Families at The Classical Academy (TCA) in Colorado Springs have come forward expressing outrage at the news of TCA’s participation in Common Core based student data mining. TCA announced to a group of select parents that their children had been chosen for the pilot implementation of the controversial Common Core aligned data mining software Teaching Strategies Gold. This software, also called TS Gold, was developed for use with children ages birth through kindergarten—effectively creating a pathway for womb to tomb data mining without thought for who owns the data.
Next year, all students in publicly funded kindergartens in Colorado—including those at TCA—will be data managed using TS Gold or an approved alternative. TS Gold has already been in use in pre-schools around the state. The data mining gold rush was ushered in through the 2008 legislation known as the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (Senate Bill 08-212). This is the same legislation that set up the framework for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.
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Kindergarten teacher Peggy Robertson (who has no connection to TCA) of United Opt Out shared in her blog:
I have entered data into GOLD. I felt, truly felt, what it meant to be a data manager. I felt robbed, used and controlled. I wanted to take my computer and throw it against the wall. As a teacher who knows how to assess learners in a kindergarten classroom, I felt my autonomy being stripped from me. It was humiliating. It was mentally exhausting. And as a result of this experience, I will not teach kindergarten in Colorado unless this assessment is drop-kicked out of this state.
According to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), teachers assess students using TS Gold throughout the school year by documenting observations, doing quick reference checklists, and collecting student work samples which can be saved as an image or video. Information gathered through parent conversations or emails may also be inputted. Every 10-12 weeks, three times per year, teachers are required to perform more extensive checkpoint ratings. A fact sheet produced by the CDE states: “Experienced users of the assessment report that the actual checkpoint rating takes about 30 minutes per child.” Therefore, a teacher experienced in using TS Gold with a class of 30 students would then be expected to give up 15 hours at each triennial checkpoint—that’s 45 hours per school year—of instruction time to observe each individual student and input information on the required data points. That time increases for teachers new to TS Gold.
Data collected on students through TS Gold—or an approved alternative—is poured into a state database, which contains permanent files of personally identifiable information.
With changes in FERPA guidelines that have gutted student privacy protections, TCA parents want to know who will have access to their child’s data and how agencies outside the Department of Education will use it. While TS Gold assesses standard classroom data points like Math, Science, and English, it also collects Social-Emotional data points.
TCA parent Kanda Calef, a well known community organizer, has more questions than answers:
“Why are we forcing teachers to focus on data entry more than teaching? Is this how we educate our kids by taking instruction time away from the basics and turning it into a data mining extravaganza for the government? Who can access this data? What happens if the data base gets hacked? Exactly what kind of data points are being collected? Will this follow my children through the years into adulthood? It sounds like TS Gold should really be called Fools’ Gold since it is has no real value and only makes bureaucrats shine!”
But parents of kindergarteners are not the only ones who have cause for concern. Soon second and third grade students will be affected. In a 2013 press release, TS Gold announced plans to expand its platform to include birth to grade three.
TCA also offers a homeschool enrichment program. At this time, it is unclear if data obtained from homeschooled kindergarteners participating in public school programs will be funneled into the TS Gold data mining software.
Michelle Malkin will be speaking at an information session on Common Core hosted by TCA parents this Friday, October 3rd, from 6:30 to 8:30 at Colorado Springs Early Colleges, 4405 North Chestnut, off of Garden of the Gods Parkway. RSVPs are requested via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.