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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?

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Despite controversy and politics, education data dashboards based on the InBloom cloud data warehousing service will be available to New York educators this fall, according to the New York State Department of Education (NYSED).

If the system works in production, the big question is whether it will impress anyone as having been worth all the fuss. The dashboards are part of the EngageNY portal the state is creating partly to secure a $700 million federal grant under the Obama administration's Race To The Top program, which encourages the adoption of digital tools to improve education.

One of the payoffs is supposed to be to create competition between the developers of the data dashboards to do the best job of delivering useful data analytics. InBloom's role is to provide a cloud service with application programming interfaces that each of the dashboards -- and many other applications -- will be able to tap into, eliminating the need for a lot of custom application integration.

NYSED is offering three dashboard choices to school districts, charter schools and resource pooling associations known as Boards of Cooperative Educational Services: DataCation from ConnectEDU, myTrack from eScholar, and Schoolnet from Pearson. All three participated in a demonstration roadshow in August, and districts are making their choices now. The dashboard service was supposed to be ready to go live in October, and NYSED says it will go live this fall.

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"That's absolutely our intent, and we believe we're on track for doing so," said Amrit Singh, the EngageNY portal project manager, in an interview earlier this month. The plan is to do a staged rollout, he explained, beginning with a dashboard to allow educators and administrators insight into student performance and a version for parents and students to come by next summer, subject to quality assurance checks at each stage. The portal also includes a series of educational content management services that are independent of InBloom.

"The project is going well -- it's in the green," said Sharren Bates, chief product officer for InBloom. "You will see production dashboards in the fall."

However, eScholar CEO Shawn Bay said he is still waiting for a chance to test his product against a complete production instance of the cloud service. "What I could say on the record is it's not in production today," he said in an interview in late August. Since then, he and other vendors have been directed by NYSED not to talk to the press about the progress of the education data portal project. However, Bay confirmed Monday that he still has no access to a full-featured production version of the back-end service to test against his dashboard front-end. That makes him nervous about delivering results on schedule.

Singh said the roadshow demos were run against a live version of the InBloom service, but with data stripped of identifying information for demonstration purposes. He is confident InBloom is ready to deliver a production service -- although he conceded that the version of the dashboards that goes live initially may not dazzle the first users who access it.

"The tools in some ways are only as good as the data that's supplied to power them," Singh said. To get good operational analytics back, districts will need to get into the routine of providing updates to the repository on an ongoing basis rather than only periodically. The data will also become more interesting when other applications used by the districts begin to both feed the repository and take advantage of the data it has collected.

The true value of the service will become apparent only when teachers or parents can log into a new educational application that wasn't possible before, according to NYSED's Ken Wagner, who oversees the program as associate commissioner for curriculum, assessment and educational technology. That's not going to happen instantly, he admitted, but he remains convinced that service providers, tools and standards are converging in "a magic mix that hasn't come together before."

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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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