Katy area Facebook group discusses public education

A Katy area Facebook group steps out of the social media realm to communicate issues in public education.

The message to parents is, start the coming school year by asking more and more questions.

"Tonight's mission for Katy ISD School News was to bring in some speakers to talk about some of the changes that we expect to see in the Fall," Kim Belcher told Fox26 Thursday.

Belcher is a key member of the Katy ISD School News Facebook page. She shares her passion for researching the changes in education with thousands of people every day.

"What is next is data, data, data," Belcher says. "Collection of data on your children. What they do in the classroom, not only their academics but their social and emotional responses to certain stimuli in the classroom. They will be real time assessing our children."

Belcher says, as more instruction and assessment is done electronically, more data is collected on children, and there's an increasing push to compile student data on a national level.

The US Senate Committee on Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions is currently in hearings with US Education Secretary John King about how that data will be used.

Alice Linahan, of Dallas, is a recognized speaker on data collection in public schools. Linahan told parents at the education meeting, that schools no longer have to ask permission to collect and share data, because the Obama administration modified the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

"He didn't change the law," Linahan says of President Obama. "He changed the regulation on the law which said that our children's private data can be collected in the name of education research without parental consent."

Here a quote from the US Department of Education, from page 9 of a document titled "Safeguarding Student Privacy."

"The studies exception permits non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records to an organization that is conducting a study for specified purposes."

While some uses for student data may not be objectionable at all, the problem is that electronics have made it possible for very personal student data to be used in ways that might well be objectionable. It's such a huge system, how could a parent ever know the difference?

"Know your teachers. Know the curriculum. Ask for a lesson plan," Belcher says. "If you're told you can't see a lesson plan, you escalate it to the next level."

Belcher says asking questions is the only way to understand what's going on at your child's school. And parents need to know their rights.

"The one question I hear all of the time is, 'Do I have the right for... whatever.... with my child in the public education system?'" Belcher says. "If you don't have the right, who have you abdicated that right to? They are your children."