Deciding Who Sees Students’ Data
Career College Central summary:
When Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, Colo., public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible.
InBloom, a nonprofit corporation based in Atlanta, seemed to offer a solution: it could collect information from the district’s many databases and store it in the cloud, making access easier, and protect it with high-level encryption.
The company has name-brand backing: $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Beyond storing data, it promised to help personalize learning — by funneling student data to software dashboards where teachers could track individual students and, with the right software, customize lessons in real time. Also, districts could effortlessly share student records with developers seeking to create educational tools for schools. In other words, for Dr. Stevenson, it represented not just a fix to a narrow technical problem, but also a potentially revolutionary way to help educate students.
She did not imagine that five months later, she would be sitting in a special school board meeting in the district’s headquarters, listening as a series of parents, school board members and privacy lawyers assailed the plan to outsource student data storage to inBloom. What troubled the naysayers at that August session was that the district seemed to be rushing to increase data-sharing before weighing the risks of granting companies access to intimate details about children. They noted that administrators had no policies in place to govern who could see the information, how long it would be kept or whether it would be shared with the colleges to which students applied.
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THE NEW YORK TIMES
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