published Monday, January 27th, 2014

Education Commissioner Huffman: Won't share student data with federal government for Common Core

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As Tennessee schools move to a new nationally shared test under Common Core standards, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has taken a formal pledge that personal student information won't be shared with the federal government as part of that transition.

Huffman and 33 other school commissioners issued a letter sent to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday to "confirm" that states taking one of two common assessments next year would not be sharing personally identifiable information with the U.S. Education Department or other federal agencies.

Common Core critics have raised privacy concerns over the new computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, which Tennessee plans to use when it moves to Common Core standards in the fall.

In the letter, however, the state education leaders say that sharing data hasn't been a practice -- nor will it be.

"Our states have not submitted student-level assessment data in the past," it reads. "The transition to the new assessments should not cause anyone to worry that federal reporting requirements will change when, in fact, the federal government is prohibited from establishing a student-level database that would contain assessment data for every student."

Privacy concerns in Tennessee are reflected in a nonbinding resolution filed by Senate Education Committee chairwoman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, that would consider any collection of the federal government an overreach of the federal government's constitutional authority.

"This puts the federal government, as well as any testing company utilized by Tennessee to measure our students' progress, on notice," she said in a statement last week. "Any attempts to collect data on our students will be met with strong measures."

Gresham has also filed a bill to require the state to obtain written consent from a parent before collecting his or her child's "biometric information" and data that stems from national assessments that measure social skills and attitudes. A separate proposal would restrict the state from releasing a student's academic data to the federal government unless it is for stated purposes. It would also establish a new chief privacy officer.

Reach Joey Garrison at 615-259-2836 or on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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