Private Data - The Real Story:
A Huge Problem with
R. James Milgram†
Professor of Mathematics Emeritus,
Stanford University, 12/7/2012
A very influential paper on improving math outcomes was published in 2008. The authors refused to divulge their data claiming that agreements with the schools and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rules prevented it.
- It turns out that this is not true.
- The claimed legal foundations do not say what these authors said they do.
When we found the identities of the schools by other means, serious problems with the conclusions of the article were quickly revealed.
- The 2008 paper was far from unique in this respect.
- There are many papers that have had huge influences on K-12 mathematics curricula, and could not be independently verified because the authors refused to reveal their data.
In this article we describe how we were able to find the missing data for the 2008 paper. We discuss the huge difficulties they revealed, and point out the legal constraints that should make it very difficult for authors of such papers to legally withhold their data in the future.