The New York State Department of Education unveiled a new database today that will monitor the academic performance of students in grade three through eight. While New York officials claim that the database will help improve education policy, troubling questions remain about student privacy and the overall effectiveness of such a program.
The database is designed to track everything from test scores in targeted subject areas to high school dropout rates. Students will begin having data collected about almost every minute detail. Educators and elected official will then analyze the data and make recommendations about how to improve public schools.
Another problem with the proposed database is privacy. Although government officials claim that the information will be safe, every system is always at-risk to hackers. In fact, a recent news item about a San Diego man who was convicted of breaking into computer system of the University of Southern California underscores the threat that centralized databases pose to student privacy.
This database might even be a trial run for the Department of Education's proposal for a national tracking system for college and university students. The problems associated with a statewide database for middle school students is only magnified when applied to a college-oriented program. Skeptics of the Department of Education's proposal should keep an eye on this pilot program.