May 18, 2016

Welcome to the Student Privacy, Equity, and Digital Literacy Newsletter

Student Privacy, Equity, and Digital Literacy Newsletter

Week One: May 18, 2016

This Week in Student Privacy returns with a new partner and new content! The Youth and Media team at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society is delighted to announce that the Data & Society Research Institute will be partnering with us going forward to bring you Student Privacy, Equity, and Digital Literacy, a bi-weekly newsletter on student privacy developments, with an additional new focus on the equity and digital literacy dimensions of today's learning ecosystems. If you have suggestions or reflections, please send them our way-- thanks for reading!

Student Data Privacy: Highlights of the First Quarter of 2016

Every Student Succeeds Act
President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015, reauthorizing the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) intended to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The ESSA is intended to ensure student success for students and schools, containing provisions for protecting disadvantaged and high need students, including academic standards and assessment requirements, and supporting development of evidence-based educational intervention. The National Center for Mental Health in Schools in the Department of Psychology at UCLA released a policy brief in February analyzing how well the policy addresses barriers to learning and re-engaging disconnected students, and presents frameworks for improving how schools provide student and learning supports. The Center reports that the act clearly identifies the barriers to learning that need to be addressed but addresses them in a piecemeal fashion that “conveys a fragmented picture and lack of coherence with respect to essential student and learning supports.”

How to handle testing opt-outs is an area that remains unclear under ESSA. The act requires states to report the percentage of students participating in mandatory state exams and that the states need to provide a clear explanation of how the State will factor the participation rate into the accountability system. The lack of specificity leaves it up to states to determine how to factor opt-out rates into the accountability system and what actions to take to address high opt-out rates.

The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on the implementation of ESSA with education leaders from across the country in late February. Senator Patty Murray stated that the law rolls back government involvement and reduces the “burdensome” requirements of NCLB but provides appropriate guidelines for state accountability. School districts and educators requested that clarity be provided about vague aspects of the law (i.e., accountability, & assessment).
Happenings. Former US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, joins the Emerson Collective to target at-risk teens in Chicago schools. Pearson is testing models for fully privatized education in poor countries through the Affordable Learning Fund, sparking controversy. The National Association of State Boards of Education provides guidelines for designing effective assessment systems. The Future of Privacy Forum provides an explanation of the School Official Exception in FERPA. The ACLU and the Tenth Amendment Center join forces to push states to adopt model legislation that they argue will fill gaps in student data privacy protections. The Center for Democracy and Technology raises concerns about school surveillance of students’ social media pages. Senator Al Franken wrote a letter to Google CEO about the company collecting information about students’ Internet habits without their or their parents’ permission. Fordham University Law Professor Joel Reidenberg discusses how to keep student data secure. A family is suing Palo Alto school district for “genetic discrimination” after the sharing of their child’s DNA test resulted in removal from school. Natasha Singer of the New York Times reports on an app that lets teachers track student attendance and automatically texts guardians if the child is absent or tardy.

Data & Equity

Data Analysis Highlights National Inequalities
Two recent reports in the New York Times demonstrate the potential for data to highlight and challenge inequality. A recent analysis of national reading and math test score data shows that socioeconomic status is associated with academic performance and that some of the largest achievement gaps exist in the wealthiest districts. The data analysis is described as raising ‘puzzling questions’ about the causes of disparity and the persistence of achievement gaps in well-resourced districts.

When Broward County School District in Florida shifted from parent and teacher referrals in 2005 to a non-verbal IQ test as a screening tool, the number of Black, Hispanic, female, and economically disadvantaged students identified as gifted significantly tripled. However, economists David Card and Laura Giuliano report that budget cuts resulted in the district discontinuing the use of non-verbal IQ scores in 2007 and by 2011 the proportion of minority students in gifted programs returned to previous rates.

Also in the news this month are observations that data is not neutral, and can be used to perpetuate or challenge biases. In New York City, the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) has long been used as the sole criteria for a majority of elite high schools. Legislators are seeking to promote diversity and change the admissions process after reports show that Black and Latino students make up only 7.5% of the student body at one elite school and less than 4% at another.
Happenings. Manuela Ekowo, a policy analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program, discusses the difference between data & numbers. Mimi Onuoha, a fellow at Data & Society Research Institute urges those developing data systems to consider the ethics of collection, emphasizing that data is not neutral. The Equity Project at Indiana University exposes a data gap for LGBT students that may obscure disparities in discipline, harassment, and programmatic access. Data analysis revealed that two Philadelphia charter schools suspend students with disabilities at a far higher rate than those without. The National Education Policy Center recommends consideration of the roles of poverty, unemployment, and disinvestment in public resources as structural problems negatively impacting student performance and broader community issues. The Digitally Connected network convened the second annual regional symposium on young people and digital media last week in Chile: "Conectados al Sur: Chile." Hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University with leadership from Youth and Media Director Sandra Cortesi, Institute of Communication and Image at the University of Chile & UNICEF, and featuring a number of participants (including Global Voices and Rising Voices as media partners), this symposium "focus[ed] on the use and adaptation of the Internet by traditionally marginalized youth across Latin America and the Caribbean in order to increase the inclusion of these groups online."

Digital Literacy

Teens & Tech: New Research Findings
Prof. Sonia Livingstone (London School of Economics) tells us what she and fellow researcher Julian Sefton-Green have learned about a typical “day in the digital life of teenagers” from a year of embedded research with teens in the UK. With respect to navigating the digital world, Livingstone writes, she and Sefton-Green “found what teenagers wish for most is control over how they spend their time and with whom- not just to use digital media for its own sake.” Teens are using digital technologies and social media “differently to pursue different interests, sometimes deployed to connect with others and sometimes to tune them out.” For more research findings about how and why teens cultivate their online and offline selves, please consult Livingstone and Sefton-Green’s recently released book, The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age.
Super-Intelligent Auto-Tutor Elmo”—Coming Soon to a School or Home Near You!
Sesame Workshop and IBM are teaming up to “develop advanced digital tutors that can interact fully with children, assess their skills — often through a brief conversation — and provide both spoken and written-word responses that help improve their skills.” These high-tech toys aim to combine IBM’s “super-computing” powers with Sesame Workshop’s “engaging curriculum and educational expertise” to reach the pre-K crowd—and ultimately to empower “students to be creators themselves, not just passive media recipients.” Stay tuned as “Cookie Monster, Elmo and friends . . . hit a new digital learning curve.”
Happenings. Final contest last week in MAD about Mattering, where students engage in “compassion driven innovation” – that is, using their “heartbreak [over a societal ill] to create an app that matters to our world.”  Applications for DML Competition 6 to create “Playlists for Learning” just closed last week.