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Arne Duncan’s Brave New World: Dept. of Education Wants Your Kid’s Blood Type?

Among other creepy things. Duncan's DoE appears to be doling out federal funds intending to push aside state and local school boards, establish federal curricula, and gather all sorts of personal data. (Birth marks? Really?)

by
Patrick Richardson

Bio

March 12, 2011 - 12:00 am

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Department of Education — already ensnared by allegations of insider trading — appear to be maneuvering for greater federal influence over state education boards. The vehicle: a supposedly state-led effort titled “Common Core Curriculum.” Says Gretchen Logue, co-editor of missourieducationwatchdog.com:

Arne Duncan ran the Race to the Top competition, but only a few states got money from that. … They had all this money left over and they told the states if they wanted it they had to sign on to Common Core standards. Most states signed on.

That money became “Title I” funding, which many states used over the last two years to avoid major cuts to education. That money is now drying up. Continues Logue:

The states were told if they did not sign on they were in danger of losing Title I funding. … They had to have the money to satisfy the federal mandates; if they didn’t get the money they couldn’t satisfy them.

CCC itself is only a vehicle to put in place a database of student data, which Logue says would be shared across several federal departments including Education, Commerce, and Labor. Parts of this database already exist and are used by local school districts to send data to their state boards of education, which compile the data and pass it on to the federal government. Says Logue:

It was a way for school districts to get information to the states and the states would then compile it and send it on to the federal government. … It was fairly innocuous.

What the states send to the government now is fairly benign. It mostly consists of test scores, basic demographic information, and district sizes.

But Logue says the feds are now trying to create something entirely different:

The Common Core standards were the vehicle to get the longitudinal database. … They want to get all these systems where they interconnect. … The data sets already exist and are coded.

Indeed PJM has seen the data sets — and they might be accurately described as a brave new world. While not all of the information in these sets is mandatory at this time, the level of detail being asked for is unsettling.

The sets include such things as hair color, eye color, gestational age at birth (whether a child was premature or not), blood type, blood test results, birth marks, and even bus stop arrival time.

These datasets are from the National Education Data Model. From its website:

NEDM is the single, comprehensive model of education data and is prerequisite to establishing automated and comparable systems.

According to Logue, these databases appear to be designed to track students from pre-kindergarten through at least age 20, and for the government to feed them into the workforce:

The whole purpose is to take the educational information and feed it into what they call the P-20 pipeline. … The data system in Illinois is the most advanced at this time.

Indeed, the Illinois program has some frightening aspects of its own, which are presumably mirrored at the federal level. In a document titled ILDS (Illinois Data System) Data Warehouse Architecture & System Design, Illinois defines “workforce” and lays out state and federal involvement in “workforce development.” From page 80:

The term workforce is defined as consisting of the workers engaged in a specific activity, business or industry or the number of workers who are available to be assigned to any purpose as in a nation’s workforce.

The public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local offices that function to support economic expansion and facilitate the development United States workforce. The system is designed to create partnership with employers, educators, and community leaders in order to foster economic development and high-growth opportunities in regional economies so that businesses find qualified workers to meet their present and future workforce needs. (Emphasis added)

The highlighted areas would seem to indicate that workers should be assigned to purposes rather than choose their own preferred work, and that the government can and should do the assigning.

Forty-one states — plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands — have signed on to a set of standards that makes local school boards all but superfluous. State boards of education become redundant as well if curricula are decided at a national level rather than at a state level.

Local control, long a hallmark of the U.S. education system, would be lost to a “one size fits all” solution imposed by bureaucrats who cannot possibly know the needs or challenges of a local school district.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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