How to check out a nonprofit

In yesterday’s post I asked the question “Are Nonprofits our Frenemies?” That is to say, are there any social benefit nonprofits that are also working behind our backs — for example, to close our neighborhood schools? And I explained how to find out. To recap:

1. Look at their board of directors.

2. Look at their funders.

Now let’s look at another example. I’ve been investigating problems with student data privacy, and I’ve learned that federal privacy laws were recently weakened and that very detailed, personally identifiable data, is being given out to a wide range of researchers. The national PTA has been looking into it as well, and they’ve very considerately put out a press release and guide on questions parents should be asking about data privacy. Strangely, though, it’s missing some of the key questions that parents really ought to be asking, and instead it has vague reassurances that “federal laws protect privacy” and what might just be an outright lie, that the vendors who get student information “can’t sell the data or let anyone else access it.”

Why might that be?

Well, the PTA didn’t put this out alone. They paired up with a nonprofit to write this guide: the Data Quality Campaign. The DQC is pushing for state and federal legislation that set up longitudinal (long term) databases. It also creates “public demand and discourse” for better education data. That is, it does PR.

So let’s check out the DQC.

Who are their funders?

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
  • The Alliance for Early Success
  • AT&T
  • Target

Not too surprising, that a lot of foundations related to technology would want lots and lots of data collection. Companies like Microsoft, Dell, and AT&T will benefit financially from selling all those IT systems to the public schools. I don’t know what Target is doing there, but folks, when you shop at Target and they say they’re giving money to education, you don’t suppose it’s for stuff like this, do you?

Anyway, because nonprofits live or die by their funders, everything this nonprofit does is because its funders want it.

Who’s on their Board of Directors?

Okay, so I could find out, but I don’t feel like it today. I’m more interested in the Partners page.

Who are their partners?

They have a bunch of partners. I definitely don’t have time to look at all of them, especially since some are nonprofits. But I see some familiar faces. Specifically:

  • National Council on Teacher Quality – they advocate against National Board Certification for teachers and were infamous in Seattle for horning in on Seattle’s contract negotiations a couple years back. They also put out a biased rating survey of schools of education.
  • Northwest Evaluation Association – they make the MAP test, which has been quite controversial in Seattle
  • Schools Interoperability Framework Association – this is a not-for-profit corporation that oversees an industry initiative to make student data sharing easier
  • Oh dear, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. They’re a think tank and PR organization focused on privatization.

That’s enough for one day. This nonprofit is run by, and partners with, corporate interests who want to privatize schools and collect and share large amounts of data on our students. They’re not really the people we should trust to tell us whether our children’s data is safe.

Curious that the National PTA would partner with them.

Next up: How to check out a nonprofit, part two

Also see: What are our students’ privacy rights, really?

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2 responses to “How to check out a nonprofit

  1. Pingback: Are nonprofits our frenemies? | Kristin King

  2. Pingback: How to check out a nonprofit, part two | Kristin King

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