Opinion

Student data mining system raises privacy concerns

North Carolina public schools are developing a multimillion-dollar student data mining system intended to compile and analyze reams of information to improve educational outcomes. But critics say it poses a “creepy” potential to engineer the work force and easily could fall prey to a variety of “malicious” abuses. Known as the P-20W system, the program captures student data from pre-K through graduate school and follows individuals into their work years. The Department of Public Instruction is collaborating with the UNC system, North Carolina Community Colleges System, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the state Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Commerce to gather, manage, and analyze the information.

Four good North Carolina books for the spring

If you are looking for an interesting book for springtime reading, I have four suggestions: A cookbook that will be fun to read. A book of stories from one of North Carolina’s rising stars. The story of a ’57 Chevy and its complicated, troubled and fascinating 13th owner who took it to Moyock in Currituck County for restoration. An award-winning story of a mother who writes letters to the son she gave up the day he was born. Here are some details.

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NC Book Watch

Gene Nichol’s center had no impact on poverty

It’s the height of ivory tower elitism for professors to defend the UNC Center on Work, Poverty and Opportunity. It’s the height of absurdity to analogize closing the center with the censorship of E.E. Ericson and John Spencer Bassett, as Rob Christensen did in his Feb. 22 column. Everyone knows the center on poverty was contrived to give John Edwards a platform for the core message of his 2008 presidential campaign. The center traded on the prestige of the university for personal political gain, not for poverty.

North Carolina school grades: Don’t get lost in the noise

On February 5, North Carolina released A-F grades for all traditional public and charter schools. News outlets have been all over the story and pundits are angling to put a spin on what is expected to be a tough day for many schools. For the past several days, public school officials have been bracing themselves for what they expect to be a torrent of bad publicity and questions. Officials at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction have been coaching local officials about how to explain results. If they didn’t see a need they wouldn’t do so.

Can a redistricting panel avoid politics?

Kudos to Senate leader Phil Berger for his incisive answer as to whether he would support an independent redistricting commission. According to Gary Robertson of the Associated Press, Berger said: “I have yet to see a so-called independent redistricting commission that is truly independent. … I’m still out there looking for that nonpartisan soul that really has no opinion about politics one way or the other that has an informational background in politics.” Common sense and the experience of other states show how difficult – or even quixotic – the quest for a nonpartisan commission is.

North Carolina still outpaces region

Ever since conservatives won majorities in the North Carolina General Assembly and began reducing taxes, spending, and state regulation, liberals have predicted doom. Without sufficient government spending, they said, the North Carolina economy would suffer. Businesses don’t place as high a value on cost as they used to, liberals assured us, so efforts to promote growth with lower taxes and regulatory burdens will accomplish nothing. Instead, they counseled more spending on schools, infrastructure, and even public assistance as a stimulus.