A group of 34 state education leaders said in a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that they will not disclose personally identifiable student data to the federal government – a concern that has emerged with the transition to Common Core-aligned assessments.
"Our states have not submitted student-level assessment data in the past; 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," the letter reads.
In addition to implementing new grade-level standards for math and English, 45 states and the District of Columbia – which all have agreed to adopt Common Core – also are expected to use annual assessments aligned to the new standards.
The majority of the states eventually will use computer-based assessments from one of two federally funded testing consortia: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
Currently, states report school-level assessment data to the federal government, but some Common Core opponents worry that a perceived change in requirements would give the federal government the ability to drill down far enough to see how individual students perform on such tests.
An opposition group in Illinois, for example, points to a 2011 agreement between the PARCC and the Department of Education that says the testing consortium is responsible for working with the department "to develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws."
Still, the department maintains that student-level data will not be provided to the federal government as a result of the new assessments.
In a myths-and-facts page on its website, the department says it "does not, and will not, request or collect personally identifiable information" from the testing consortia, and is not legally authorized to create a student-level database, as the school chiefs point out in their letter.
"The Department does not collect personally identifiable information at all except as required for mandated tasks such as administering student loans and grants and investigating individual complaints," the department says on its website.
The school chiefs go on to say in the letter that they will continue to provide school-level data to the federal government.
"Our states and local education agencies will continue to retain control over student assessment data and will continue to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations with regard to the protection of student privacy," the letter says. "We are confirming that our states will not provide such information to USED and that everything we have said here is consistent with our understanding of the cooperative agreement between the consortia and USED."