NYTimes: InBloom Student Data Repository to Close

By | April 21, 2014

It seems that pressure from parents and educators could only be ignored for so long.  InBloom is closing down because of intense criticism over privacy concerns for children.  It should be noted that the Kings Park Board of Education was largely unaware of this issue as of the beginning of the school year until parents started speaking about it at board meetings.  It is puzzling that Dr. Susan Agruso, Dr. Cartisano, and BOE President Marie Goldstein has not mentioned InBloom to the community or raised any concerns over the InBloom service.

According to the NYTimes

Financed with $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the venture promised to streamline how teachers and administrators accessed student records. The system was meant to extract student data from disparate school grading and attendance databases, store it in the cloud and funnel it to dashboards where teachers might more effectively track the progress of individual students.

But the project ran into roadblocks in a number of districts and states over privacy and security issues.

The inBloom database included more than 400 different data fields about students that school administrators could fill in. But some of the details seemed so intimate — including family relationships (“foster parent” or “father’s significant other”) and reasons for enrollment changes (“withdrawn due to illness” or “leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident”) — that parents objected, saying that they did not want that kind of information about their children transferred to a third-party vendor.

That led some schools to recoil from the venture.

After parents in Louisiana discovered that their children’s Social Security numbers had been uploaded to inBloom, Louisiana officials said last year that they would remove all student data from the database. Subsequently, the school board of the Jeffco district, in Jefferson County, Colo., voted to end its relationship with inBloom.

This month, after New York state legislators passed legislation prohibiting the state department of education from giving student information to data aggregators like inBloom, education officials also reversed their plans to use the service.

Education advocate Leonie Haimson,was a fierce critic of the InBloom service and issued the following statement…

Today’s announcement that inBloom is closing its doors will hopefully make government officials, corporations and foundations more aware that parental concerns cannot be ignored, and that they must stop foisting their “solutions” on our schools and classrooms with no attention given to the legitimate concerns of parents and their right to protect their children from harm.

Yet the statement issued by inBloom’s CEO reeks of arrogance and condescension, and makes it clear that those in charge still have not learned any lessons from this debacle. The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”, but inBloom‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved.

Contrary to the claims of Iwan Streichenberger and others, InBloom was not designed to protect student privacy but the opposite: to facilitate the sharing of children’s personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors, with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent, and this is something that parents will not stand for. In New York, the last state to pull out of inBloom and the only one in which legislation was needed to do so, parents were joined by superintendents and teachers in pointing out that the risks to children’s privacy and safety far outweighed any educational benefits.

At the same time, we realize that the fight for student privacy is just beginning. There are more and more data-mining vendors who, with the help of government officials, foundations, and think-tanks, are eager to make money off of student information in the name of “big data” and “personalized” learning, and in the process see parents, if they recognize our existence at all, as ignorant obstacles to their Orwellian plans. This is despite the fact that the educational value of putting kids on computers and subjecting them to canned software programs is not supported by evidence, and is yet another way in which children’s education is being mechanized, depersonalized, and outsourced to corporate hands.

As a consequence to inBloom’s overreach, parents throughout the country have also become painfully aware of the way in which the federal government has actively encouraged data-sharing and data-mining of personal student information by eviscerating FERPA. We will continue to work with parents and advocates to see that the federal government returns to its original role as protecting student privacy, and recognizing the parental right to notification and consent, rather than furthering the ability of for-profit vendors and other third parties to commercialize this data without regard to its potential harm.

Who could have possibly though this was a good idea?????

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