Between a rock and a hard place with College Board and SAT

Jan 31, 2018 by

College Board says it allows subcontractors to access personal IEP and 504 disability data

Cheri Kiesecker –

Sunday, January 28 is International Privacy Day. Please, when you think of privacy, remember that in today’s high-tech classrooms,  K-12 students are a captive audience, in a state of nearly constant surveillance and ever increasing data collection. Student data does not stay in the classroom. Parents cannot opt out of the data collection and many worry about the lack of privacy and security with student data and parents worry how this data could be used to profile students. The College Board, owners of the SAT college entrance assessment, just added to this concern.

The new SAT is 100% Common Core aligned and Colorado, like other states, mandates the SAT assessments.  Colorado students must take the PSAT in grades 9, 10 and SAT in grade 11.

Parents of high school students with disabilities recently received this letter from their child’s school, saying the College Board must have access to their child’s disability records without limitation and if needed, any additional or supplemental data requested to verify that the student needs accommodations when taking the SAT test in Colorado this Spring. The College Board letter also lists subcontracted corporations who will have access to the students’ disability records (see this list below).

With this demand for extremely sensitive data, to be disclosed to subcontractors, the state of Colorado and the College Board have put parents between a rock and a hard place.

Parents feel like they are held hostage.  (We know students’ disability records have a high monetary value. We also know that HIPPA does not protect student records.  Have you ever seen a student’s 504 medical file or IEP file?  These files can contain diagnoses, very personal mental and/or medical health information, information on student and family background, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs.)

Is it ethical that a parent must choose between their child having accommodations and a fair shot on these high-stakes mandated tests, or protecting their child’s privacy knowing that their disability records will be shared with the College Board and accessed by outside corporations: Pearson, Conduent Inc. (formerly Xerox), ETS, and Alorica Inc.

Should states like Colorado require that parents grant the College Board and subcontractors access to very sensitive documents about their children? Why do these subcontracted companies doing support work need access to disability data? Why does Pearson need access to the Student Data Questionnaire, when Pearson is only scoring answer sheets?  

Of course we understand the need to verify that the child does have an IEP or 504 plan and does require specific accommodations, but instead of giving companies access to this information, couldn’t the student’s disability status be verified by the school principal or even district or state school board by checking the records and telling College Board, “Yes, these accommodations have been verified.”?

Is requiring this sensitive data sharing a violation of FERPA?

We know that the College Board also sells licenses to student dataKeep in mind that the subcontractors that the College Board listed in the accommodation letter do not include the thousands of entities that College Board licenses access to student data.

I sent letters (like the one posted below) to the Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Board of Education, my School District.  I also sent a similar letter to the College Board saying,  “In light of the Agora USDoE FERPA decision, and Colorado HB16-1423, will the College Board please provide the terms of service and data sharing policies of each subcontractor listed in the accommodation request letter?”  

Side note:  If you aren’t familiar with The US Department of Education’s recent decision regarding FERPA rights and schools not allowing students to opt out of data sharing, see the Agora letter here. It was first brought to my attention when Attorney Elena Zeide posted this tweet:


Parents in other states should be paying attention, asking questions.  The College Board had to comply with Colorado’s new student data transparency law, in telling us who they share data with.  Parents should ask if the College Board has similar data sharing policies in every state.

Please check back, updates will be posted on this blog.  


From: Cheri Kiesecker
Date: Tue, Jan 23, 2018
Subject: RE: College Board student disability verification/consent

Dear Colorado Board of Education, Colorado Department of Education, and XX School District,

You may remember that Colorado students with disabilities received this overly broad request for the child’s school records and any other documents the school may have… in order for the College Board SAT /PSAT to honor student accommodations.

Knowing the College Board sells licenses to student data and wondering what disability data the College Board might have access to and share, I contacted the CO Dept of Ed and College Board with my concerns; CDE agreed the data request letter needed to be updated. See the modified/ updated CB accommodations request letter for Colorado students attached.

The updated accommodations request form still gives the College Board access to broad “additional” requested and supplemental documents. If a parent wants their child’s accommodations (ie: extended time) to be honored when taking SAT or PSAT (or AP, NMSQT), you will see that several organizations (Pearson, Xerox, ETS, and Alorica) can have access to the child’s personal disability information. Keep in mind that these subcontractors listed do not include the thousands of entities that College Board licenses access to student pii data.

My concern remains. How can we accommodate special need students without granting College Board and third parties access to all /any sensitive records?

Why do these subcontractors need access to “SSD Online including the required and supplemental student data listed above” when they are providing only support services ? Why does Pearson need access to a child’s Student Data Questionnaire …if Pearson is only providing “operational activities” such as grading and scanning answer sheets?

Why must special needs students who require accommodations forfeit their privacy, in order to have necessary accommodations on this state mandated test?

Can’t districts or CDE step in and verify accommodation needs rather than supplying companies this very sensitive information?

Thank you for any help you can offer.
Cheri Kiesecker, parent

Source: Between a rock and a hard place with College Board and SAT – Missouri Education Watchdog

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