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Protecting Local Educational Data

To the Editor:

I want to thank The Newtown Bee for hosting the BOE candidates’ forum providing townspeople with the opportunity to hear their thoughts and positions on education matters.

I was, however, disappointed that – in your newspaper’s write-up of the event – you neglected to provide the candidate’s responses to the last question of the evening having to do with data storage and the dissemination of confidential student test results.  As I remember, each candidate considered the question thoughtfully and, I believe, came down on the side of protecting a student’s privacy.  However, in this era of so-called “educational reform,” the BOE, which admittedly is responsible for policy-making, may find itself in an untenable situation as state and federal bureaucracies request that local data systems be shared.

There will undoubtedly be some difficult decisions to be made as the BOE wrestles with maintaining the privacy of student data with the demands for access by state and federal agencies. Current high-stakes testing require that our students be tested continuously, that teacher evaluations be based in significant part by their students’ test results, and their test results be stored in massive computer data storage systems.

Recently, Sen. Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Arne Duncan, the US Commissioner of Education, asking very specific and excellent questions regarding the changes in FERPA laws that allow for such widespread sharing of information that had previously been held private and confidential.

 As BOE members, I hope that you will continue to ask hard questions – as this issue and the continued roll-out of “educational reform” that is misguided, ill-conceived, and untested is forced upon our children, their parents, teachers, and local administrators.  Without any evidenced-based data, this so-called “educational reform” will serve only to enrich the profiteers, sustain the inequities that exist between affluent and less well-financed school systems, and further erode the public’s confidence in one of our signature accomplishments as a nation, public education.  Thanks in advance for your time and energy on behalf of our students, their parents, and all the teachers and educators who give of themselves selflessly every day.

Jack Bestor

24 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Sandy Hook      October 30, 2013

More stories like this: Board of Education, privacy, data
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