Response to Critiques of the Student Privacy Protection Act

By Karen R. Effrem, MD, and Jane Robbins

The Student Privacy Protection Act, (SPPA) –  S1341, is creating quite a stir. As expected and despite the long list of supporting organizations, the crowd at the  Data Quality Campaign which is heavily funded by pro-Common Core groups and anti-privacy corporations that stand to profit from access to our children’s sensitive data, has attacked SPPA and lamented that Sen. Vitter’s “intent is to respond to parents’ concerns” (DQC meant this as a criticism!). In addition, the American Education Research Association, another group that makes its living on our children’s data, is opposed. AERA’s president said in an email, “This legislation, if it were to pass, would have a devastating impact on the quality of education research.”

Unexpectedly, however, a critique has arisen from a well-respected figure on the anti-Common Core side of the spectrum. This critique, though well intended and sincere, is based on a faulty factual and legal analysis. It is unfortunate that this opposition, coming as it does from someone who has done so much to advance the anti-Common Core and pro-privacy movement, may result in division among the parents and other citizens who have now been fighting these battles for years. SPPA is acknowledged by privacy experts to be by far the most protective legislation in existence. It is critical that our movement work with Sen. Vitter to perfect and advance this bill. In the face of the withering onslaught from our opponents, we cannot let a valuable advance be thwarted by friendly fire.

Therefore, after having been closely involved in the discussions that led to the drafting of SPPA, Education Liberty Watch President, Dr. Karen Effrem and American Principles in Action Senior Fellow, Jane Robbins have assembled this respectful disagreement with and response to this critique. (See this link also).

Although the critique mentions numerous concerns to which Effrem and Robbins respond, the major ones revolve around expansion instead of protection of students from psychological profiling and that changing the term “student record” to “student data” will increase instead of decrease access to private data by third parties.  Here is the partial discussion of those two issues as a sample:  (READ MORE)

List of Fed Ed Bills to Support and Oppose
There are 3 federal education bills to support and 3 to oppose as your members of Congress are home for town hall meetings.  Please read HERE for more information and details.


  • S 1341 – Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA) by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) – Discussed above
  • HR 121 – Local Education Authority Returns Now Act (LEARN) by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) – A small government alternative to the ESEA reauthorizations discussed below
  • S 1025 – The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act by Senator John Tester (D-MT)  A much more reasonable testing schedule as before NCLB, requiring statewide assessments once each during grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12.  While we would like to see the federal testing mandates removed altogether, this is a reasonable interim step.


  • HR 5 – The Student Success Act by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) – This reauthorizes ESEA/NCLB but requires statewide standards and tests and interferes in parental control and private school autonomy.  It is currently stalled thanks to you.  Please keep it that way.
  • S 1277 – The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) This is the extremely big government and bipartisan reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB  statewide standards and tests, alignment to School to Work and early childhood programs and expanded mental health screening. that makes HR 5 with all of its concerns look reasonable.  Floor action may come as early as the end of June.
  • S 227 – Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) – by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) This reauthorization of the federal research and data gathering arms of the US DOE expands social and emotional research on our children among many other problems.

Remember Connection to Common Core as Respected Scholars Oppose AP US History (APUSH) Framework

As reported by Peter Berkowitz on Real Clear Politics and Michele Malkin, fifty-five respected academics released a letter warning of the dangers of and strongly opposing the AP US History (APUSH) framework.  Here is a relevant excerpt:

There are notable ideological biases inherent in the 2014 framework, and certain structural innovations that will inevitably result in imbalance in the test, and bias in the course. Chief among these is the treatment of American national identity. The 2010 framework treated national identity, including “views of the American national character and ideas about American exceptionalism”as a central theme. But the 2014 framework makes a dramatic shift away from that emphasis, choosing instead to grant far more extensive attention to “how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic identities.”
This very problematic framework came from the College Board now headed by David Coleman who was one of the main architects of the Common Core English standards and who admitted that he and his fellow authors “unqualified” to write those standards.  Despite the constant claims by Jeb Bush and other proponents that there is no connection between Common Core and social studies, please remember the following:

To those who say this has nothing to do with Common Core, because Common Core is only supposed to be about English and math, please remember that the full name of the Common Core Standards is the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.  As documented in our testimony, Minnesota, in what may well have been a test case for this curricular coup, when adopting new social studies standards freely admitted that the Common Core English Standards were used in the development of the social studies standards.

Please show this letter to your school, your district and state board of education members and do NOT let your high school student take APUSH!

Dr, Karen EffremThe Moral Liberal Guest Contributor, Dr. Karen Effrem, is President of Education Liberty Watch, is a pediatrician, researcher, and conference speaker. Dr. Effrem’s medical degree is from Johns Hopkins University and her pediatric training from the University of Minnesota. She has provided testimony for Congress, as well as in-depth analysis of numerous pieces of major federal education, health, and early childhood legislation for congressional staff, state legislatures, and many organizations. Dr. Effrem serves on the boards of both Education Liberty Watch and the Alliance for Human Research Protection. Dr. Effrem and her husband, Paul, have three children.

jane robbinsJane Robbins serves as Senior Fellow at American Principles In Action.

Used with the permission of Education Liberty Watch.