Tracking & Classifying Our Children From Pre-K To College

With the obsession over early (and ever-earlier) childhood education, and the alleged “achievement gap” that supposedly results throughout life whenever some four-year-old is not pushed into structured education, I should have seen this coming.

From USA Today:

The [New York] state Education Department is in the final stages of creating a system to share student data with colleges and a half-dozen other state agencies so that New Yorkers can be tracked from preschool to college to the workforce and, potentially, “throughout their lives.”

As education reformers push the power of data analysis, state officials say the new system will let researchers find the keys to student achievement and failure. What does prekindergarten background say about the likelihood of success in high school Advanced Placement classes? How did college students who fail science do in middle school? What are the links between applying for unemployment benefits as an adult and one’s educational history?

“The only purpose of this work is to get information that can make our education programs better,” said associate education commissioner Ken Wagner, who is leading the initiative. “We want to learn the types of courses that kids do well in that will predict success in college and the workforce.”

Predict? Or will it consign teens to failure based on what they did as second graders?

Parents are understandably feeling paranoid about this creepy tracking program. If anything, I am understating its reach. The name of the program is P-20, which refers to tracking everything from pre-kindergarten to getting one’s first job.

Many educators and parents have railed against the state’s separate plans to send identifiable student data to the privately run inBloom cloud service for storage and controlled public use. Critics say the Education Department’s little-known plans to share data with other agencies — known as P-20 — raise all sorts of concerns about how closely government should be following citizens’ lives.

The story reports that forty-four states are sharing records between schools and colleges. Nineteen have added “workforce data.” All of this was by design:

The federal government has pushed the development of P-20 systems through Race to the Top, stimulus grants and other programs.

“Data is painting a profile of a student that is richer and more valuable than ever before,” Jim Shelton, a U.S. Education Department official who previously worked for the pro-data Gates Foundation, said in a recent call with journalists.

He said government has to ensure that data are used responsibly, but that doing so is a “small price for progress.”

How does he know this is a “small price to pay”? It is not as if a business decided to invest in these data collecting and data sharing services to increase their profits. This was all arranged by grants, by the presence of “free money” that was given to schools to implement these programs.

So without so much as a vote or a public hearing our children are put in a classification system that is supposed to track them from toddlerhood to gainful employment.

I think parents need to push back hard.