Every parent should ask the chief administrator of their schools: What is the most important thing that you are going to teach my child and what will be the condition of their soul when they leave public school?

The era of “Big Data” has overtaken the field of education. New technology promises to transform education, facilitating previously unimagined learning opportunities and, from a purely administrative standpoint, allowing educators to complete in seconds what used to consume laborious hours.

But the new technology has a downside as well. It allows 21st-century disciples of foundational progressive John Dewey to accomplish what was out of reach before: collecting data on every child, beginning with preschool or even earlier, and using it to track the child throughout his academic and professional career.

In this way, theoretically, government “experts” can determine what is successful in education, what isn’t, and what sorts of education and training are most beneficial to produce workers for the global economy.

Aside from whether this dream is realistic, it presents myriad dangers to student privacy. For many years the federal government has been using grants to induce states to build increasingly sophisticated, identical student-data systems.

More recently, the federal government has worked with private entities to design and encourage states to participate in other related initiatives, such as the Data Quality Campaign, the Early Childhood Data Collaborative and the National Student Clearinghouse.

The National Education Data Model, with its suggestion of over 400 data points on each child, provides an ambitious target for the states in constructing their data systems. And whatever parts of this warehoused information are given to the national assessment consortia aligned to the Common Core State Standards will be made available to the U.S. Department of Education.

Gordon Draper

Bowdoin