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
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 billion,
with 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
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
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
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