Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, April 21, 2014

Winning A Big Battle, Still Focused On The War

Great news that Gates Foundation-funded inBloom will shut down - here's the letter sent from the CEO:

Friends and colleagues:

 In 2011, an alliance of educators and state leaders, non-profit foundations, and instructional content and tool providers formed the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC). The vision of that group was simple: create a resource that allows teachers to get a more complete picture of student progress so they can individualize instruction while saving time, effort and precious resources.

I signed on to the project in November 2012 to lead inBloom, the non-profit corporation that is the SLC’s successor. I joined because I passionately believe that technology has the potential to dramatically improve education. My belief in that mission is as strong today as it ever was. Students, teachers and parents deserve the best tools and resources available, and we cannot afford to wait.

Over the last year, the incredibly talented team at inBloom has developed and launched a technical solution that addresses the complex challenges that teachers, educators and parents face when trying to best utilize the student data available to them. That solution can provide a high impact and cost-effective service to every school district across the country, enabling teachers to more easily tailor education to students' individual learning needs. It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole.

The use of technology to tailor instruction for individual students is still an emerging concept and inBloom provides a technical solution that has never been seen before. As a result, it has been the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism. In New York, these misunderstandings led to the recent passage of legislation severely restricting the education department from contracting with outside companies like inBloom for storing, organizing, or aggregating student data, even where those companies provide demonstrably more protection for privacy and security than the systems currently in use.

We stepped up to the occasion and supported our partners with passion, but 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. Therefore, in full alignment with the inBloom Board of Directors and funders, I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months. It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning. I want to thank you for your partnership in our endeavors and look forward to speaking with many of you in the coming months.

 Kind regards,
 Iwan Streichenberger
 Chief Executive Officer

As has been noted around the Internet today, this is a huge win for parent activism and grassroots protest.

For that alone, a big thank you to all the activists who fought against inBloom, educating the public about the privacy issues, fighting the politicians when they were so jejune about handing over sensitive student information and data to inBloom.

But of course as always happens in the battle against the corporatization of human life in America, inBloom will morph into something else (perhaps something else Gates Foundation-funded too) and that will bring more battles to be fought.

As Leonie Haimson noted at NYC Public School Parents blog:

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.

You know the plutocrats want every child tracked from birth to to college (death actually, but that's a post for another time), they want all that information available to be sold to whomever wants to buy it, and they don't care if parents in this state want nothing of this plan.

So a big battle won today, but the war against the commodification of children and education will go on.

Still, a day to savor a hard fought victory.


  1. Yep. Pretty sure Bill Gates will not just walk away from the $100 million that he invested in inBloom. I guess we'll just have to keep our eyes open then for his next data-mining scheme.

    1. As Leonie says, the fight goes on. But it's good to savor this victory too.

  2. This was a one-woman battle started by Leonie who managed to organize a nationwide reaction to inBloom. Yes they will morph but the more Leonie's we have the better chance we have to beat them. A major victory for activism.

    1. Leonie is incomparable - that's why the charter shills at Gotham Charter Schools attacked her a while back.

  3. Very informative and well written post! I prefer to read this kind of stuff.

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