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N.Y. State Preps InBloom Student Data Dashboards

Education officials persist with plans for an education portal despite public and political objections to InBloom's cloud-based data warehouse. But will it work?

Formerly known as the Shared Learning Collaborative, InBloom is a non-profit organization originally created to address a set of common education data analysis and integration challenges defined by the Council of State School Officers. Despite its potential benefits, the project has touched off a substantial backlash from parents and privacy advocates, leading several states and districts to back out of the program. Critics are suspicious of how much data the service would collect, how it would be protected, and how it would be shared.

NYSED remains determined to move forward, and its plans would make it the first InBloom user to go into production. But New York is also a hotbed of opposition and political battles over the program. In the New York City mayoral race, Democrat Bill de Blasio recently pledged that if elected, he will "protect students' privacy and stop this needless invasion of privacy" by denying InBloom access to data from city schools.

The Jefferson County, Colo., school district is also moving forward and seems to have had more success than most at securing support from parent and teacher organizations -- Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association gave a ringing endorsement in an opinion piece for the Denver Post -- although there's still disagreement in the union ranks and on the school board.

InBloom officials and board members say much of the criticism of the service is based on fundamental misunderstandings. For example, critics often describe the service as if it were amassing one giant repository of data from all participating school districts and making it available to any tech vendor or marketing firm. In fact, InBloom promises to give each district control over what data to collect and which users or applications get access to it. Instead of one massive index, like Google search, think, which provides accounts to many enterprise customers but keeps each customer's data separate and allows each to make separate judgments about what apps to enable for their accounts. However, because InBloom provides a back-end service rather than complete applications, the value it promises is more abstract.

As InBloom's Bates said, "The customer is deciding what data to store and how the data should be used and presented -- to which users and to which applications -- but that does mean it's hard for us to hold up a bundle of stuff and say, 'Here's InBloom.'" One thing that educators tend to find compelling, she added, is the promise of one unified service they will be able to log into for a complete picture of how their students are doing, rather than having to log into multiple applications.

The dashboards NYSED is preparing to launch will not prove that InBloom can deliver on that promise. It's just a first step, with the broader integration application possibilities to follow later -- if the project can stay alive long enough to prove it.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr or Google+. His book Social Collaboration For Dummies is scheduled for release in October 2013.

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User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 4:47:13 PM
re: N.Y. State Preps InBloom Student Data Dashboards
When I read that the dashboards are part of a portal New York state is creating "partly to secure a $700 million federal grant under the Obama administration's Race To The Top program," I worry about the "business" case for these digital tools. Will they provide significant help to students, parents and educators, or are they being implemented to get access to a huge grant?
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 11:33:17 PM
re: N.Y. State Preps InBloom Student Data Dashboards
News update, pointed out by a parent activist: Jefferson County Schools Superintendent now says parents will be able to opt out of having their children's data included in the InBloom repository. One problem, if a significant # of parents opt out, the educational data warehouse might not be worth much for analytics.

This is according to the local press:
Jeffco to allow dashboard opt out - Our Colorado News: Arvada News

Also mentioned in Politico's weekly roundup of education news
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 11:48:53 PM
re: N.Y. State Preps InBloom Student Data Dashboards
The funding is supposed to encourage positive uses of technology in education, but it's still up to state and local officials to spend it wisely. The idea behind InBloom was for states and school districts to pool resources and create a better data system than they could on their own. But in addition to all the political privacy landmines, this is a technically ambitious project, and first of all it has to work.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/25/2013 | 7:32:52 AM
re: N.Y. State Preps InBloom Student Data Dashboards
As a parent, I am outraged that parents were left out of the discussion regarding our children;s privacy! Who do you think you are! Prostitute your own children for profit and leave mine alone!
User Rank: Apprentice
9/25/2013 | 8:29:02 PM
re: N.Y. State Preps InBloom Student Data Dashboards
Yeah...that's kind of a major update. There's only one state standing, NY. Hmmm, wonder why that is? Maybe because, as stated clearly on the inBloom TOS, their company can't guarantee the security of the data being stored there. Opps. Someone got hold of it. Don't hold us libel. This is a rushed pending disaster. NY should be opting out completely until that is resolved.

It is not even a year into this begin first announced (it was first launched at SxSW last February) and there is a reason NY is trying to rush it and begin data collection: they don't want parents to find out about it. 99.5% of parents in my large, local, Long Island district have no clue about this. I'm watching the tweets currently flying through my timeline about social security numbers being stolen, health care data being illegally sold and hacked into, college data breaches. None of those are potentially as bad as this. The data of minors being compromised.
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