Posts Tagged ‘InBloom’

inBloom closes down

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Flower - no PetalsAfter months of parent pushback on the threat to student data privacy, a campaign spearheaded by PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson of NYC’s Class Size Matters, inBloom today announced that they are closing their offices. We congratulate Leonie and all of the parents, teachers, students and others around the country who stood up and spoke out against the potential commercialization of our children’s school information.

Here’s Leonie’s 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.

Testimony on data privacy to Illinois Senate Education Committee

Monday, March 24th, 2014

PURE, MTAS, and PAA strongly believe that parents must have control over any use of their children’s school data outside of the school building and the district.

PURE and other parent groups are very concerned that the federal education department under Arne Duncan has made changes in federal FERPA laws that have opened the door to potentially massive sharing of student data without parental knowledge or consent. In late 2013, we became aware of a proposal in Illinois to share student data with the inBloom company and possibly other third parties in connection with the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE). PURE and More Than a Score joined with the ACLU of Illinois, Parents 4 Teachers, Raise Your Hand Illinois, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the CReATE organization of university researchers, and the national group EPIC, to educate parents and others about this move, and to share our concerns with Chicago Public Schools and school board officials. I’m happy to report that CPS subsequently decided not to share student data with inBloom.

While we are pleased that District 299 has chosen to opt out of the inBloom program, we are concerned that there are still districts in our state that may soon begin to transmit confidential student information to the state database, data that may be shared with third party for-profit companies without parental notification or consent. In fact, few parents have any idea that this is about to happen, and soon. When PURE and MTAS first began to talk about this issue, it was clear that many state officials, school board members, and the media, among others, were only hearing about it from us here in Chicago and Illinois, and from Parents Across America and a handful of other groups nationally.

That is why we are so grateful to Senator William Delgado, sponsor of SB3092, and chief co-sponsors Senator Don Harmon and Senator Chapin Rose, for bringing forward this important bill. It is especially important considering what little information has been communicated to parents about the plans Illinois has for sharing their children's school information.

PURE supports SB3092 because, while state and local agencies claim that any data sharing will comply with applicable state and federal privacy laws, with FERPA recently weakened to omit parental oversight parents are not reassured. FERPA allows districts to decide what data is shared and with whom it will be shared.

PURE supports SB3092 because, while we are further told that “industry best practices” will be in place to ensure that the data is protected, none of this provides adequate assurance to parents who know that, despite the sincerest of efforts, data breaches will happen that may dramatically impact children’s futures.

PURE also supports SB3092 because the issue of student data privacy is deeply connected to the growing misuse and overuse of standardized testing, which I will just touch on here briefly.

You may have heard about a recent dust-up in Chicago when some parents opted their children out of the state test. Parents are sick of the way testing has taken over schooling. Opting their children out of one test was a reflection of that frustration. People may disagree with these parents about the value of giving dozens of standardized tests every year to children as young as 4 or 5. But the fact that the district met this opposition with harassment and disinformation, and even pulled children out of class later to interrogate them (their words) about opting out, shows a level of focus on testing that is only going to get worse. In fact, implementation of the Common Core state standards and the associated tests is about to usher in a feeding frenzy in the “education marketplace.” And student data will become one of the main currencies in that marketplace.

I will conclude by quoting Todd Farley, a recent guest essayist on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog:

(T)he United States seems to be heading towards taking the decisions about American education out of the hands of American educators and instead placing that sacred trust in the welcoming arms of an industry run entirely without oversight and populated completely with for-profit companies chasing billions of dollars in business. When next some standardized test scores are found to be incorrect or fraudulent (because they will), or some standardized testing company commits or tries to cover up another egregious error (because they will), perhaps then we can admit large-scale assessment isn’t the panacea it’s often been touted to be. Perhaps then we can concede that an educational philosophy based on a system of national standardized tests isn’t any Brave New World of American education; it’s just a bad idea that even the Chinese are already turning away from as being too inefficient and antiquated.

SB3092 will provide a good start for refocusing education on learning and not testing.

PSAT for 2-25-14 (1): Support HB 4558 to protect student data privacy

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

psat_logoFile an electronic witness slip in favor of an Illinois House bill to strengthen parent control over student data.

Over the past few months, PURE and others have raised red flags about proposals to share Illinois students’ data with for-profit companies like inBloom. Just days after November’s More Than a Score forum on student data privacy, CPS announced it would not share data with inBloom. The state board has clarified that its own data warehouse, ISLE, is not connected with inBloom and that districts can decide individually whether they want to purchase services from inBloom.

This may be the end of inBloom in Illinois — for now. But we know that the will of education marketeers to capture and profit from student data remains strong. InBloom can simply change its name — as it has before — and try again under another guise.

That’s why it is still important for parents to have the ultimate control over their children’s private school information. That right was undermined the Duncan Ed department made to the federal student privacy act, called FERPA. Those changes took away parental rights to decide how student data would be shared with third parties.

Now Illinois State Representative Scott Drury, a Democrat from north suburban Highwood, has introduced HB 4558, a bill that would require parental consent before student data could be shared with third parties in Illinois.

The bill is called for a hearing before the House education committee tomorrow. You can submit an electronic witness slip in support of the bill.

Other bills listed on for this hearing that deserve your support are HB 3754, HB 4237, and HB 4767.

Here’s more on those bills from Illinois Jobs with Justice:

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia has introduced three crucial bills.  The first two would restore local control over charter decisions, and the third would assure that all public schools be fully-staffed with certified teachers. Please ask your State Senator and State Representative to sponsor these bills.

HB 3754.  This bill would eliminate the Illinois State Charter Commission, which was created to overtuen decisions of local elected schools that have rejected applications of charter schools.  The Commission was put together to under the heavy influence of wealthy hedge fund managers and their front groups: Stand for Chilren and Advance Illinois.    Click    to read the bill.   The companion bill in the Senate is SB 2627.
HB 4237 would allow districts to hold a referendum if the charter commission overturned the decision of a local school board.  Click  to read the bill.
HB 4767,  would require all schools to hire only state certified teachers, and would require uncertified teachers to become certified  by September of 2016.  Currently, up to 25% of teachers in charter schools are uncertified and are paid less than their counterparts in neighborhood public schools.  Many of these teachers are given a 6-week course through Teach for America.  This  leaves them woefully unprepared for the challenges of the classroom.  The practice results in high turnover among those teachers, and a lower quality educational experience for the student. Click    to read the bill.
Please call or email your  Illinois State Representative  and tell him or her to sign on as sponsors of HB 3754,  HB 3754, and HB 4767. Ask your State Senator to sign onto SB 2627.  Click on this link to find out who represents you and  get his or her contact information.

inBloom bombs out in Chicago

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Flower - Fallen PetalsCPS made it official yesterday – they will not participate in inBloom.

Their announcement came at the end of a week of action by PURE and More Than a Score challenging this private company’s threat to Chicago students’ privacy. We had meetings with the Sun-Times and Tribune editorial boards, held a forum with special guest speaker Leonie Haimson from New York City, and testified at the Illinois State Board of Education meeting. A couple of weeks earlier, Cassie Cresswell and I met with Chicago Board vice-president Jesse Ruiz and key staff to share our concerns about potential problems with the inBloom program.

Good decision by CPS.

But there is much more to be concerned about. There are 34 other districts in Illinois where the inBloom threat still looms.

And, as MTAS member Chris Ball has pointed out, on p. 41 of the CPS student code of conduct, CPS assumes the right to share student data without parent notification or consent with “school officials” which “can include contractors, consultants, volunteers or other parties under the Board’s direct control with whom the Board has agreed to outsource certain institutional services or functions, and who have a legitimate educational interest in the specific education records disclosed. The Board’s agreement with these contractors, consultants, volunteers or other parties will specifically outline the legitimate educational interest and which educational records are disclosed.”

So, CPS can call pretty much anyone it wants a “school official.”

We are also aware that there are “rogue” contractors coming into individual schools with free broadband and tablets through which they are likely also accessing student data without parental knowledge. These programs need to be regulated. Parents should ask questions about these programs and find out what is happening to the information that students enter into outside databases. They should have the right to opt their children out.

LSCs have the authority and should consider approving policies barring or restricting any programs that collect student data without parental permission.

PSAT for 11-12-13: Dump Vallas, rescue TIF ordinance, plan for Neighborhood Fair and inBloom forum

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

psat_logoSo much activism this week.

Here’s a petition to sign opposing Pat Quinn’s pick of Paul Vallas as his running mate.

Here’s the link to tell your alderpeople to release the TIF ordinance from the Rules committee.

And, for your schedules, make sure you have these important events on your calendar:

  • Chicago Neighborhood Schools Fair, this Saturday, Nov. 16 from 11 am to 3 pm at Clemente High School. Come say hi – I will be at a table for PURE, More Than a Score and Parents Across America
  • Beware of inBloom forum with Leonie Haimson, Thursday Nov. 21 at 7 pm at Fosco Park, 13th and Racine in Chicago



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

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

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.

Threats to student privacy unite parent and advocacy groups

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Press release

October 10, 2013

for immediate release

Contact: Julie Woestehoff, More Than a Score and PURE – 773-715-3989

Threats to student privacy unite parent and advocacy groups

New statewide coalition calls on state board and Chicago schools for more information on inBloom program

Chicago, IL: A new coalition of local and national parent and advocacy organizations today raised questions about how private student information is protected by school districts, after new revelations concerning a database vendor moving into Illinois. The groups sent letters to Illinois State Schools Superintendent Christopher Koch and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett expressing serious concerns about plans for CPS to join a state database of private student information as soon as January 2014.

The program in question, the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE), may collect up to 400 “data points” about each student, information that may potentially be shared with for-profit companies. The state school board already has contracted with inBloom to facilitate ISLE across Illinois.

InBloom refuses to guarantee the security of this data, said Julie Woestehoff, of Parents United for Responsible Education. “Once that information is uploaded electronically, no one can be sure where it will end up, whether it is with colleges, potential employers, or other entities critical to students’ futures.”

In the letters made public today (attached), the groups expressed 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. The groups are also concerned 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.

This concern is heightened by the accusations of wiretapping and phone hacking against Rupert Murdoch; Wireless Generation, which designed the operating system for inBloom, is a subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corp.

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.

"The sharing of massive amounts of data between school districts and private companies poses a serious threat to students' privacy," said, Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "Rather than rush into any agreement, we would urge school officials to engage a public discussion that includes parents, students and advocates concerned with student privacy."

Opposition to similar data sharing programs run by inBloom has been growing across the U.S. According to the New York Times (10/6/13), “Parents in Louisiana raised a ruckus after discovering that their children’s Social Security numbers had been uploaded to inBloom. In April, Louisiana officials said they would remove all student data from the database. Of the nine states that originally signed up this year to participate, just three — Colorado, New York and Illinois — are actively pursuing the service.”

"Parents trust schools to safeguard their children's confidential and sensitive data,” said Josh Golin, Associate Director of the Boston, MA-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Education officials should actively be seeking ways to protect students' personally identifiable information in today's digital age rather than helping for-profit companies leverage student data for profit."

The groups sending today’s letters include More Than a Score, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), the Chicago Teachers’ Union, Raise Your Hand Illinois, Parents 4 Teachers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education, Parents Across America, and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The groups will consider next steps based on the responses they receive from ISBE and CPS. They will sponsor a public forum on the topic on November 21, 2013, with guest speaker Leonie Haimson, a parent leader from New York City who has been leading parent opposition to New York state’s participation in data sharing with inBloom.


Letter to Illinois Schools Superintendent Koch

Letter to Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett

MTAS Fact Sheet: Parents, Beware of inBloom.

MTAS background piece on inBloom in Illinois: More Testing, Less Privacy??

More information can be found at

Support PURE!
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.