I think most of our readers know I am a data guy, but I also have enough of an engineering background to understand some of the implications of unintended consequences. When it comes to collection and analysis of data concerning our children, I have reservations about whether the data efforts are paying due diligence to what is called “Failure Modes and Effects Analysis” in the aviation world.
I am not alone, as this new article in Politico points out. Of course, as always seems to be the case in these discussions, there are facts and nonsense coming from both sides.
Still, I have heartburn with a federal proposal for a standardized student database across the states that wants to collect sensitive stuff that is no business of the public school system such as a student’s religious preference and whether or not that student is registered to vote.
Also, the idea that data can be de-identified successfully becomes more and more fanciful every day. Years ago a researcher named Lauress Wise showed it was possible to reattach student names to their National Assessment of Educational Progress test data with an 86 percent positive match using just seven commonly collected attributes: “presence/absence of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), presence and type of disability, school attended, indication of limited English proficiency, gender, race, and age (in months).”
With data breaches now an almost constant occurrence – even in some of the nation’s most sensitive classified defense areas – the unintended consequences of collecting large amounts of student information get more ominous by the day. I think parents can understand that. For some engineering those databases, I suggest some serious “Failure Modes and Effects Analysis” is in order.