NEW YORK (AP) — After months of debate about the risks of storing student data in the cloud, New York is pressing ahead with a plan to create a statewide database for every public school student's grades, tests scores and attendance records — a tech startup proposal that drew interest from several other states that have now reconsidered.
Concerns from parents about who will have access to the information, how long it will be held and whether it will be used for marketing purposes have stalled the momentum of a startup that promised to bring efficiency and cost savings to record-keeping that is still largely handled district by district across the country.
Founded in February with $100 million in grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp., Atlanta-based data-storage company inBloom drew early interest from several states.
But within months, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia and Delaware pulled back. Massachusetts is using inBloom services in one pilot district but has made no commitment to further involvement. The school board in the Jefferson County, Colo., district in suburban Denver canceled inBloom this month amid parent opposition.
Illinois is participating, but that state's Board of Education said individual districts don't have to send their data if they don't want to.
The New York State Education Department, however, is going forward with plans requiring districts to send student information with names to inBloom sometime after Jan. 1.
The data will be accessible by educators and parents through a portal. For New York students, the data will include grades, standardized test scores and any medical diagnosis that requires special-education services. Suspensions will be logged as part of a student's attendance record, but the reason for a suspension won't be.
A group of New York City parents sued this month to block the release of student information to inBloom, and critics still hope to persuade state officials to step back from the data plan.
Lawmakers attending a hearing in Albany this past week demanded to know why New York was the only state that's still all-in with inBloom, with no "opt-out" provision for families or for districts.
State Education Commissioner John King said that he shared their concerns about security but that collecting student data "is necessary for the good functioning of districts, schools and states."
In addition to security concerns, debate has focused on fears that companies will use the data to sell educational products.
"It's not an educational plan. It's a marketing plan," said Lisa Rudley, a mother of three from Ossining, N.Y., who testified at the assembly hearing.
Any legislator who supports shoving this plan down the throats of NY school parents without allowing for an opt-out option MUST be made to pay the political price at the ballot box.
The same goes for any governor.
NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch are not going to cave on this data collection, just as they are not going to cave on the Common Core implementation, the Endless Testing program linked to it, or the teacher evaluation system that forces teachers to teach the SED "suggested" curricula modules or risk "ineffective" ratings if students do not score well on the state tests.
But the politicians who put these functionaries in place can be made to FEAR the power of students, parents, teachers and administrators.
One of the most used tools in the education reformer tool box is FEAR - they bludgeon districts, schools, teachers, parents and students with the fear of lost money, the fear of lost autonomy, the fear of low test scores, the fear of being held back, the fear of being fired over an "ineffective" rating.
It is time to turn that FEAR tool back onto them and use it to force them to acquiesce to the will of the people.
We still live in a nominal "democracy" (though it's more and more a "fake" democracy and real plutocracy.)
These politicians - from Assembly Speaker to Silver to State Senate Education Chairman Flanagan to Governor Cuomo and the rest of the political contingent in Albany - still have to stand for re-election.
2014 is the time for an accountability moment for these politicians.
If they pay lip service to public concerns over the state's reform agenda but continue to take actions that impose that very agenda on the state, then they MUST be made to pay the political price for that betrayal of the public trust.
NY should not be the only state STILL in this inBloom data handover to Rupert Murdoch.
NY should not be the only state going "full speed ahead" with the Common Core reforms even as the public turns against them.