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Queens Chronicle

Parents express inBloom concerns

Chancellor Walcott responds to student data ‘cloud’ criticism

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Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:36 am, Thu Jun 6, 2013.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is standing by the state’s decision —blasted by many Queens parents— to hire inBloom Inc. a nonprofit group that will provide the technology to store student data in a central Education Data Portal.

“InBloom is not anything new,” Walcott said at a town hall Community Education Council 24 meeting on Tuesday. “In the past, information has always been shared with the state, it’s just that this particular company that will hold the data is new.”

Walcott emphasized that the state maintains a strict confidentiality protocol and that information would only be shared with the necessary parties.

InBloom, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, describes itself as a “provider of technology services that allow states and public school districts to better integrate student data and third-party applications to support sustainable, cost-effective personalized learning.”

The state Department of Education has said inBloom offers a more efficient way of storing and utilizing student information as teachers and school administrators may have to go into several databases to get student names, addresses and test scores.

The activist group Class Size Matters, which has openly opposed the state’s use of inBloom, gave a presentation at the last CEC 24 meeting which resulted in board members drafting a resolution designed to protect student privacy.

“Be it also resolved: That we urge our state and local elected representatives to support, co-sponsor and endorse A6059 [a student privacy bill], so that our children’s privacy is protected and parents are provided with full notification and the right to consent before any disclosures occur,” the document read.

A major concern was that private student information would be leaked to companies or even hacked.

“I have two points to make on that,” Walcott said at the meeting, held at PS/IS 113 in Glendale. “One: We have never had a leak of any information that has been shared; two, if someone did leak something then that person would be federally prosecuted.”

But parents weren’t convinced.

“I happen to know that some states have pulled out of the deal because of the reaction it got from parents,” one man said. “So really, what I want to know is at what point will you take our side on this?”

“I have not been convinced to take your specific side on this issue,” Walcott responded.

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