Posts Tagged ‘student privacy’

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 www.morethanascorechicago.org.

Illinois still in student data mining program

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

spybloomYesterday the Tribune printed a Reuters story about the InBloom  (formerly Wireless Generation) program funded by Bill Gates that is currently collecting student confidential records it plans to share with private software companies. InBloom says it cannot guarantee the safety of this data.

The story reported that several states or districts which InBloom claimed were part of “Phase 1” of their project have either disavowed any involvement or pulled out.

The only remaining inBloom clients at this point are Illinois, Colorado and New York. Currently only Bloomington and Normal school districts are involved in our state, but Illinois plans to add Chicago and 34 other districts in 2014.

I’ve written about this before, and tip my hat to the tireless work of my PAA colleague Leonie Haimson to expose this enormous threat to family privacy. I’ll share more on this tomorrow for Public Schools Action Tuesday, but meanwhile, here’s the letter I just sent to the Tribune:


Thank you for publishing the excellent Stephanie Simon piece about states choosing not to share confidential student and teacher data with the Gates-funded corporation called inBloom Inc. Most parents are unaware of this threatened encroachment on family privacy which is already underway in the Bloomington and Normal school district and is slated to start in the Chicago Public Schools and 34 other districts in January 2014.

The confidential data being collected by InBloom includes children’s personally identifiable information such as name, address, grades, test scores, detailed disciplinary and health records, race, ethnicity, economic status, disabilities and other highly sensitive information. It is being collected into an electronic “data store” with an operating system built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corporation, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch which has been found to have illegally violated privacy in Great Britain and in the US. The “data store” will be placed on a vulnerable data cloud managed by Amazon.com. InBloom Inc. has already stated that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored…or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.” InBloom Inc. intends to make all this highly confidential data available to commercial vendors to help them develop and market their “learning products.”

All of this is happening without parental knowledge or consent, and is encouraged by federal privacy rule changes made last year by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. As Simon's report points out, several states have reconsidered their earlier agreements to join this questionable program.

Illinois should do the same.

Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director

Parents United for Responsible Education

Chicago, IL

 

CPS set to sign away student privacy

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

At their meeting tomorrow, the Chicago Board of Education is set to sign a new contract with Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation to collect and store student mathematics assessment information with the provision that our children’s personal information will be shared with test publishers and other corporations that make money off of our students.

Thought there were privacy laws and parental rights?

Think again.

Parents Across America co-founder Leonie Haimson explain the national story this way:

The Gates Foundation, in association with Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, recently formed a private LLC called the Shared Learning Collaborative. This LLC will collect confidential student and teacher data provided to them by states throughout the country, and in some form, share it with vendors and other commercial enterprises. The purpose of this project is at least in part to help vendors develop and market their educational products. NYS and NYC, along with school districts in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, have agreed to participate in Phase one of this project, starting in late 2012, with Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana participating in Phase II soon after.

This project provokes serious privacy concerns as to the security of this confidential information, and the lack of any parental consent in the decision to share it with the LLC. The concerns are intensified by the fact that News Corp has been charged with serious privacy violations, including phone and computer hacking and bribing of public officials in the UK. The NY Post, another subsidiary of News Corp, recently provoked controversy by publishing teacher data reports based on student test scores in its paper, and running inflammatory articles about teachers who received low scores.

There are also serious questions about the legality of this project. The US Dept. of Education has recently rewritten the regulations for FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, to allow more liberal sharing of student data, especially for research purposes. The new regulations went into effect in January of 2012.

The Chicago contract seems to reflect this program, although it is not a participant in the SLC. The contract proposal (which begins on page 70 of the Board agenda) says:

Vendor will house all associated data and reporting systems. Data reports housed by vendor will be accessible to the Board … Vendor will work with Board and its partners (potentially including curriculum publishers) to identify and develop intervention strategies using supported instructional materials.

This is just the beginning, folks. Read more on Leonie’s blog about how this is playing out in NY.

 

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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.