‘Biometric Data’ Myths Linger In MI’s Common Core Debate
Michigan is (finally) moving forward with implementation of the Common Core State Standards after its state legislature gave the go-ahead to do so last week. This is laudable progress for the state’s schools and children, but they shouldn’t get too excited. The debate over Common Core is not over, and myths surrounding the standards continue to be a dangerous distraction from what’s really important: effective and equitable implementation.
One of the many myths floating around Michigan right now is that by implementing the Common Core, states are allowing the federal government to gather personal, identifiable data on individual students. To calm tensions like these, the resolution to continue Common Core implementation didn’t come without its fair share of amendments. The final bill included an addition written by state Rep. Tim Kelly that prohibits the collection of any non-education related information on students, including, but not limited to, “religion, political affiliations, or biometric data.” Kelly has even introduced a bill to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology, biometric scans, or eye-tracking during Common Core testing. What is a biometric scan, you ask? Well, according to the bill, it includes the collection or use of “physiological response data from a biofeedback apparatus that would measure a pupil’s blood volume, pulse, or galvanic skin response.” What happened to just filling in your first and last name? Kelly’s concern, he says, is to “ensure the privacy of Michigan students and their families.” I don’t have to tell you (but I will): The Common Core doesn’t require any more data collection than what schools already keep tabs on — which brings me to a bigger concern with this bill.
It would also prohibit the collection of information we actually need, such as socioeconomic data (including family income). This type of data (which is already provided on school report cards) is important for understanding how student subgroups are performing and ensuring that they are achieving at the same rates as their peers.
Efforts like Kelly’s bill distract from the real issue at hand — ensuring high academic standards for all students — and could even hinder accountability measures already in place. The Common Core requires a giant transition for teachers, administrators, students, and families. In order for it to work, the conversation must move away from arguments about students’ “biometric data” and more toward effective implementation and supports for educators in the midst of it. Because a failure to supply high standards for children should be lawmakers’ biggest concern.