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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Is student data still safe?
New agreement leaves educators, parents concerned over privacy

Parents and educators have scrutinized the Common Core Learning Standards and standardized testing system since its implementation last school year, with student privacy at the top of their concerns.

Non-profit technology service provider inBloom, based in Atlanta, is contracted through the state Education Department to compile assessment data, much like the state has done for years. In the past, students’ confidential information was solely under the purview of school districts and state education departments, rather than third-party corporations. In 2011, however, the federal Department of Education, under Secretary Arne Duncan, relaxed privacy statutes, granting access to outside parties such as inBloom.

But once collected, is the data safe?

“The parents as well as the teachers recognize that data can be a very valuable tool in analyzing student performance and prescribing what type of coursework and intervention services may be needed for that particular student,” District 24 Superintendent Dr. Edward Fale said. “But the use of data has to be secured in such a way that we know that it’s used for positive purposes.”

Fale and District 13 Superintendent Dr. Adrienne Robb-Fund each cited the recent data breach at Target, in which information from about 40 million credit and debit card accounts was stolen from late November through mid-December, as a cause for concern with data collection.

“What we’ve just witnessed, and what’s been reported throughout the media, rattles our confidence in secure technology a little bit,” Fale said.

“Given the events just recently with Target on data security and privacy,” Robb-Fund added, “we have to be sure that our student data is extremely secure. We’re talking about children.”

After a request made by the District 13 Board of Education, Florence Frazer, the district’s attorney, gave a report on inBloom during its November meeting outlining what the company can and cannot do with student data. InBloom cannot sell the data or use it for commercial purposes. It simply compiles the data into one integrated format to make it easier to assess for educators.

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