PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. - Pleasantville Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter represented the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents at a hearing held by the New York State Assembly last week on the State Education Department's plans for an Internet student performance database managed by inBloom, a private vendor.
This project is one element of the federal Race to the Top program. Fox-Alter expressed her organization’s concerns that storing “hundreds of personally identifiable student elements…into a national data cloud” accessible to private and for profit organizations violates students’ privacy and could lead to profiling of students.
At least 28 Lower Hudson Valley school districts, including Pleasantville, have forfeited their Race to the Top (RTTT) grants to protect student privacy and “received very loud and strong public support for this action.” Fox-Alter noted that LHCOSS has heard from districts that cannot afford to opt out to protect student privacy; they have no choice but to comply with SED’s requirement to select a data dashboard that will interface with the student performance database.
Fox-Alter explained that school districts currently use an Intranet with SED, complete with firewalls, and each district directly controls its own data.
“Our concern over inBloom and its massive upload into a national Internet data cloud cannot be ‘pooh poohed’ away with comments such as ‘school districts already do this’ and ‘your data is safer there as it has super encryption.’ These comments are disrespectful and meant to be distractors away from the real issue, which is the use of our children’s data elements as profit centers for data mining vendors and corporations.”
Another concern she said, is that, while inBloom and other vendors will be allowed to analyze the grades 3-8 tests, SED says it is “too expensive” to allow students, teachers, or parents to see them. “Yet,” Fox-Alter noted, “it will have inBloom and others analyze the test results with other personal identifiable information and create personalized learning environments. The fact that SED’s model of data driven instruction lacks the MOST important data item – the tests themselves – is absolutely ludicrous.”
"Technology is not a panacea and, because of the critical thinking and analytical skills that are being lost, we need to be very explicit in our use of it," she said."No medium is good for everything. We need a balanced media diet and a review of the costs and benefits. Our children deserve nothing less.”
The complete document upon which Fox-Alter based her testimony is available on the Pleasantville School District’s website.