By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – One of the nation’s most prominent Common Core supporters is getting cold feet as the new learning standards near implementation.
In a press release issued late last week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten expressed serious “concerns about the privacy and security of student and teacher data” that is to be collected by states through new, Common Core-aligned standardized tests.
Weingarten is referring to a major feature of Common Core, which involves having state officials compile a wide range of sensitive, personal information on each student – potentially ranging from their hobbies to their parents’ voting habits – that will be shared with educational technology companies.
The expectation of Common Core proponents is that technology companies – such as the Bill Gates-funded company, inBloom – will use student data to create customized learning programs.
Like many parents and taxpayers, Weingarten is concerned that such practices would not only erode students’ privacy rights, but would allow private companies to exploit the information for financial gain.
“With a growing marketplace emerging for data collection, storage, analysis and monetization—both for good and for ill—we must be more vigilant than ever about the privacy and security rights of students, teachers and the American people,” Weingarten said.
Weingarten added that the AFT has “sent a letter to the funders of inBloom seeking clarification” about the union’s privacy concerns.
It’s the second time in a month the union boss has raised the caution flag about Common Core.
Weingarten’s other major concern revolves around using students’ Common Core-aligned test scores to judge teachers’ overall job performance. In an April 30 speech, Weingarten called for a “moratorium on the consequences” teachers would face for poor student performance during “these transitional years.”
She warned the policy could create “a serious backlash” from educators and others who currently support Common Core.
Despite her misgivings, Weingarten still insists that wants the new national learning standards to take effect.
That might change, of course, depending on how the “powers that be” address Weingarten’s concerns.
The takeaway from all this is quite clear: If a strong Common Core supporter such as Weingarten is having second thoughts about the new national learning standards, then state lawmakers across the country ought to be hitting the “pause” button before they take full effect in the 2014-15 school year.