In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Information Management System, or PIMS, has been collecting data on K-12 students since 2007. Of course, data like school records and perhaps even violations or disciplinary measures has been collected by local school boards for some time, but PIMS takes it a step further. As their own Manual states: “PIMS is a state wide, longitudinal data system that will efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, disaggregate, and use individual student data for each student served by pre-K through Grade 12 public education system.” Should you be shocked as a a parent living somewhere in Pennsylvania? Perhaps not; data is collected at an astonishing rate and has been for some decades now. But the last two verbs in their ambitious and interventionist list are the ones that do cause worry: disaggregate and use. That means focusing, if they choose to do so, on a single student and utilizing his or her data to perhaps adjust a learning program, or perhaps engage in more invasive interventions. At least that is what critics of common code and PIMS claim.

It is already true that, for example, to get a job your resume will have to successfully pass through automated screening programs, that as one HR manager found out, won’t even accept some of the higher ups already working at the particular company you are applying to. Your data is being mined, has been mined, and shall be mined for the foreseeable future, whether by employers, insurers, marketers, or government. What might this mean for your children who are accumulating a data profile from an early age onwards, (and not just from education department information systems)? Will the PIMS flag certain types of profiles for Ritalin prescriptions? That might sound extreme, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, provides some protection against this. Some protection, but not anywhere near complete protection. As the PIMS Manual states: “Under FERPA … education agencies may release personally identifiable information to PDE for the purposes of auditing and evaluating educational programs, and for complying with federal and state regulations.” Does that make you feel better as a parent? Likely not, Federal and state regulations is a long list in any state, and your child’s data may de deemed sharable for any number of reasons under that definition. But let’s be clear, common core has been interventionist from the get go. Whether it does so in cohesive ways that achieve it’s original purpose – allay fears that American students were falling behind East Asian students in subjects like math – and whether it’s current purpose is an unwieldy mix of politically correct goals and muddled academic standards, is an ongoing debate. To give education departments the kind of control over your child’s data implied by PIMS in the middle of such debates over common core, is an uncomfortable reality at best for many parents.

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