ACT: The Power to Collect and Share Data without Permission While Predicting Your Child’s Destiny

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Summer Parade of Minnesota Surveys 2015

ACT:  The Power to Collect and Share Data without Permission While Predicting Your Child’s Destiny

By:  Anne Taylor

Not long ago someone shared with me ACT’s data practices policy guidelines.  The original PDF document was readily found on-line, until recent.   I’d written a piece on it several months ago, set it aside and now here it is again.  What I can tell you is this:  Forget the weasel clause in sifting out where your child’s information may go.  ACT’s document was so blatant in its disclosure of data collection that you wouldn’t need to bother understanding FERPA.

Initially, I read ACT’s data policy booklet front to back – a mere 21 pages.  On the very last page, in the very last sentence it stated, “We release individually identifiable information according to the policies described in this booklet.”

I began reading the policy booklet from the back of the pages and up.  What are these plans, systems and guidelines?  What divine code can be cracked by reading this backwards?  Yes, I read the policy backwards.  I’ll spare you details from the previous article and instead share with you the following important headlines that jumped out of the document:

“Student recruitment & employment”

“Educational & Psychological Testing”

“Execute research studies necessary for proper use of programs”

“Routinely collect information”

“Must have policies in place to protect data from unauthorized disclosure”

“May share personally identifiable info with in family of companies”

“chief state school officer”

The last passage points to a major red flag as the CSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) is responsible for the creation and implementation of Common Core in our schools, and, who worked in tandem with the National Governors Association (NGA).  The NGA was also a key player when the standards were developed in 2009.  In recent years, the NGA refused to take a position on Common Core after having received heavy backlash for their involvement.

Contained within ACT’s original data document, further disclosure on CSSO was noted in the following statement:  “Institutional summary data on examinees in public high schools in a state are released to the chief state school officer.  We offer consultation assistance to the state department of education on appropriate interpretation of such data.” Also, “The release of aggregate data to each state and the national media is timed to provide notice to state officials.”

This statement alone clearly supports ACT’s involvement with CSSO and its stakeholders along with how student data is shared within the company.

Last week, examiner.com released an article on upcoming changes made to ACT regarding the optional writing test, while adding “two new hybrid scores in English Language Arts (ELA) and Science, Technology, Engineering or Science and Math (STEM).”  The scores will now essentially be based off the combined “hybrid” results.  With this, ACT has created a system for actually projecting the likelihood of student achievement in a particular education field, degree or vocation solely based on the new calculation.  They can even tell your child what colleges and universities are best suited for them based off other “voluntary” information asked of them during registration.

But how many students understand that the additional information asked of them is even voluntary?  Note that while students can choose whether or not to disclose information such as GPA or grades in certain classes, they are warned “The information you give may be verified by college personnel.” 

One can clearly see more red flags on the horizon with this new kind of “hybrid” scoring:  (1) Marketing success of a human capitol based on POTENTIAL success.  (2) College admissions could actually choose to deny the student another major based on data results.

And the best yet:  These so called “chances of success” are not even seen on the student report.  Why?  Because according to ACT “the college owns the information.”

This is the concern with early college and career placement within ACT’s Explore test starting in 8th grade.  Because high school is now focused all on college and career, students are asked to divulge a good deal of information following ACT’s Explore test that concludes with a 72 page inventory of additional “likes” and “dislikes” questionnaire.

According to sources, inventory questions include more than just the students’ zip code:  Mother/Father (or guardians) highest level of education, languages spoken, high school coursework and future plans after high school.

Students are told to answer as many “likes” or “dislikes” on the inventory questionnaire and strongly encouraged NOT to check if they were “indifferent” on a subject matter.  Some are simple such as studying the sciences like Biology or finding calculating errors, while others asked if the student liked to sort books, watch a forest fire, or if they like to tell jokes.

The results will lead students to their destiny of career path placement in high school under the guise of their guidance counselor of which parents are most likely NOT part of.

ACT stands for American College Testing and began in 1959 with the mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success.  This is what we have all been led to believe, but with data now at our fingertips and years of analysis, have we truly come to recognize this is the new age not unlike the book and most recent, the movie “The Giver.”  One only has to insert the workforce initiative.

Even with wholehearted intentions, this purely all comes down to workforce.  Simply put, this is what ACT and its stakeholders are truly doing to our children:  Pigeonholing them into research projects for profit, not much unlike the German pedagogical model of education that continues to exist today.

This brings to mind:  Have parents considered what THEIR policy is when it comes to their child’s private data being collected and exposed through their school, via the testing system? Did you, as a parent or legal guardian, receive a data practices policy disclosure prior to your child taking the ACT?  Did you know that some schools are requiring ACT testing as early as Kindergarten?

This year Minnesota removed the required mandate by statute that once required students to take the ACT in order to graduate from high school.  Previously, in order to graduate in the state of Minnesota, students were required to take the ACT (passing or not) in order to receive their high school diploma – regardless of whether or not they were attending college.

Passed this year in the Omnibus K-12 Education Finance Bill, the Minnesota Department of Education released in a statement that The Career and College Assessments for grades 8 and 10 (ACT Explore and Plan) and the college placement diagnostic exam (ACT Compass) was eliminated and that the department will no longer administer these assessments.

While this is a huge feat for our state legislators in this passing, it still does not stop the flow of data on students that come from the schools and thwarted onto stakeholders.  And while the department will no longer provide a statewide solution for a legislatively-required Career Interest Inventory, districts must now contract with vendors individually to administer a Career Interest Inventory to students. The results from the inventory will be used in the state-required Annual Career Plan.

MACC encourages families to seriously consider these policies and ask if it compliments your family values.  You as a parent maintain the rights of refusal to have your child partake in this kind of research analysis – realize the importance of teaching your adult 18 year old the information that is collected on them as well as their family.

It is time for parents to voice their concerns about the protection of their children’s information to their local leaders and legislators.  In short, this system of testing IS failing our children and on a whole, our society.  ACT welcomes your comments and questions.  You may write them with your concerns at:

Vice President, Communications                                      

ACT Inc.                                                                                                                                        

P.O. Box  168                                                                                                                                                    

Iowa City, IA 52243-0168

Most importantly, start contacting your legislators, securing your school groups and talk to your school district on concerns over data collection.

ACT 2015 HS Report (1)

 

Narrowing Education to “16 Personalities”: Did You Consent to Myers-Briggs in Your School?

Summer Parade of Minnesota Surveys 2015

Narrowing Education to “16 Personalities”:  Did You Consent to Myers-Briggs in Your School?

By:  Anne Taylor

Are you judging or perceiving?  Thinking or feeling?  Are you an introvert or extrovert?  Known worldwide, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment claims to have helped millions of people gain insights about themselves and how they interact with others.  According to the site, information from the test is used to improve how people communicate, learn, and work while providing a powerful framework for building better relationships, driving positive change, harnessing innovation, and achieving excellence. ”The MBTI assessment makes Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type both understandable and highly practical by helping individuals identify their preferences”, but discloses it should never be referred to as ‘a personality test.’

It’s just a measure, a return of data, right?

But who’s administering and interpreting your answers could raise questions, especially when it’s your child taking these kinds of tests (or “indicators”) while in school and without parental knowledge or consent.

According to the Washington Post, roughly 2 million people a year take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  It has become the gold standard of psychological assessments used in businesses and government agencies including the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the CIA and nearly every federal department you can name, including the EPA.

This multimillion-dollar business is built around the concept that everyone fits one of 16 personality types. In the past 20 years, a plethora of regional sales teams now pitch to organizations on how they can use Myers-Briggs, including educational institutions.  There is a lot of money to be made with individual tests, supplemental guides and tool kits starting at a mere $15-$40.  Want to become a certified administrator of the test?  Pay $1,700 for a four-day training class.

According to Adam Grant, a professor of industrial psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, what is concerning is “the cultlike devotion” many consultants and practitioners have regarding this test without examination of the evidence.  The tests themselves can be administered it seems by anyone today.

Which is precisely a concern when students at the Minnetonka High School were administered an on-line “16 Personalities” test to freshman during English class.  But it didn’t stop there – the test also followed up to a separate battery of on-line survey questions asking everything from the students city, home life and living arrangements as well as number of siblings, to what they think what style of learning they do best.

Traditionally, a psychological assessment is something that’s typically done in a formal manner and only by a licensed psychologist.  Depending upon what kind of testing is being done; the test is usually performed in a psychologist’s office and consists of paper-and-pencil tests or on a computer for ease-of-use, and typically lasts 1 ½ hours to a full day.

Psychological testing is divided into four primary types:  Clinical Interview, Assessment of Intellectual Functioning (IQ), Personality Assessment and Behavioral Assessment.

In addition to primary types of psychological assessment, other kinds of psychological tests are available for specific areas such as aptitude or achievement in school, career or work counseling, management skills, and career planning.  Perhaps you remember taking Meyers Briggs when making a transition in jobs.

Another example of career placement begins with the ACT Explore test for 8th graders which gives a 72 questionnaire at the end of the test – asking everything from if they like to mow the lawn, to if they would like to work for a political campaign.  Today, however, we’ve entered the world of computer adaptive testing and “individualized learning” via the technology freeway found in schools under the guise of Common Core.

Minnetonka board member Pam Langseth feels this kind of testing is necessary in order to better determine for the student what learning styles are best suited for them.  However, there was little response when asked if she felt it was ethical considering that teachers are not trained, nor licensed psychologists in the schools.  Ms. Langseth did point out we wouldn’t know what the results of this new system would show for at least another 10 years.  This was an interesting response being that it is the exact same response Bill Gates has given numerous times on Common Core.

If doctors or psychologists were to release student information like this following such a test, they would be fined at least $100,000 for each instance AND could lose their license because of a breach of confidentiality.  So how then do schools knowingly get away with it?

The new FERPA changes in 2012 actually violate student and family privacy.  FERPA, The Family Rights and Privacy Act, an act that once protected student and family information was completely gutted under Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and signed into executive order by President Obama.  What does it mean?  Student information can now be accessed by corporations (stakeholders), school personnel (including volunteers) and any other entity that the state approves.

And what does the personally identifiable information about your child include?  Basically anything you provide.  According to Anita Hoge for Pennsylvanians Against Common Core, “The personally identifiable information includes information on every student’s personality, attitudes, values, beliefs, and disposition, a psychological profile called Interpersonal Skills Standards and anchors…This data has been illegally obtained through deceptive means without the parents’ knowledge or consent through screening, evaluations, testing, and surveys. These illegal methods of information gathering were actually fraudulently called ‘academic standards’ on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website portal.”

In a nutshell, it is a pre-K to workforce, cradle to grave data system.  Information is shared with the feds through SLEDS (state longitudinal education data system) and not only is a violation of privacy, but a violation of civil rights through deceptive means.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson, Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy Services in Utah and well-versed in cognitive assessment among African American school-aged children, states that when assessments are placed in the “right” hands of trained mental health professionals, psychological testing can save lives. Placed in the “wrong” hands, psychological testing can ruin lives as well as cause psychological trauma to people if they have knowledge that their results were used for nefarious purposes.

It is crucial for parents to understand that Common Core does not state which public school employees are to administer or interpret these tests.  Common Core also doesn’t allow for individualized needs of traumatized children, nor provide relief from assessments which can create anxiety, depression and avoidance symptoms.

Dr. Thompson points out that while the accuracy of psychological testing has progressed in the last 10 years; we need to question organizations or individuals chosen by the government who use this data to develop highly accurate predictive tests while not having any stated ethical procedures, guidelines, or institutional controls.

The question is obvious:  What then exactly are they trying to “predict”, and, without written parental consent?

Parents still have a voice and have a right to opt their child out of such testing.  Schools are required to disclose and notify parents of these tests – disclosure via the school’s on-line academic system is not an acceptable means of notification.  Under Minnesota statute 120B.20 parents have a right to review curriculum, which would not be limited to surveys, as the surveys – in the case of Minnetonka – were clearly being used during regular classroom time to determine a student’s psychological profile in the name of education.

Educate your child to look for surveys, questions or testing such as this including end-of-the semester or year teacher surveys in the classroom.   It is important you write or speak your concerns with your child’s teachers and principals, school guidance counselor as well as district superintendents and school board members.

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What Do Parent Surveys, Pearson & Finding Nemo Have in Common?

Summer Parade of Minnesota Surveys 2015 

What Do Parent Surveys, Pearson & Finding Nemo Have in Common?

By:  Anne Taylor

This spring MACC received quite a reaction from parents to public in our 4-part series “Spring Parade of Surveys.”  This fueled many to start paying closer attention to the kinds of questions their child is being asked in their school.  If you missed the series, you may go back and review the Spring collection of Surveys that included the following:  Search Institute, Matchomatics, National School Climate Center and the Minnesota Student Health Survey.  These were actual surveys given to us by parents in various districts.  With the exception of the Minnesota Student Health Survey (states usually carry their own version of this survey) the other three surveys mentioned above have received public scrutiny among parents across states, including lawsuits being filed.  Search Institute has been sued in connection with their district school board several times and in multiple states on behalf of parents for the districts lack of notification and consent to parents while violating privacy and the first amendment.

We decided it was time to continue the series based on the fact that so many parents did not realize how their child is being ‘mined’ on some of the most intrusive questions AND, often WITHOUT FRIST OBTAINING PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PARENT TO CONDUCT THE ACTUAL SURVEY OF A MINOR.

MACC supports parents in their fundamental right to guide the upbringing and education of their child.  According to the U.S. Constitution, parental rights are protected by the 14th amendment – including rights to religious/spiritual freedom in regard to parental control over one’s child.  Therefore, parents have a right to review and decide for themselves if their child should ever take a survey or answer any kind of in-district questionnaire or 3rd party survey.

To some, questions may not seem as intrusive or personal; some parents even think it is good to ask what kids feel.  Whatever the reason, parents continue to come back and tell us they do not like their child answering questions on school time.  Many teachers we have spoken to have said they do not like surveys as they take up what’s left of valuable, precious classroom teaching time.

In this series, however, the Eden Prairie school district conducted its own survey – this time, among its parents.  This is not unique in that many schools are increasingly offering surveys to parents in an effort to quickly communicate concerns, experiences and needs while summarizing their overall district experience.  I for one felt this initially an easy and convenient way to participate in my child’s school district, however; as many districts take on digitized learning, there also brings to question, the kinds of questions parents are being asked and how THEY will be tracked.

We don’t think much about the keychain fobs that include our phone number or giving our zip code at the checkout lane to add to those ‘bonus points’, even freely giving out an email address.  While this system of information clearly isn’t going away in our time, you have to wonder why it is suddenly the schools business to ask YOU what kinds of social media you the parent uses, and how often.

Early in March of this year, New Jersey superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett made headlines revealing that the company, Pearson, had been cooperating with the state’s education department to spy on student social media during PARCC testing (*Note: Minnesota does not use PARCC, but does have a contract with Pearson for an alternative test to measure the Common Core standards).  The school district expressed concerns over what Pearson may do with the data creating support, as well as a surge in the opt-out movement of standardized testing.

One of the major components of 21st Century Learning is digitized, on-line delivered learning – which sometimes includes surveys in the name of curriculum.  Perhaps the kinds of questions schools are asking parents are a way to gauge how involved the parent is with their child’s technology?  Questions also ask how much parents use their own technology including apps, software, legal use of web content as well as the kinds of personal devices used in the home.  If all of this is true and seemingly harmless, why then is it necessary to ask parents their age group, along with how many children is in the home.  Clearly, it is for marketing purposes and yet, it’s all information that is “anonymous” – Right?

To coin the character “Gill” in Disney’s Finding Nemo, “All drains lead to the ocean, kid”.  The same can be said for data systems.

Just as we “starve the beast” by opting our children out of standardized testing and data, you as a parent may consider starving your school’s data system and beyond by refraining from answering your school district survey.  Better yet, we encourage families to go into their school boards and personally address questions and concerns.  With that, you have created a relationship.  Something we can all agree does not always happen behind a screen.

 

EPHS Technolgy Survey 1 (2)

 

EP survey 2 (1)