Download and share our parent fact sheet: Parents, Beware of inBloom!
Read our detailed background piece on inBloom in the US, Illinois and Chicago.
Two trends make data privacy an important component of the fight against high-stakes standardized testing: 1) the digital collection and storage of ever more information about our children and 2) the push to save money by automating education and learning through the use of computer technology.
The US Department of Education’s Race To The Top program requires participating states to create statewide longitudinal databases to track student assessment and performance. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) passed in 1974 to restrict disclosure of student records. However, in recent years, lobbyists pushing for use of student records to provide data for educational software and other for-profit projects have significantly weakened FERPA regulations.
Starting in January 2014, the Chicago Public Schools will begin participating in the creation of an eventually state-wide longitudinal database, the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE), built by Amplify (formerly known as Wireless Generation), a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The non-profit corporation operating the database, InBloom, (formerly known as Shared Learning Collaborative) is funded primarily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The InBloom database will exist on the Amazon cloud. In Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Education is overseeing the creation of ISLE.
Originally, nine states were to be a part of InBloom, only three besides Illinois are still officially participating, New York, Colorado, and Massachusetts. Of those, Massachusetts is a participant in name only and has no plans to upload data even from its pilot school district. In Jefferson County, Colorado, the pilot district for Colorado, as of Sept. 17th, 2013, the Superintendent has confirmed that parents will be allowed to opt their children’s data out of being included in the InBloom system. In Illinois, Bloomington and Normal school districts are already participating and Bloomington’s District 87 has already shared data with InBloom, with 34 other districts to be on board over the next year.
More Than a Score’s concerns about InBloom are many:
1) Unlike in Colorado, in New York State, InBloom has refused to allow consent from parents before their children’s information is added to the InBloom database. Recently legislation has passed the NY State Assembly, but not their State Senate, to give parents the ability to opt their children out of InBloom. It is not clear what options parents will have to protect their children’s privacy in Illinois.
2) The data in InBloom’s possession will be shared with for-profit, third party vendors for the purpose of creating educational software or other products. InBloom and its supporters state repeatedly that its databases will conform to FERPA. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the changes in FERPA laws designed specifically to allow subcontractors and software companies access to data, has legalized 3rd-party access to sensitive data.
3) InBloom is structured to allow for the collection and sharing of more than 400 data points about each student, including some highly sensitive private information about health, disciplinary actions, family biographical information, out-of-school legal records, and of course, testing data—information like whether a student was ever pregnant, involved in a criminal case outside of school, had foster child status with the Department of Child and Family Services, etc.
4) InBloom has explicitly declared that it cannot guarantee the security and privacy of the data held in its databases and that it will not liable for breaches of security.
5) The fundamental purpose of InBloom is to reduce and replace the need for a human teacher in the public education system; ironically, in the $1 trillion education industry, this is referred to as “personalization”. Labor costs are the biggest portion of spending on educating our children. Replacing teachers with computers means less money spent on teachers and more money spent on software and hardware, as Bill Gates himself pointed out an educational software conference this past spring.
What You Can Do as a Chicago Public Schools’ parent:
Please write and call your local, state, and federal elected officials, including Governor Pat Quinn and State Superintendent Chris Koch, and express your concerns about InBloom.
Check this page again for more actions you can take as we continue to work on this issue. More Than a Score is planning a forum on InBloom and student data privacy this fall, an online petition, and a coordinated letter-writing/calling campaign to let our elected officials know that Illinois needs to end its participation in this dangerous experiment with our children’s most sensitive information.