Okay – I’m going to be a bit blunt here. I’m not anti science (we did cord blood banking!), and I’m not anti-big data (I love data, I love models! I love analytics). But I am anti data collection on our children.
It makes me irate to know that private companies have access to the information. Not just the data, but PERSONAL information about our children and that decisions are being made based on this data that we don’t necessarily have access to!
They are tracking our kids, and they want a file from birth to career. This is why I have started to call it a KGB File. (A cousin said that when I was going on some tangent about this, I didn’t come up with that term, but I love it!)
Okay so here’s a brief summary of this data collection of public school students. I’m not an expert, and I’m slightly biased.
Race to the Top (of what?)
P-20 is short for an integrated education system that extends from pre-school through higher education. This is a tracking system to help decision makers decide.
Decide what? We don’t know.
So every state received an incentive to begin gathering data and then turning it over to the federal government who then sources the information out to private companies. States can also use private companies to check out the data. BUT, there’s no legal requirement that the information be stripped of identifiers such as parent information, religious affiliation and so on. According to the “Data Quality Campaign” which is part of this whole debacle, “Parents in 17 states (Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin) have secure access to their own children’s data, which follow their children’s progress throughout their education.”
The pretty packaged idea is that this P-20 data will help streamline from preschool to careers. So, late bloomers may not get into a “highly sought” career because their path may be determined early on based on test scores and other data that has been tracked.
And so we have “cradle to career” ideas coming up everywhere. From the Lenawee Cradle to Career website, their goals are so that:
- Be PREPARED for school
- Be SUPPORTED inside and outside of school
- SUCCEED academically
- ENROLL in college/post secondary training
- GRADUATE and ENTER A CAREER
Hmm, part of me says okay, that’s fine, they’re helping young kids have a path to a worth while life. But, the cynical part of me that has developed in the last decade says, okay… how do we define success? Why does everyone have to go to college? And when they enter a career, will they be satisfied? Content? Who decides the careers the children will be on a path to “enter?” This is why we always need to know to ask questions.
Why are they tracking this?
According to the Center for Public Education, tracking of data helps make achievement gaps less. Please note that it isn’t RAISING achievement. This isn’t about raising achievement – this data driven deciding is about making the gaps less.
What is lovely (again from that Achieve.org print out)
Teachers need to see performance data for each student in his/her class. But they also need the ability to aggregate that data to analyze trends, determine what content needs to be reinforced, and decide whether or how to alter teaching methods to ensure students acquire the content knowledge and skills in the state’s college‐ and career‐ready, internationally‐benchmarked standards.
I’m not pro achievement gaps. I mean, after all, I was a welfare kid, from a rural neighborhood without a father on my birth certificate. But, I don’t see this as helping teachers teach. Do you?
We don’t all have to go to college to be successful
But, here’s the thing, the US has this belief that EVERY kid must go to college to be successful. For this reason, we don’t accept that on-the-job training or apprenticeships are any good. Well, for all you “let’s have free college education like Germany” meme sharers – They can do that because they don’t believe that everyone must go to college to have a career and not just a job. They encourage apprenticeships and yes they also do separate kids based on ability early on. They have high taxes and they still have a homeless population and a disadvantaged population too! Is this what America is about? Is it really about preparing students for college or really about preparing people for life? The P-20 initiative gives students “paths” toward a career early on, but who will be making those decisions and at what point? Could a rural school really support all the different “streams” to education? Will that mean those in rural areas or small districts that can’t support all the so-called pathways end up sending their kids to boarding schools like Arne Duncan totes as a “good option” for so-called failing schools. (read a Washington Post article on the topic here)
So in this there’s an idea that every child will enter a stream which will prepare them for their future job. This isn’t just a magnet school. These are assigned streams… based on what? Test scores? Recommendations? Reducing achievement gaps? Getting rid of elite (well not all… but the non super elite, elite, right?)
P-20 Education Streams
- Arts & Communication
- Health Sciences
- Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
So if we have these streams for education which give paths to a career, but does it really give us a more educated workforce, a more happy society, a society based on the principles of the United States of America?
The idea of P-20 is that they want “a single system of education underlying all of the segments” (Institute for Educational Leadership, 1999) – So stream line. Okay, anyone who knows stream-lining knows that you may gain uniformity, but you lose uniqueness, you lose the ability to try something new.
Good teachers are leaving public education left and right. They don’t want the nonsense of tests to take away their ability to actually teach. Parents are taking their kids out of public education as well because they want to preserve basic freedoms. (In 2014, the teacher turnover rate in this study was around 20%)
Even those who are already unschooling or even radically unschooling want their kids to be successful.
Okay, next step, define successful.
This is exactly why this P-20 system is not right for the America I know and love. I’ve lived in India where testing is all the rage and cutoff scores are prized. Even those who get really decent test scores, you still find people who cannot answer a question as to how it applies to real life. Tests, and preparing for tests time and again just show that you can pass a test, not that you can do or THINK.
They say, American jobs apparently require more college than before, and that’s why this P-20 system is here. I mean look at the Michigan tracking system – success of a school is based not just on kids who don’t drop out, but who completes 2 years of college.
This tells us that on the job training, or a year off to travel the world, or choosing the military is not seen as valuable to the Department of Education.
At 18 not everyone knows what they want in life, so I doubt lowering it to 5th or 8th grade will make people more happy with their lives. I mean, people change careers midlife and that is absolutely fine. Making these paths may help a few people, but I don’t trust it.
We see the “questionnaires” all over – parents and teachers leaking questions to check for privilege. This isn’t just looking for at risk kids to offer them after school tutoring or a buddy system. Since we aren’t allowed to see all this data entering the system, I can only guess it is part of the tracking. What will they do with it? Put fewer privileged kids in the “right” streams when it comes out? Ensure that those public boarding schools are offered to those who need to be trained to think like this new America? I don’t know and I don’t want to sound all conspiracy theorist, but we don’t have access to our children’s files and we didn’t give birth to a part of a machine. We have families.
The department of education is pushing these databases that are cross departmental. You see if on any of these links I’ve put to these pro-sites. They are hiding it in plain sight! These could expand each kid’s academic records into a comprehensive personal record, including “health-care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status, and religious affiliation,”according to a 2012 Pioneer Institute report and the National Center for Educational Statistics. Under agreements every state signed to get 2009 stimulus funds, they must share students’ academic data with the federal government. (Summarized by Truth in American Education)
They see us, our kids and our schools as a workforce pipeline. Those who brought us P-16, now bring us P-20 and now griping that we aren’t tracking preschool to how they do on the job.
Oh, and let’s not forget that when I signed my child up for kindergarten they asked if he was born vaginally or by cesarean.
So, birth to workforce all in one damn file.
Where are we living? And have they started asking for pre-natal data and then maybe, to ensure that the likelihood that a future being (can’t call them a child I guess) would be workforce ready, you first need clearance to procreate? Oh my. I’m not grasping straws. They have a “cradle to career” site that they PROMOTE. They want it all in one file, so who is to say that it won’t go to pre-conception since it already asks mode of birth?!
Abolish the US DOE?
Now, many people don’t realize that The Department of Education isn’t based on our fore-fathers and really, is a bit unnecessary, unless, of course you see the above ideas as necessary. The US Department of Education has only been around since 1979. Has American become greater or more competitive since then?
Rand Paul proposes abolishing the Department of Education and on this, I stand with Rand. I think we need this type of drastic change before we really lose control over our lives and our future.
What are your thoughts on this system? Should the government and private companies have access to a file on your child? Should their mode of birth and whether or not they sniffed glue as a second grader or if their parents didn’t have a religious affiliation follow them into the workforce?
If you liked this, please see my related articles below.