many researchers who helped with the testimony transcript. Find the testimony in its entirety here. http://www.lcc.leg.mn/lcdp/audio/20141217.MP3
In conclusion, it should be noted that NO Minnesotan asked to have their children’s data stolen. Not one parent! This has been first and foremost a measure of coercive grants by the federal government in their “well-meaning way” to know what each and every citizen is doing at each and every moment. This ideology translates into “education” tracking and career steering children, from prenatal to the workforce, and then beyond throughout their entire lives. Can this really be happening in America, a country based on the principles of freedom? We see that it is!
If you are concerned about this lack of transparency and failure to properly disclose to parents concerning the removal children’s data, please join us at MACC . Our school districts and school boards, MDE approved vendors and the MDE itself have failed parents and citizens by not securing parental permissions for these data programs. MACC works at the grassroot and legislative levels. We need YOUR help!