PSAT for 10-29-13: Plan to attend 11/21 forum on student data privacy

inbloomflyerPURE, Parents Across America, More Than a Score, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, and other groups are co-sponsoring an important forum on the threat to student data privacy.

The free, public event will take place in Chicago on Thursday, November 21, 2013, from 7 to 8:30 pm at Fosco Park, which is conveniently located at 13th and Racine.

Childcare and Spanish translation will be provided.

The main speaker will be Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters in New York City. Leonie is the nation’s foremost parent expert on inBloom and the current threat to student data privacy.

You can find some excellent background information on the CSM website, and local highlights on the More Than a Score website.

Why is this forum so important right now?

Beginning in January 2014, the state of Illinois may begin collecting up to 400 “data points” about each CPS and Illinois student under a contract with inBloom. This information that may be shared with for-profit companies. The program, called the Illinois Shared Learning Environment, or ISLE, is already being piloted in Bloomington and Normal.

PURE, MTAS and other groups sent letters to state superintendent Christopher Koch and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett on October 10 expressing opposition to the overall concept of sharing confidential student and teacher information with third parties without permission of parents or teachers, especially for commercial purposes. To date, we have not received a response from either school official.

Our letters detailed our concerns about the possibility of data breaches and potential unintentional misuse or future inappropriate use of the extensive private information about children, families and school employees that will be gathered and stored. We know that InBloom refuses to guarantee the security of this data. We also know that Wireless Generation, which designed the operating system for inBloom, is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and that Murdoch has been accused in the UK and the US of wiretapping and phone hacking.

The information to be collected about individual students may include name, address, grades, test scores, detailed disciplinary and health records, race, ethnicity, economic status, disabilities & other highly sensitive personal and family details. In the past, students’ school records could not be shared outside of school agencies without parents’ permission, but the federal government recently rewrote the regulations protecting student privacy to allow student data to be shared with for-profit companies involved in “educational programing.” This can be any company CPS or the state board of education chooses.

For more on this serious threat to our children’s privacy, read the MTAS fact sheet and backgrounder, “More Testing, Less Privacy?”

And please plan to attend the important forum on November 21. You can download a flyer to share here.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.