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Column on Common Core contained multiple errors

I would like to respond to the opinion piece, “Worried about privacy? Check Common Core data collection” (The Citizen, July 24, 2013).

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education supports the implementation of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards. We also support an open dialogue about those standards but urge the discussion be based on facts.

It’s time to address the swirling rumors regarding Common Core and the collection of education data.

Contrary to the points made in the article, Common Core does not require the collection of any data about students. The Common Core State Standards are simply a set of grade-level expectations for students that have been agreed upon and adopted by most states (45 and Washington, D.C.).

Common Core is not a curriculum and teachers are free to tailor their instruction to their students. Part of the ability to provide individualized instruction is the use of student data.

The author had concerns about privacy and student data. This is a concern that we at the Partnership share as well, but there were a few factual inaccuracies in the article.

The first was the claim of a new federal mandate to collect data; the U.S. Department of Education is not allowed to collect any personal information on individual students. It does not collect any individual student data at all, not even de-identified data-only aggregate data.

In other words, it does not even have the names of students. It doesn’t know when and where individual students were born and it certainly doesn’t have any information on their religious affiliation or their Social Security numbers.

This means that the federal government does not collect nor does it have access to any education data that could be used to distinguish one student from another in any way.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order in May that addressed this very subject. “Ordered: That no personally identifiable data on students and/or their families’ religion, political party affiliation, biometric information, psychometric data and/or voting history shall be collected, tracked, housed, reported or shared with the federal government.”

Education data is critical to ensuring that our children are prepared for success in school and the careers of the future. Evidence shows that when teachers are trained to understand and use education data, their students excel.

That said, efforts to protect the privacy, security, and confidentiality of individual students’ data are crucial, and that is why there are federal laws in place that strictly prohibit the sharing of personally identifiable education data outside of individual state education agencies.

As the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, we are obligated to set the record straight and advocate policies that support teachers and improve student achievement. Ultimately that is what this all about.

Bill Maddox
Communications Director
Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education
Atlanta, Ga.& privacy errors

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