Written testimony for Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on School Curriculum & Policies’ subject matter hearing on edTPA submitted on behalf of More Than A Score, November 10, 2015.
In the years since the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was deliberately weakened, increasing amounts of information about students’ educational records are now shared far beyond classroom walls. Parent worries about student data privacy, particularly with respect to sharing information with third-party companies, have grown proportionally.
The edTPA, with its required submission of video of Illinois children’s classrooms to Pearson, is yet another instance of this. Parents concerned about high-stakes standardized assessments in Illinois classrooms are not happy to find out that there’s now another such assessment to be concerned about. And, they are especially unhappy to find out, even though the assessment is intended for student teachers, it requires sharing personally identifiable information about children.
The videos filmed for the edTPA are shared with a for-profit company, Pearson, and its temporary workers who score the assessment. The usage and chain of control of the images in these videos is unclear and quite lax—as extensive examples of these videos are already found publicly available online in blatant violation of FERPA.
Pearson specifically instructs student teachers to record more footage than the minimum they will need to submit and to make backups which the student teacher is responsible for securing.
The chain of data collection, storage and sharing presents many points along the way for potential security breaches, whether intentional or unintentional.
So one might ask, why not simply let parents decide whether to provide or deny consent for their child participating in these videos?
First, arranging a lesson and then filming it that so that it only includes a specific, non-random subset of a class will make the entire process even more inconvenient and artificial for the students whose behavior is a significant part of the video and for an already overburdened student teacher.
Second, parents are essentially being held hostage by the threat that a student teacher’s career is on the line if they don’t consent to their child participating. As an organizer fighting against high-stakes testing and fighting for improved student data privacy, I must explain to parents that yes, if they refuse consent for the edTPA video, it could potentially have a negative impact on the student teacher’s ability to fulfill the many steps in the edTPA assessment. Their student teacher’s certification is crucially dependent on this video. Why should parents have to choose between what they think is best for their child versus a student teacher? An education policy that by design pits the interests of children against those of student teachers is deeply flawed.
Third, the consent process itself is problematic. The standard language of the consent form being used for these videos has parents consenting to providing multiple parties with the right to use the video for unspecified “additional educational purposes” with no time limit and no guarantee of confidentiality. In at least one consent form being used by multiple universities in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it says that the student’s university, ISBE and Pearson have the rights to use the videos for “additional educational purposes.” (DePaul: http://bit.ly/1WNYz2j, Northeastern Illinois: http://bit.ly/1Mll6yn, UIC: http://bit.ly/1MIe8Ti)
But in the sample consent form that Pearson provides student teachers with, it says that Stanford University will be able to use the videos for research purposes in an accompanying letter, but does not say anything about either Pearson or any university or state agency using the video for purposes other than the student teacher’s participation in edTPA in the actual form that a parent signs.
Furthermore, we know of at least one university with student teachers in CPS who are not even requesting a separate consent form for edTPA videos, but relying on a standard media consent form that most CPS schools distribute at the beginning of the school year. This is clearly unacceptable.
The fact that there are multiple, conflicting consent procedures gives us further cause to doubt the credibility of any of these commitments to student confidentiality. At a bare minimum, there should be a single standard consent form that clearly states that videos and classwork will not be disclosed to anyone except for the purposes of certification and will be destroyed after the process is complete.
In addition, who actually has access to these videos after they are submitted and for how long? These answers are not clear based on the information parents are being provided with by their child’s school, and so how can parents in Illinois expect that due diligence has taken place by policymakers to ensure that these videos are being used only for student teacher certification purposes.
Two months after the edTPA has been in place as a requirement for teacher certification, there is no standard parental consent form that clearly explains that these videos will be kept private and never disclosed to anyone except for the purpose of certification.
Lack of a standard consent form is additional evidence that the impact of the edTPA on classrooms was not well thought-out by policymakers. Children in public schools in Illinois do not need to be subject to the side effects of yet another high-stakes assessment by Pearson. The process to certify teachers in Illinois should not depend on parents’ willingness to hand over their child’s personally identifiable information to Pearson. My organization will continue to inform parents that we have no confidence in either Pearson or the edTPA and that they should seriously consider refusing consent. Yes, this may mean some short term difficulty for student teachers if large numbers of families opt out of the video, but the long term implications for these students’ profession are far worse.
organizer, More Than A Score
board of directors, Raise Your Hand