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Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: a watershed year for Class Size Matters and our end-of-the year appeal

In several ways, 2014 was a watershed year for Class Size Matters.  We led the fight for student privacy and defeated inBloom Inc.


We were the first to draw attention to this massive $100 million student data repository in August of 2011, designed to collect maximum amounts of children’s highly sensitive information and share it with numerous third party vendors  without parental notification or consent.  We held press conferences, rallies, town hall meetings, and spoke at forums over the course of the next two and half years.  We reached out to parent activists in the eight other inBloom states, and every state that had been cited as participating in this project pulled out, one by one.  

After the NY Legislature passed a law blocking its attempt to access students’ personal data, the company closed its doors last spring.  Please consider giving Class Size Matters a tax-deductible donation so our work can continue, as we have learned that inBloom is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The inBloom controversy kick-started a national debate on student privacy which has not yet abated.  Parents and other concerned citizens throughout the country discovered for the first time that children’s privacy and safety were at risk through excessive and widespread data-mining, collection and sharing, enabled and encouraged by the weakening of the federal law known as FERPA.  The expansion of data disclosure has also occurred as a result of the efforts of for-profit vendors to gain a share of the rapidly growing market for educational software, now estimated at more than $7.9 billionwith the goal of expanding instruction through computers rather than actual human interaction.

In addition, states are creating cradle-to-the-grave data systems, tracking students from birth onwards by amassing personal information from many governmental agencies and higher education institutions.   There are literally thousands of data-mining programs now being used in schools, without proper oversight or control.  As a result of the growing awareness of the risks involved, twenty states passed new student privacy laws this year, including New York.

Last summer, we formed a new national organization called the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, dedicated to providing information on how parents can best protect their children’s privacy, and we are working to minimize student data mining, collecting, and disclosure without consent.   Our website at www.studentprivacymatters.org has fact sheets and opt out forms available.

We also continued our analysis, outreach and advocacy on issues related to class size.  Last spring, we published an authoritative report, Space Crunch, on the worsening overcrowding crisis and how the NYC’s plan to build new schools will produce less than one third the seats required, given existing overcrowding, rising enrollment, and the need to reduce class size.  We also sounded the alarm about the continuing trend of growing class sizes -- and how more than 360,000 NYC students are now crammed into classes of thirty or larger.

This fall, 73 professors of education and psychology cited these figures in a letter to Chancellor Fariña, warning her that these excessive class sizes will undermine the benefits of the DOE’s initiatives of expanded preK, inclusion of special education students, and community schools.

We provided testimony to the City Council on the negative impact of large classes on students with disabilities, and our testimony on charters, called Six Charter Myths, went viral.  We sent letters to the Chancellor on the need to provide class size and overcrowding data on the School Progress Reports, and calling for an immediate moratorium on any more school co-locations until all public school students are provided with a quality education, including smaller classes.

Diane Ravitch has called our NYC education list serve “terrific and informative,” and our blog, NYC Public School Parents, continues to be a valuable source of news and commentary.  Our Class Size Matters newsletter now has more than six thousand subscribers. We were quoted more than 100 times in the mainstream media this year, on issues ranging from student privacy, class size, and school overcrowding, to the corporate agenda of excessive testing, digital learning, charter schools and the Common Core.

But we rely on your contributions to keep going.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Class Size Matters – as much as you can afford by clicking here, sending a check to the address below, or going to our website at www.classsizematters.org.

We still have so much to achieve before our children are provided with the privacy and individualized attention they need.

Happy holidays and thanks as ever for your support.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director 

1 comment:

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