Data Mining: Should Your Third Graders Biographical, Academic and Confidential Records Be Available to Researchers and Vendors? Is Data the Key to Increasing Student Learning and Teacher Quality?

How many times a day do you open an email on your I-Phone or I-Pad or Android or Blackberry? Are you on Facebook? Do you use Google?

If you answered yes above someone is probably “mining” your data. (“Technically, data mining is the process of finding correlations or patterns among dozens of fields in large relational databases”).

On the business side “data mining” is looked upon with glee, an opportunity to delve deeply into huge databases to make a wide range of decisions. (Read detailed description here)

Dramatic advances in data capture, processing power, data transmission, and storage capabilities are enabling organizations to integrate their various databases into data warehouses. Data warehousing is defined as a process of centralized data management and retrieval. Data warehousing, like data mining, is a relatively new term…. Data warehousing represents an ideal vision of maintaining a central repository of all organizational data.

Centralization of data is needed to maximize user access and analysis. Dramatic technological advances are making this vision a reality for many companies. And, equally dramatic advances in data analysis software are allowing users to access this data freely. The data analysis software is what supports data mining
As ads pop up on your computer screen they are not random – they are the result of an algorithm – software that looks deeply into where you were – cyberwise. The chip has not been stapled into your earlobe – yet.

The building of data warehouses is not restricted to users of e-devices; states across the nation are beginning to share data. (Read full article here)

(Reuters) – An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares.

But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

Not surprisingly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided the impetus for the project,

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc., which will run it…. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

Parents and civil rights advocates are outraged, especially since the decisions seem to have been made without input from parents,

Parents from New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

Some in the business community are ecstatic, ‘The new database “is a godsend for us,” said Jason Lange, the chief executive of BloomBoard. ‘It allows us to collect more data faster, quicker and cheaper’.”

A few in the tech community are more skeptical.

“The hype in the tech press is that education is an engineering problem that can be fixed by technology,” said Frank Catalano of Intrinsic Strategy, a consulting firm focused on education and technology. “To my mind, that’s a very naive and destructive view.”

The first problem is why the New York State entered into a contract that will allow a third party access to a wide range of pupil data, and, use the data for pecuniary purposes? Were they naive? Is this part of a larger arrangement to share teacher data? Shouldn’t core decisions of this sort take place in the glare of sunlight?

I strongly agree with Frank Catalano, the flawed view that “education is an engineering problem that can be fixed by technology.”

Data can tell me what John or Jane know and do not know; data can be an interactive tool that can produce more or less difficult items as a student works away on the net. I watched a three year old pick up her father’s i-Pad, punch in his code, tap Netflix, select a game, and spend a half an hour playing a game in which she moves numbers to place them in the proper order. The game encouraged her by name and increased and decreased the complexity based upon the speed and accuracy of her efforts. On the other hand I meet students who have never played with an i-IPad, have no access to the Internet at home, in fact, they enter pre-K well behind, “Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4.”

Children of middle class parents are using the new technologies and widening the achievement gap,

As the education theorist E. D. Hirsch recently wrote in a review of Paul Tough’s new book, “How Children Succeed,” there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age 6 is the single highest correlate with later success. Schools have an enormously hard time pushing through the deficiencies with which many children arrive.

Data mining and access to warehouses of nano-data can tell us a great deal about the students we teach – software does not provide us with a portal to move the data from the warehouse directly to the cranial cortex of the student. It is the adult, the parent, or the grandparent or the teacher, who encourages, prods, pleads, who convinces the student that reading and calculating count, who embeds a love of literacy or numeracy, who replaces the lure of the streets with the lure of a better life.

Data tells us where we have been, and only suggests where we are going.

“Money Ball” is an interesting book and movie – the wide range of stats in baseball has led to the creation of a new range of data points, from RBI and OBA to WHIP – a new name: sabermetrics. Managers pay attention to the data, data cannot predict the future. The baseball equivalent of zip codes – dollars – propels teams to the post season – zip codes predict scores on standardized test.

In spite of state after state adopting student test scores to rate teachers the Chicago Consortium on School Research study challenges the view (Read here)

The report is one of the first to provide research-based evidence showing that new teacher observation tools, when accompanied by thoughtful evaluation systems and professional development, can effectively measure teacher effectiveness and provide teachers with feedback on the factors that matter for improving student learning.

Experienced, well-trained supervisors and peer reviewers are the best judges of teacher quality.

Data is a tool – data is not the “the answer,” and the misuse of data and the overemphasis on data is destructive and a waste of dollars, increasingly scarce dollars.


6 responses to “Data Mining: Should Your Third Graders Biographical, Academic and Confidential Records Be Available to Researchers and Vendors? Is Data the Key to Increasing Student Learning and Teacher Quality?

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    All tools are both used well and misued. That’s the nature of t0ols.


  2. I must be having a flashback. I thought that I was living in 2013. I’m wrong. It’s 1984!


  3. Data here is not merely a misused tool but a false ideology.


  4. Pingback: Data Mining: Thoughts on the Need for a Curriculum from an Experienced Teacher | Ed In The Apple

  5. Your mode of telling everything in this piece of writing is in fact fastidious, every one can
    effortlessly understand it, Thanks a lot.


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