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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

inBloom: corporatizing America's schools

The dichotomy between inBloom’s website, featuring photos of smiling elementary-age children seated beside young teachers, tablets in hand, and its seven-page Privacy and Security Policy, full of legalese, could not be more stark.

Public relations executives seeking to paint a picture of educational nirvana clearly crafted the website, while corporate attorneys looking to avoid lawsuits wrote the verbose, mind-numbingly dry privacy policy.

Haven’t heard of inBloom? Neither had I until I covered the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education meeting on May 8, and North Merrick parent Lisa Katz raised concerns about it. She’s right to worry, I learned through Internet research.

inBloom is a nonprofit “technology-services provider” that, according to the hype, will allow teachers to seamlessly integrate the multiple applications that educational software companies are writing for classroom use. And inBloom wants to personalize education by matching applications to specific students to meet their individual learning needs.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York are backing the $100 million effort. Nine states –– representing 11 million students –– are taking part in a pilot program to develop inBloom, including New York, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

Five states have selected school systems to take part in the program. The New York City Department of Education will represent New York.

“inBloom lets us compile and access assessment data from more than a dozen different systems,” said Tom Stella, an assistant school superintendent in Everett, Mass., in a Feb. 5 inBloom press release. “This information, paired with relevant content that maps to students’ individual needs, helps maximize a teacher’s time and a student’s learning potential by letting them focus on in-class teaching and learning.”

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