Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00
In the wake of inBloom closing up shop, security issues and redundancy are what local parents, school administrators and elected officials are pointing to concerning the company’s downfall. Parents were up in arms of the development during past town hall forums in Mineola.
The company served as a nonprofit organization that planned to mine student testing data and personal information. The thought of a national database chronicling student addresses, birthplaces, economic status, race, ethnicity and disabilities frightened Mineola parent Mary Goodfellow.
“The inBloom sharing was so intrusive,” she said. “Getting involved with our politics. How much money we earn? There’s more than 500 data points, which is insane. I just hope the replacement [of inBloom] won’t be anything worse.”
The move towards inBloom by the New York State Education Department was part of its push for Race To the Top money, a pool of federal funds available to states that champions education reform. inBloom suggested it would streamline how school districts access student records.
“I always thought it was ill-conceived, especially when we have BOCES at our disposal,” Mineola School Superintendent Michael Nagler said. “We have a data warehouse at BOCES that we already use. Of course, all BOCES sites report the data to the state so I didn’t
understand why we needed a third-party to come in and do what we were already doing.”
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.
“There were no guarantees on how they were going to use the information,” said Nagler. “Parents are more trusting of schools. They understand we cannot operate without student information and when we’re controlling that, it puts them more at ease rather than a private company.”
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.