Interesting Common Core prompt:

common core EIDs

[This content is a repost from my tumblr feed. A transcription of the above image is available at the end of the post.]

I have been taking practice Common Core tests at school. They, unlike the tests that I would never speak about here, do not include any “agree to never copy this information anywhere to continue” or “sign here to indicate that you will not discuss or disclose information about this test” components.

Fun facts: I am reproducing this (probably) copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism and comment, my use is not of a commercial nature, the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole is small, and I doubt that I’m reducing the market value of the copyrighted work through this post.

(I’d claim to be reproducing this work for news reporting purposes, because people should be aware of this, but I’m not sure I count as a news reporter just because I run a blog.)

I really don’t think I should have to write and refute strawman anti-student tracking arguments as part of a school exercise. This is transparent manipulation. Also, I don’t believe that a student would possibly write this letter. This is clearly written by a school board member or parent.

Since when do teachers waste instructional time looking for truant students? I have had many substitutes, but none of them have ever been assigned to my class because the teacher was out driving around trying to find a truant. The real reason that schools dislike people ditching class is because they lose funding (also why they incentivize contagious students to attend school).

I can tell what I am supposed to do here. I am supposed to say that some people argue that this is illegal, but it actually isn’t. (In reality, it’s got to be more complex. Right? Please don’t force me to wear a tracking device. And if you want to force a tracking device onto me that I can’t remove, you will need either physical force or some sort of law or court order requiring that I wear one.) Then, I am supposed to say that studies may not have shown results over the short term, but the results of 1 study are consistent with EIDs being implemented only in high-crime schools and normalizing those schools, it’s too early to see results, and correlation doesn’t imply causation because the lack of trust could have led to the tracking devices. Then, I should insult the blogger (Who is it? The link is actually to a glossary definition of blogger. I hope the seemingly anti-EID blogger isn’t too upset that they’re being used here without citation.) for not being a reputable source, because they’re just a blogger and not a real journalist.

However, if I’m stuck working from these terrible research notes, I can’t bring up any of the best arguments I know!

  • If the tracking devices are student-removable, students who ditch will send their devices to school with friends.
  • If the devices aren’t student-removable but are student-deactivatable, the students who ditch will turn theirs off. You will know who is absent, but not where they are. This is the same information you could have gotten by taking attendance.
  • If the devices are neither student-removable nor student-deactivatable, there is no way your responsibility to maintain order overrides my right to privacy regarding my location on weekends and evenings.
  • If the devices are neither student-removable nor student-deactivatable, but you claim you will only turn them on during school hours, I’d like to plant a microphone on you. Sure, I’m in a state with 2-party consent laws for recording, but I’ll only remotely activate it when you’re talking to me, which is perfectly legal, so you really have nothing to be concerned about. Also, I’d like to make copies of all your letters, but don’t worry, I’ll only read the ones addressed to me.

[Note that the red text is me typing over text that was rendered illegible by reflected light.]

Transcription of the image:

A student is writing a letter to the school board about its plan to require students to wear electronic identification tags. Read the beginning of the letter and complete the task that follows.

I am writing in support of the school board’s plan to require students at my school to wear electronic identification tags (EIDs) that will allow the administration to track the location of all students. Although the proposal may raise privacy concerns, its implementation would uphold and defend the school’s very reason for being—teaching. As anyone at my school can attest, teachers and school administrators waste precious instructional time tracking down students who skip class to hangout with their friends. The purpose of school is to give young people the opportunity to learn skills and information required to succeed in life. We learn not only how to read, write, and understand math, but also how to interact with others. For these reasons, school is the most important place in a young person’s life, and the achievement of its mission should not be hindered by unruly students. EIDs would help ensure that it isn’t by allowing educators to focus on education.

Some may contend that requiring students to wear EIDs constitutes a warrantless search and so runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment.

Student Notes:

The student has taken these notes from credible sources:

  • Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
  • US Supreme Court in United States v. Jones—police must obtain a warrant before attaching a global positioning system (GPS) tracker to the car of a suspected drug trafficker.
  • US Supreme Court in New Jersey v. T.L.O.—schools have a responsibility to maintain order, which can override Fourth Amendment rights when there is “reasonable suspicion” that a school rule has been violated.
  • US Supreme Court in Veronia School District 47J v. Acton—schools have a responsibility to maintain order in the “special situation” of public schools and that responsibility overrides the student’s right to privacy.
  • National technology blogger—EIDs can be hacked to show wrong locations for people wearing them.
  • Study of several Los Angeles high schools–students at schools using EIDs trust teachers less than students at schools not using EIDs.
  • Study of crime rates in areas around high schools—no significant relationship between use of EIDs and crime near schools.

The writer wants to acknowledge a counterclaim to the argument introduced in the first paragraph. Using the student’s notes, complete the second paragraph by writing the counterargument.

I’m sure there’s a reason why nobody’s tried this yet…

I’ve done some reading about stereotype threat lately, and multiple sources seem to agree that reminding people that they are in Category X, which they have been told is bad at Y, will make them worse at Y. While it’s clearly impossible to thoroughly remove harms of this nature, it seems that they can easily be reduced.

Here’s an idea for all test-producing companies out there:

Change your testing instructions such that the demographic sections of your answer sheets are filled out last. This way, you won’t be reminding students of their membership in demographic categories more likely to fail the test before they take the test, which will apparently raise the scores of people in discriminated-against groups with no real expended effort on your part.

You can further reduce score differences in girls and minority students by stating that your test designers have taken sociology-supported measures to equalize scores across all demographics. It won’t even be a false statement.

I realize that a side effect of filling out the name-address-ethnicity section of the answer sheet first may be allowing late students some margin of error, but considering how much the test instructions call for test administration at the same time across the country, making things easy for late students does not appear to be a priority of any sort.

This appears to be a rather obvious partial solution. However, most ideas that seem (to an outsider) to be an obvious way to get good things for free turn out to be things that people within the field have considered and dismissed. (See: perpetual motion machines.) People remember outsiders coming up with amazing, creative ideas precisely because it’s a rare event.

I estimate the probability that this idea is feasible to be rather low. If anyone can spot a reason why this isn’t feasible, or why my estimate is wrong, please let me know in the comments.