“Mother Rabbit” Leads the Animals Back to the Original Data Source: Our Minnesota Department of Human Services, While Threatening our Children’s Department of Education Records



“Mother Rabbit” Leads the Animals Back to the Original Data Source:  Our Minnesota Department of Human Services, While Threatening our Children’s Department of Education Records

By: Anne Taylor


“Wait!” said Mother Rabbit.  “I’ll show you all something guaranteed to terrify.”

“You will?” asked Little Rabbit, burying his head in fear.

“Yes – follow me!”

Mother Rabbit led the animals back to the Rabbit’s house.

“Welcome to the Messiest Room on Earth,” Mother Rabbit announced grandly.  “Stinky socks! Dirty Rocks!  An Emporium of Odiferous Oddities!  You won’t believe your eyes – or your nose.”

“This is shocking,” said the skunk, sniffing a fossilized after-school snack. 

“Unbelievable,” opinioned the ox.

“After you conclude your tour of the Messiest Room on Earth, you may take anything you like as a souvenir,” said Mother Rabbit.  “In fact, take two. Or three.”

The above quote from Sarah Klise’s book “Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth” illustrates what I believe to be the blatant openness of how far out of control our data system has become regarding our students in school.

In fact, so open, it’s there for anyone (or any company, rather) to come in and collect just about anything and everything at will to the point of claiming children’s information as ‘souvenirs’ for profit.  The stealing of such data is unwarranted, unpermitted and stinky just as a child’s “fossilized after-school snack.”  And yes, many of us parents have been there finding just that in regards to school data collection!

For the last week my youngest, who is of pre-school age, has ironically asked me to read Klise’s book to her numerous times.  So when I saw last night’s ten o’clock news clip regarding the lack of data safety and so-called outcry for better cybersecurity and spending to curtail hackers, my mind could only say:  “Unbelievable!” just like the Ox in Klises’s book.

Being the ‘meanest mother on earth’ that I am, I found it outrageous to listen to the rhetoric of the local news acting as though cybersecurity was something of a new kind of threat in this state as seen in one clip from WCCO news as being unheard of, even ‘shocking.’

Not so shocking to me.

We here at MACC have shared concern for years, researched this, discussed it, wrote about it, preached it, informed parents, legislators and community members about it.

In 2013, the late state Capitol reporter Jim Ragsdale revealed “In Minnesota, a legislative auditor discovered that the state department of education’s computer systems ‘lacked adequate internal controls and comprehensive security plans’ and that department employees ‘had failed to document where private (student) data was held or the internal controls needed to secure it.’ The federal government having access, via these interconnected longitudinal data systems, to so much data about our kids is frightening. And it’s not just academic information that’s at stake.”

In the spring of 2016, myself and several members of the MACC board testified before our Minnesota House Education committee on the very issue of student data security.  While the 2013 audit was brought up by House Representative, Eric Lucero (R-30B), the Minnesota Department of Education admitted they ‘fixed’ the problem with several million dollars to upgrade their system.

However; and shortly thereafter, further testimony that day revealed that even after the system was upgraded, our own MN DOE blatantly neglected to run an audit, and has NOT on any of its 30 plus contractors in a decade.  Once again, common sense business practice with the government just went out with the stinky socks and fossilized after-school snacks!  And who’s footing the bill and why so long to fix it?  Why now?

While the news release focused mainly on the Department of Human Services, it is no accident the Commissioners backdrop was that of education records and student social security numbers.  What the news failed to report is that during last spring’s testimony, it was revealed Minn-LInK is full-on open data for anyone to take as the treasure chest of the crowned jewels in data.

Minn-LInK exposes the following:  Student standardized test records, General education testing records, child protection records, children’s mental health records, records of incarcerated adults, juvenile court records, student academic records, academic disciplinary records and “other” human services.

And a word about the Student Health Surveys I’ve written about and one of the most controversial, among other third party companies and schools themselves conducting their own surveys, that information also creates huge exposure.

According to Federal education instructors on data privacy, what is even more concerning are the breaches we don’t know about.  As a parent, what is truly concerning is that there are little if any teeth in the law to hold districts, educators and our government institutions accountable.

Pre-1984/Pre-Mouse?  According to some I’ve asked on computer safety, what’s unknown is how the data is stored, and where it is.  It is an embarrassment to know that our state has to call in retired tech people to FIX our systems that already had millions poured into them time and time again.

Once again, as a society we have completely taken all of this for granted: Trusting the system. In this case, bluntly put, our state has been negligent in protecting our children’s information.

It is time for a complete re-evaluation and overhaul of student data laws and revisions.  (SLEDS, Infinite Campus, to name a few).  Verify your school contracts with Google.  What do they say?  Who or what is the real problem around the technology crisis we are in.

As I wrote in my article in 2014 following the passing of the late Minnesota Capitol reporter, Jim Ragsdale following his 2013 audit on our schools, we have to ask ourselves, did we as parents grant that permission to give school’s our most private information on our children?  Our family information?  Why is there a sudden need to ‘protect’ that information when all the while we have been subjecting our children to such profiling through an insurmountable survey’s on our students – some as high as standardized testing, even after we have a student survey statute under 121A.065 passed and enacted in 2016.

“Nearly every critical government service that we provide to Minnesotans is provided through our IT systems,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans.  According to Department of Human Services, Chief Business Technology Officer Scott Peterson, the Minnesota Department of Human Services was hacked in 2015.  With the DHS having it’s comingling with student data, this should cause alarm and concern.  We have a growing number of students who are on medications, have personal student reports and health records that feeds into a larger data pool such as our State Longitudinal Data System (SLEDS) that feeding into the ever larger federal education system.

Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $125 million worth of cybersecurity reforms, with $74 million going to cybersecurity defenses, while $51 million would go to upgrading the state’s information technology infrastructure.  How much of this could have been avoided had our state upgraded with the times?  We are one of the few states so very far behind in technology reform, and yet the most forward thinking in innovation/technology systems in our schools and without proper protections in place at a statewide level.

Here are some classic examples of where your child’s information may be shared with the school district and beyond:  Name, grade, height, weight, parents address and information, types of social media use, clubs, birthdate, academic records, favorite social media uses, sports physicals, immunizations, social-emotional attitudes and behaviors, discipline records, mental health, political affiliation, religious attitudes and beliefs, favorite colors, likes/dislikes of food, even cartoon characters, study habits, job and work values.

This is just a small list, and yet, these seemingly minuscule data links can be narrowed down to pinpoint a student’s shoe size with just this amount of information – or less.

It’s time to clean up the messiest room on Earth, Minnesota, and it starts with audits, sound laws and upgraded systems with full accountability to those who disregard any parent who should trust first and foremost the system that is in place before them.

Are there glitches in the system?  Sure.  But this?  Blatant neglect.  Minnesota families should absolutely have the first and foremost say on their data and trust that it is secure.


MN DHS Announces Hack from 2015: Timeliness Questioned

According to Department of Human Services, Chief Business Technology  Officer Scott Peterson announced yesterday that the Minnesota DHS was hacked in 2015.   Did they report this little item at the time of the breach??  No!  They are reporting a year or two later.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what part of the DHS data was “hacked”?  As we’ve reported last year, the MN Department of Health and Human Services partners with the Department of Education and Labor to run the mega-data warehouse, the Minnesota SLEDS (State Longitudinal Educational Data System).  Children’s and families’ data is held in this database and of course this information is shared with numerous entities.  Was this a portion of what was hacked?

In testimony last year, the Minnesota Department of Education stated that there have been no audits on the 40+ contracts whom they share/sell data.  In fact, there have been no audits in over 10 years.  If the MDE is so cavalier with our children’s data, could the MN Health and Human Services Department have similarly lax policies?

Something to think about!







MACC Signs National Coalition Letter: Questions Regarding Betsy DeVos

MACC Signs National Coalition Letter:  Questions Regarding Betsy DeVos
Linda Bell
Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children signed a national coalition letter earlier this week representing the concerns of hundreds of thousands of national, regional, state and local individuals and member organizations (with growing signatories). The purpose of the letter is to send  requested questions to the HELP (Senate education) committee to query the secretary-designate, Betsy DeVos.    The hearing on DeVos is said to occur on January 11th at 5:00p.m. Parents and citizens are questioning DeVos’ promotion of common core which is antithetical to local control, data privacy, parental rights, freedom of conscience and the continuation of federal education overreach.  It is important for citizens to understand DeVos’ record on Common Core.   The letter in full may be read here. http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/files/DD5936E5-60E2-4A38-AAF4-D9AD2C1D71DD–A1F249C3-E63B-4263-863C-269FBCFB19F9/letter-to-senate-with-questions-for-devos-1-9-online-version.pdf?lc=01092017110530
Here are the questions.
            1) We understand that your website statement (http://betsydevos.com/qa/) right after your appointment that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core was meant to reassure activists that you oppose the standards and will honor Mr. Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core. Please list your efforts during your extensive period of education activism and philanthropy to fight the implementation of the standards.
           2) In your November 23 website statement you mention “high standards,” and in the Trump Transition Team readout (https://www.greatagain.gov/news/readout-saturday-november-19-meetings-president-elect-donald-j-trump-and-vice-president-elect.html)  of your November 19th meeting with the president-elect, you reportedly discussed “higher national standards.” Please explain how this is different from Common Core. Also, please justify this stand in light of the lack of constitutional and statutory authority for the federal government to involve itself in standards, and in light of Mr. Trump’s promise to stop Common Core, make education local, and scale back or abolish the U.S. Department of Education.
         3) Would you please reconcile your website statement that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core with your record of education advocacy in Michigan and elsewhere – specifically, when you have, either individually or through your organizations (especially the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) that you founded and chaired, (http://stopcommoncoreinmichigan.com/2016/12/dick-betsy-devos-admit-influence-elections-legislation-consequences-rewards/)  and of which your family foundation is still the majority funder):
 Been described as supporting Common Core by Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation in the Detroit News?  (http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2016/11/23/trump-devos-education/94344918/)
 Actively worked to block a bill that would have repealed and replaced Michigan’s Common Core standards with the Massachusetts standards, arguably the be)st in the nation?   (http://stopcommoncoreinmichigan.com/2016/11/stop-cc-mi-respectfully-request-president-elect-trump-drain-swamp-pull-plug-betsy-devos/)
 Actively lobbied for continued implementation of Common Core in Michigan?  (http://www.glep.org/glep-applauds-state-senate-for-passing-common-core-resolution/)
 Financially supported pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan? (http://stopcommoncoreinmichigan.com/2016/08/glep-devos-primary-influence/)
 Funded Alabama pro-Common Core state school board candidates?  (http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index.ssf/2016/02/post_42.html#incart_river_index)
 Threatened the grassroots parent organization Stop Common Core in Michigan with legal action for showing the link between GLEP endorsement and Common Core support?
                  4) The Indiana voucher law that you and your organization, the American Federation for Children (AFC), strongly supported and funded requires voucher recipient schools (https://www.the74million.org/article/new-to-team-trump-education-secretary-pick-betsy-devos-has-long-been-on-team-pence) to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/laws/2016/ic/titles/020/articles/051/) and submit to the grading system based on those same Common Core-aligned tests. The tests determine what is taught, which means that this law is imposing Common Core on private schools. Indiana “is the second worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy” according to the Center for Education Reform (https://www.edreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/VoucherRankings-Report5.pdf) because of that and other onerous requirements, and the state received an F grade on the Education Liberty Watch School Choice Freedom Grading Scale (http://edlibertywatch.org/2012/10/education-liberty-watch-private-school-choice-freedom-grading-scale/). Do you support imposing public-school standards, curriculum and tests on private and or home schools?
                5) Through Excel in Ed and the American Federation for Children, you have influenced legislation that has made Florida a “leader” in school choice, yet the majority of students, especially those in rural areas, in states like Florida, still chooses to attend traditional public schools. Public school advocates in Florida complain that expanded school choice has negatively affected their traditional public schools, even in previously highperforming districts. As Secretary of Education, how will you support the rights of parents and communities whose first choice is their community’s traditional public school?
               6) You and AFC (http://www.federationforchildren.org/statement-american-federation-children-efforts-advance-parental-choice-federal-level/) have been strong supporters of federal Title I portability. As Secretary of Education, would you require the same public school, Common Core tests and the rest of the federal regulations for private schools under a Title I portability program as Jeb Bush recommended (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/08/a_conversation_with_gov_jeb_bu.html) for Mitt Romney in 2012 (p. 24)(https://www.scribd.com/document/94576248/A-Chance-for-Every-Child)? If yes, please cite the constitutional authority for the federal government to be involved in regulating schools, including private schools, and explain how this policy squares with Mr. Trump’s promise to reduce the federal education footprint.
                7) The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires secretarial approval of state education plans for standards, tests and accountability. Will you support state sovereignty by approving the state plans in line with Mr. Trump’s vision of decreasing the federal role in education, or will you exercise federal control by secretarial veto power over these plans?
                 8) The Philanthropy Roundtable group (http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/k_12_education) that you chaired published a report on charter schools, (http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/guidebook/from_promising_to_proven) but did not mention the Hillsdale classical charter schools, even though they are in your home state of Michigan and Hillsdale is nationally renowned for its classical and constitutional teaching and for not taking federal funding. Have you or any of your organizations done anything substantive to support the Hillsdale model aside from a few brief mentions on your websites? If not, do you want all charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere to only teach Common Core-aligned standards, curriculum and tests?
                9) During the primary campaign, President-elect Trump indicated that he strongly supported student privacy by closing the loophole in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), saying the following to a parent activist: “I would close all of it,” Trump replied. “You have to have privacy. You have to have privacy. So I’d close all of it. But, most of all, I’d get everything out of Washington, ‘cause that’s where it’s all emanating from.” (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/11/donald-trump-close-loopholes-federal-privacy-law-prevent-student-data-mining/)  Will you commit to reversing the Obama administration’s regulatory gutting of FERPA and to updating that statute to better protect student privacy in the digital age?
               10) We are sure you are aware of serious parental concerns about corporate collection and mining of highly sensitive student data through digital platforms, without parental knowledge or consent. But the Philanthropy Roundtable, (http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/k_12_education)  which you chaired, published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching (http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/file_uploads/Blended_Learning_Guidebook.pdf)that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour” and does not contain a single use of the words “privacy,” “transparency” [as in who receives that data and how it is used to make life-changing decision for children], or “consent.” Will you continue to promote the corporate data-mining efforts of enterprises such as Dream Box and Knewton, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr7Z7ysDluQ) whose CEO bragged about collecting “5-10 million data points per user per day,” described in your organization’s report?
                 11) Related to Questions 9 and 10 above, there is currently a federal commission, the Commission on Evidencebased Policymaking, which is discussing lifting the federal prohibition on the creation of a student unit-record system. If that prohibition is removed, the federal government would be allowed to maintain a database linking student data from preschool through the workforce. That idea is strongly opposed by parent groups and privacy organizations.(http://edlibertywatch.org/2016/10/national-commission-discusses-expanded-college-workforce-data-dossier/) (http://www.studentprivacymatters.org/) Will you commit to protecting student privacy by recommending (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=USBC-2016-0003-0001) to the Commission on Evidence Based Policymaking that this prohibition be left in place? Page 3
                   12) As outlined in a letter from Liberty Counsel (http://edlibertywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Final-Ltr-NAEP-legal-and-privacy-concerns-06272016.pdf) that was co-signed by dozens of parent groups across the nation, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) plans to add subjective, invasive, illegal, and unconstitutional survey or test mindset questions to the 2017 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). What will you do to rein in NAGB and protect the psychological privacy and freedom of conscience of American students?
                  13) Through commissions, programs, federally funded groups, the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act, and other entities, there has been an explosion of effort to expand invasive, subjective social emotional learning (SEL) standards (http://thefederalist.com/2016/10/19/schools-ditch-academics-for-emotional-manipulation/), curricula and assessment. (http://thepulse2016.com/karen-r-effrem/2016/06/03/response-to-us-news-educational-data-mining-harms-privacy-without-evidence-of-effectiveness/) What is your view of SEL and what will you do to protect student psychological privacy and freedom of conscience?
Contact information for the US Senate HELP Committee may be found here.    http://www.help.senate.gov/about/members


Trump Nomination of Betsy DeVos


Trump Nomination of Betsy DeVos

First and foremost, it is important for all MACC members and friends to understand that we are non-partisan and have pledged to work on behalf of our children regardless of administrative political bent, on the national, state and local level.  While we understand that many are left troubled by the election of President-Elect Trump, everyone needs to look for the bright spot in his campaign pledge to get rid of Common Core and return local control.   Trump has stated that he does not want a top-down, cookie-cutter, nationally-dictated education program.  If we can all bond for the benefit of our children, we can accomplish great things for them.

On Wednesday, President-Elect Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to be the Secretary of Education.  While there are mixed reports as to Ms. DeVos’ support of Common Core, in her official August 2016 statement , DeVos declares that she is firmly against Common Core.  This appears to be a new understanding for DeVos in regards to federally-dictated standards with curriculum and testing that naturally follow.  We will have to watch her to see if indeed this new position is lasting.  However, DeVos’ record shows that she and her husband, Dick DeVos, through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation and various DeVos non-profits, have endeavored to promote nationalized standards.  In fact, DeVos’ involvement in promoting the nationalized standards’ movement goes back into the late 1980s.  Additionally, Ms. DeVos’ stance on school choice and vouchers is a concern and needs to be watched closely.   MACC hopes that the pledge of the President elect, and that of Ms. DeVos, hold true because the future of our country, our children and children’s education are at stake.

It is important for all the members of MACC to support us in helping to influence our local legislators to follow suit, and working towards removing us from the entanglement of federal control.  Despite which party or candidate you supported, our legislators need to understand that the repeal of Common Core was a national campaign issue, and its removal is an important topic that helped sway voters. As an example, candidates such as Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee lost voter approval due to their overwhelming support of Common Core.   Under local control, it is not only your school board that needs your input and accountability, but our state legislature as well.  MACC needs your help in all areas.

We hope that you will stay tuned and help support us as MACC enters its 4th year of fighting for our children.  MACC will continue to inform you on all of the issues surrounding education, and asking for your help to further our message.  While MACC made some important strides last year in protecting student data privacy, we still face a challenge in returning true local education control to all citizens of Minnesota, and creating curriculum that returns Minnesota to the premier education state in the United States for all students, no matter how their zip code says they should perform.   A return to true local control is an important step in ensuring that our children are truly educated in the best manor possible.

Keeping you informed on CCSS in Minnesota