Note from Mike Bryan: David Safier has shown me a representative sample of the documents he received, and I can say without question that he has represented them accurately in this post. He has made a responsible decision not posting the documents online, since they contain the names of students as well as other information that the families would rightfully expect to be kept confidential.
by David Safier
This is what I received from someone who claims to have been connected with the India-based service that graded papers for Arizona Virtual Academy.
- More than 1000 papers written by students at Arizona Virtual Academy, most of them with the students' names attached.
- More than twenty Grade Tracking sheets with the names of all the students enrolled in AZVA writing courses.
- A spreadsheet with the names of more than 3,000 students enrolled in AZVA, with home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, parents' names, students' birthdays and more.
The sender claims all these documents were on a server in India. Though I don't know the person who is the source of this information, at this point I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the documents.
If these documents were indeed in the hands of the people grading AZVA papers in India, the graders knew the names of the students who wrote the papers. If they had access to the school enrollment records as well, they knew exactly how to contact the students, and they had enough information to pose as friends of the family, parents of other children in the school or anyone else who might appear to be someone the child could trust. In other words, they had the information necessary to gain and abuse an innocent child's confidence, if that's what any of them desired to do.
I always feel the need to add a disclaimer after a paragraph like the one I just wrote. I'm not in any way suggesting people in India are more likely to prey on children than people in the U.S. Far from it. We know how widespread the problem is here; we don't need to look to other countries to find dangerous people. But Arizona has laws requiring fingerprints and background checks for all personnel at schools to make sure no administrator, teacher, secretary or custodian has a history that would indicate they might harm a child physically or psychologically. No such protections were in place for the India-based graders. The only protection the families had was the efforts AZVA and its parent corporation, K12 Inc., should have been making to assure that no personal information about the students or their families went to the graders in India.
If the documents in my possession originated in India as I have reason to believe, K12, a publicly traded, for profit educational corporation, demonstrated a frightening lack of concern for the safety and welfare of the children enrolled in its schools.
I'm not planning to post any of the documents I received in their entirety. Since the documents contain student names and information, that would be irresponsible. In the next few days, I'll post samples of the documents with all personal information removed. In this post, I'll describe what I have in my possession.
I received over 1200 files with student essays in various stages of completion. Usually there are three parts to each assignment -- brainstorming, first draft and final draft. That means there were three contacts between an India-based grader and a student. (It's important to understand, these were not real time interactions. When a student sent a completed assignment to AZVA, it was forwarded electronically to India. When the scoring and commenting was completed, the assignment was sent back to AZVA, which forwarded it to the student.)
The students' names were attached to the vast majority of these assignments.
I also received more than twenty Grade Tracker spreadsheets. Each of these has a class list of between 125 and 250 students taking a writing course, complete with student names and numbers, course name and teacher name.
But by far the most astounding and disturbing document I received was a spreadsheet containing what appears to be a complete listing of all the students enrolled in AZVA -- more than 3300 students. Each student has about 60 fields connected to his or her name. Here are the more revealing bits of information in the spreadsheet.
- Student name, gender, ethnicity, birthplace, previous school, grade and birthdate (Most students range from 4 to 18 years old, with a few 19 and 20 year olds).
- Student's home address.
- Mother and father's names and email addresses.
- Primary teacher's name.
- Designations indicating whether the student is in ESL, Title 1, Gifted programs, Special Education, is entitled to free or reduced lunch or has any physical or learning disabilities.
No one outside of a few people at the school should have access to this kind of information. When I was a public school teacher, I probably could have found all this information about any of my students if I asked, but I would have been eyed with a great deal of suspicion if I requested the files for the entire school body.
I haven't had a chance to look over the thousands of documents in depth, but it's clear they contain information most parents would only feel comfortable being viewed by trusted school staff. When AZVA sent students' papers to India without their parents' consent -- and all the information I've gathered tells me that's exactly what happened -- that was a serious breach of trust in itself. But if these files originated in India, it indicates far more reprehensible behavior by K12 and AZVA. The parents who enrolled their children in this publicly funded charter school placed a trust in the school that was betrayed. The corporation displayed a casual lack of concern about establishing the basic safeguards necessary to ensure the safety of the children entrusted to them.
K12 collects state tax dollars in Arizona ($14 million per year the last time I checked) to run AZVA at a profit. Arizonans should reconsider whether this is the kind of school we should fund to educate our children.
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