Written by Rich Forestano, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:37
Hicksville school officials weren’t sad to hear the news that inBloom, a nonprofit organization that planned to mine student testing data and personal information, was closing up shop. The thought of a national database chronicling student addresses, birthplaces, economic statuses, race, ethnicity and disabilities, had many parents and school officials all across Long Island up in arms.
Hicksville school board president Phil Heckler says he initially liked the concept of collecting student’s data for research purposes, but once he realized that names were going to be linked to the findings, lost support for it.
“The implementation was problematic. I initially wasn’t too upset by inBloom, but then I realized any one can get hacked and there is a chance they could sell this to corporations and it could hurt children in the future because they get stigmas attached to them,” said Heckler. “I think it’s good that it’s gone because it created this fear that people were going to use it to monetize it.”
The move towards inBloom by the New York State Education was part of its push for Race To the Top funds, a pool of federal funds available to states that champions education reform. inBloom suggested it would streamline how school districts access student records. The system would have extracted student data from different school grading and attendance databases, store it in the cloud and funnel it to districts where teachers would track the progress of individual students.
Superintendent Maureen K. Bright said she was “pleased” with the state’s decision to not use inBloom. On March 28, the Hicksville School District’s Common Core Committee wrote a letter that was signed by the Heckler and Bright to Senator Jack Martins, stating their request to abandon inBloom.
“We request that the disclosure of personal student information be abandoned until such time as the State Education Department provides justification for the data requested and assurances that it will not be shared, stored or utilized for any purpose other than to measure individual student learning. The collection of indentifiable data regarding student disabilities or discipline history is unacceptable,” stated the letter.
Federal regulations under FERPA require school districts to maintain student databases responsibly. inBloom gave those guarantees, but people weren’t buying it.
“We have realized that this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated,” inBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger said in a statement last week.
State Education Commissioner John B. King defended inBloom at a town hall talk in Mineola last year. “The data stored is encrypted when stored and when transferred. The data security are as high or higher than many third-party groups holding data for schools throughout the country.”
The New York State Legislature recently ordered the deletion of existing student records possessed by inBloom in the wake of parental outcry over Common Core’s testing and private data sharing. Assemblyman Ed Ra has been opposed to the Common Core. Ra said hearings held with inBloom were inconclusive.
“Now that our children’s personal data is no longer at risk, we can work on remedying the other structural flaws in Common Core: the rigorous high-stakes overtesting of our students and the curriculum that is doing a disservice to teachers and kids alike,” said Ra.