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


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, 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)