Minnesota’s Data Practices Commission Meets our State Dystopian Data System Novel-in-the-Making
Can you imagine your child’s school teacher or principal presenting you with your life’s profession in the 7th grade? Without you or your parent’s consent or discussion? In Minnesota, “career pathways” which lead to “successful workforce outcomes” decided primarily by a child’s data is one of the main missions of the State Longitudinal Educational Data System or SLEDS. Minnesota meet Dystopia!
Last December 2014, the recently formed Data Practices Commission sat down for a presentation from the Minnesota Office of High Learning to find out just what is going on with data collection and the student database in our state. Although the presentation involved mostly goals and management of the SLEDS, career pathways were mentioned in passing. I was rather amazed at the amount of information on career pathways in Minnesota!
Remember Lois Lowry’s, The Giver, written in 1993? The novel is “set in a society which at first appears as a Utopian Society but then later is revealed to be a Dystopian one, as the story progresses. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth and thirteenth years of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicate emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, as there may be times where one must draw upon the wisdom gained from history to aid the community’s decision making. Jonas struggles with concepts of all of the new emotions, and things being introduced to him, and whether they are inherently good, evil, in-between, and if it’s even possible to have one without the other. The Community lacks any color, memory, climate and terrain whatsoever, all in effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.”
“Jonas, who is eleven years old, is apprehensive about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve (7th grade), where he will be assigned his career or his “assignment in the community”. In his society, little privacy is allowed; even private houses have two-way intercoms which can be used to listen in for infractions of the rules. However, the rules appear to be readily accepted by all, including Jonas.” Read more here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giver
Granted Lowry’s book is fiction but this story is eerily close to reality! Interest in Career Pathways and Career Pathway Systems has been soaring since our US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan made this comment highlighting his faith in data-driven decision making.
“My personal favorite [story] occurred when he [Duncan] visited a charter school in Brooklyn. He told those assembled that the United States is facing both an economic crisis and an educational crisis. And then came this immortal line: “We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,” he said.” Diane Ravitch, blog. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/05/my-favorite-line-from-arne-duncan-what-is-yours/
According to the Office of Higher Learning (Minnesota Department of Education) website, who helps manage the Minnesota State Longitudinal Education Data System, “SLEDS brings together data from education and workforce to identify viable pathways for individuals in achieving successful outcomes in education and work. It will also inform decisions to support and improve education and workforce policy, helping to create a more seamless education and workforce system for all Minnesotans. SLEDS is populated with education and workforce data collected from the contributing state agencies MDE, the Office of Higher Education and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.” http://sleds.mn.gov/
How does the Minnesota Department of Education collect your child’s data? How are the databases populated? The data is sent via ipad or chromebook. Notice how many school districts are utilizing completely online curriculum and/or testing? Your child logs in with their own personal school log-in ID and the data flies. This is one of the identifiers for your child in the SLEDS. That news for another segment!
Minnesota’s Career Pathways System is quite robust and nearly complete! So who is interested in your little human capital’s career path besides you, the parent and your child? There are numerous organizations in addition to:
- Your child’s school district
- Minnesota Department of Education
Minnesota State Universities and Colleges
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Minnesota State Legislature via Minnesota World’s Best Workforce: Statute 120B.11
- Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
- Pearson Workforce Education
- Alliance for Quality Career Pathways
- Advancing Career and Technical Education for Career Pathways
A Career Pathway is your child’s sequence in curriculum, and therefore THE curriculum! At what age do children know their own minds well enough to make big life decisions, such as their life-long career? Business leaders need to ask themselves if 7th grade or earlier, an unwise “investment”?
Teachers and schools are no longer in the driver’s seat in curriculum development or curriculum-sequencing. Will these career pathways educate a child for all occupations, the broad liberal arts education that every child deserves, or deliver a more narrow path for just a few occupations? Who is ultimately in charge regarding curriculum? Is it education or business? That’s the question we must ask! We feel that every child should be given every a great academic education, not a mere skills-based training, while allowing them to reach for the stars, whether it be in 2nd grade, 7th grade or 12th grade.
We highly encourage parents to refuse the tests and surveys given online, particularly computer adaptive as well as refuse online curriculum. These three components feed the data system.
NEXT UP: We delve into the world of Career Pathways from all perspectives!