Controversial education tech company InBloom has shut down over student data privacy concerns. Backed with $100 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, InBloom quickly announced nine states (CO, DE, GA, IL, KY, LA, MA, NC, NY) as partners, with more than 2.7 million students enrolled, with the goal of using big data to direct education emphasis and other decisions. With a recent decision by New York state to halt participation in any project involving storing student data in the way InBloom had planned (and the deletion of any such data already stored), all nine states had either put data sharing plans with InBloom on hold, made them voluntary, or pulled out completely.
InBloom, a nonprofit corporation based in Atlanta, seemed to offer a solution: it could collect information from the district’s many databases and store it in the cloud, making access easier, and protect it with high-level encryption.
The company has name-brand backing: $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationalong with the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Beyond storing data, it promised to help personalize learning — by funneling student data to software dashboards where teachers could track individual students and, with the right software, customize lessons in real time. Also, districts could effortlessly share student records with developers seeking to create educational tools for schools. In other words, for Dr. Stevenson, it represented not just a fix to a narrow technical problem, but also a potentially revolutionary way to help educate students.
“We are joining the new generation of data management,” Dr. Stevenson said enthusiastically in the March issue of “Chalk Talk,” the school district’s newsletter for parents.
Moms and dads from across the political spectrum have mobilized into an unexpected political force in recent months to fight the data mining of their children. In a frenzy of activity, they’ve catapulted student privacy — an issue that was barely on anyone’s radar last spring — to prominence in statehouses from New York to Florida to Wyoming.
A months-long review by POLITICO of student privacy issues, including dozens of interviews, found the parent privacy lobby gaining momentum — and catching big-data advocates off guard. Initially dismissed as a fringe campaign, the privacy movement has attracted powerful allies on both the left and right. The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for more student privacy protection. So is the American Legislative Exchange Council, the organization of conservative legislators.