Data sharing among agencies is massive

This should not be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention. Data sharing among federal agencies is massive and this is just for healthcare information, see Feds Plan for 35 Agencies to Help Collect, Share, Use Electronic Health Info. (H/T The Weekly Standard). Yes, I know this is a blog focused on Common Core so why am I posting about the sharing of healthcare data? Well, if you missed my last post, read Fed Ed wants your tots, especially the part about data collection. Most of the data from early childhood is health information. Now let’s take a look at the federal plan to share data and as you look down the list you will see the Department of Education:

Along with the primary goal of expanding the availability of health insurance, the Affordable Care Act aims to make the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) universal. This plan actually began with the 2009 stimulus (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), which included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Doctors and other health providers have been offered incentives to convert patient information and health histories to a compatible and transferable electronic format, and as of June 2014, 75 percent of eligible doctors and 92 percent of eligible hospitals had received payments under the program.

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which details the efforts of some 35 departments and agencies of the federal government and their roles in the plan to “advance the collection, sharing, and use of electronic health information to improve health care, individual and community health, and research.”

Remember, the 2009 stimulus also funded state data collection.  See Common Core NC: Data Collection and CEDARS for Critical background information, below is one highlight:

The creation of the SLDS is not optional, it is a requirement by the Federal government for the state to receive funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as the Stimulus. In North Carolina, that SLDS is called CEDARS. (Read:NC CEDARS presentation, 2009)

The federal program Head Start falls under Health and Human Services (HHS). Let me remind you again, FERPA was weakened and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (NC is a governing state) opens up the pipes to allow data to flow to the Department of Education. From North Carolina Must Withdraw from SBAC Part 2:

In accordance with 34 CFR 75.200(b)(4), this award is a cooperative agreement because the Secretary of Education (Secretary) has determined that substantial communication, coordination, and involvement between the U.S. Department of Education (Department or ED) and the recipient is necessary to carry out a successful project. Consistent with 34 CFR 75.234(b), the terms and conditions identified in this cooperative agreement set out the explicit character and extent of the anticipated collaboration between ED and the award recipient.

34 CFR 75.200(b)(4) – this is the Race to the Top Grant Application. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan asserts power he doesn’t have under the US Constitution. Notice the careful selection of words has determined that substantial communication, coordination, and involvement between the U.S. Department of Education (Department or ED) and the recipient is necessary to carry out a successful project. This becomes important later in the agreement where student level data is discussed…


6) The Grantee must provide timely and complete access to any and all data collected at the State level to ED or its designated program monitors, technical assistance providers, or researcher partners, and to GAO, and the auditors conducting the audit required by 34 CFR section 80.26.

Agencies are not just sharing health information, education data is shared as well. Not only do Federal agencies share data, State agencies share data too. End to end data sharing is an area which needs more focus. North Carolina took the first step to address privacy concerns with the Protecting Student Privacy Act but it did not go far enough. The constant change in technology creates more challenges to protect data. Big Data is a booming industry and with Big Data comes power.  Basic questions need to be addressed, what is being collected and why? Who has access to the data? Where is it stored? How is it protected? This is not a time to fall asleep at the switch and assume laws protect our data especially our children’s data.