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.