Laura Chapman, a retired teacher and curriculum advisor in the arts, recently posted a piece for education historian Diane Ravitch on this brave new data-obsessed world of ours. What it suggests/reveals should give us all pause, even those without school-aged kids.

Apparently, the National PTA has partnered up with the Data Quality Campaign. Chapman’s advice to that organization and others: “Stay away from these data monsters. They drown everyone in data points.” Meanwhile, she also cites the fact that the Gates Foundation has invested $75 million in a data gathering campaign called the Teacher Student Data Link (TSDL), which, in turn, is backed by such groups as the National Governors Association.

It also awarded $390,493,545 in grants for the purpose of more data gathering, along with the reporting of the effectiveness of teachers, teacher preparatory programs, non-traditional teacher prep programs like Teach for America, teacher professional development, and the like.

Moreover, it enabled the tracking of teachers and students every day, period by period, on everything from quizzes, homework, and projects to classroom participation. In other words, surveillance! And, as if all this weren’t enough, the United States Department of Education has thrown in nearly $900 million for the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program (SLDS).

Its purpose, Chapman reports, is “to enhance the ability of States to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including student records… to help States, districts, schools, and teachers make data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as to facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.”

And that’s not all.

The U.S. Department of Education has also put out a bunch of online School Climate Surveys (EDSCLS) offering up 73 questions for students, 82 questions for instructional staff, 103 questions for non-instructional staff, and 43 questions for parents covering engagement, safety, and environment issues. Apparently, it was all very hastily thrown together (anyone surprised?), with flaws left in place due to “budgetary constraints,” right there along with some questions so poorly designed that they provide no context whatsoever, such as these presented to students:

  1. “Students respect one another.”
  2. “Students like one another.”

And here are two examples come from the parents’ survey:

  1. “This school communicates how important it is to respect students of all sexual orientations.”
  2. “School rules are applied equally to all students.”

Like Ms. Chapman, I thought you should know how we’re not only under the eye of Big Brother–and no one more than our children–but also how intrusive the federal government has become in our lives, with much of it all online. She has my thanks and hopefully yours.