Florida School District lied and student privacy died

Sarasota County School Board members.

WDW – FL did a column on the use of Multiple Intelligence Surveys (MIS) in Florida public schools. Many parents are concerned these surveys ask questions that are private and personal in nature and have nothing to do with the educational process. One survey used in Florida public schools was created by Surfaquarium and questions include:

  • Ecological issues are important to me
  • I believe preserving our National Parks is important
  • Religion is important to me
  • I wonder if there are other forms of intelligent life in the universe
  • I value relationships more than ideas or accomplishments
  • I like to be involved in causes that help others
  • Fairness is important to me
  • Social justice issues interest me
  • I am willing to protest or sign a petition to right a wrong

Superintendent Lori White.

The Surfaquarium survey is being used by Riverview High School English teacher Dr. Elinor Wachs. WDW – FL asked the Sarasota County School Superintendent Lori White about the use of surveys like the one given to students by Dr. Wachs. The answer from Superintendent White’s staff was that teachers may hand out to students any survey they wish and there is no district level policy or concern about their use. According to staff the reason for the lack of concern was:

Multiple-intelligences surveys such as these [MIS] are one way for teachers to get to know students, but students may opt out of answering the questions.

Regarding teachers requesting “private information,” see third paragraph above. If students believe the answers to the questions are “private,” they can refrain from answering them.

WDW – FL has since learned these statements are false.

We received this reply about the assignment from Scott Ferguson, Communications Director for the District:

I do not see the inconsistency of my previous statement because the teacher bases an assignment on a survey. If students or their parents object to a survey or a corresponding assignment, they may let the teacher or an administrator know they would like to opt out of either or both. We understand that one person’s reasonable assignment may be objectionable to another person. We work with parents to develop alternative activities/assignments or other solutions when they or their students raise issues regarding classwork or assignments.

If a student or parent objects to this particular survey or assignment they are welcome to let the teacher, a school administrator or a district administrator know.

Several parents have told WDW – FL that they “fear retribution against their child if they speak out and make this an issue.”

Multiple sources have reported that Dr. Wachs is not only requiring students to fill out the Multiple Intelligence Survey but has made the answers to the survey a class essay assignment. The assignment states, “Using the results of the Multiple Intelligence chart, select the highest three categories to be the topic of your essay.” If you opt out of the survey can you opt out of the class assignment?

Of note is that Dr. Wachs refers her students to the Purdue University writing lab exercises website for help in formatting their essay. It is part of the Purdue OWL engagement program. What is the Purdue OWL engagement program all about? According to the OWL website it is to, “…[F]oster sustained work with local and global partners.”

The idea of children being a “sustainable workforce” and in cooperation with “government” and “global partners” has raised the concerns of parents and educators alike. Data mining is a necessary component to create a “psychological profile” on each “sustainable worker”. Diane Kepus in her column “Data Mining using Common Core:  Cha Ching – Cha Ching!” states:

A growing number of parents are disturbed about the “data mining” under Common Core pushed by foundations, not just because of the cost, but the privacy implications. Let me explain why your children’s and your information is no longer private through FERPA although you may have been told otherwise.

Do not let anyone from the Bush FoundationBill & Melinda Gates Foundation or any Florida legislator tell you that student and parent information is still protected. The Florida statutes have been changed in 2012 to match the changes in FERPA.

Recently when Governor Rick Scott was asked if he supported the data mining aspect of Common Core, Scott answered ‘no’ to the question. It appears the Governor did not get the memo from the Florida Department of Education that public schools have been data mining for years using “student surveys“.


Nothing on the survey forms or essay assignment sent home by Dr. Wachs states it is “optional” or that a student may “opt out”. Surfaquarium offers multiple surveys. WDW – FL asked Surfaquarium about the uses of their surveys in Florida by teachers and schools. We are awaiting answers to our questions. For those interested in contacting key educators in Florida the following information is provided:

Click here for the Florida State Board of Education.

Superintendent of Schools Lori White email: lori.white@sarasotacountyschools.net or phone: (941) 927-9000 ext. 31105.

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