Jeffco Schools officials, who envision the dashboard as a tool to help teachers, stated that the district will not sell student information and that only academic data would be included.
“Jeffco will never sell data to anyone,” said Matt Cormier, Jeffco Schools executive director of Educational Research and Design.
His point was echoed later in the session by Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who said the district has never sold student data and never will.
Cormier also emphasized that Jeffco plans to only include academic data that the district already collects, such as TCAP and acuity test scores, in the database.
No new data will be included, and the district is still in the process of deciding specifically what will be included from the existing academic data, Cormier said.
District officials also stated that no discipline data would be included in the inBloom database. That was also stated in a letter sent to the parents of Jeffco Schools students this month.
Stevenson said the district also created a Data Management Advisory Council in response to the concerns and questions raised by parents and other community members.
The 14-member council of parents, educators, IT experts, IT security experts, and business community members is collecting information and has contracted for independent, third-party audit of inBloom security ,said council chairperson Marty Reames.
The committee will continue collecting information through September and begin drafting a report in October. They will make a final recommendation advising the district to “stop” or “go” in January 2014, Reames said.
Stevenson said that if Jeffco Schools goes ahead with the project, they would not look at a full implementation of the database until fall 2015, after running a pilot in fall 2014.
Kaliah Barnes, the administrative law counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Jeffco Schools that EPIC believes there are “too few safeguards” for the amount of student data processed today. EPIC recently challenged the federal government in court over the 2011 changes to the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Barnes recommended that Jeffco Schools write comprehensive agreements that specify privacy obligations, limit data collection and subsequent transfer to inBloom to only necessary information, and that Jeffco students and parents have access to all information in the inBloom database.
Barnes also said Jeffco should use an “opt-in” system to give the most privacy protection to parents and students. In such a system, parents would have to give permission before data was shared with inBloom. Others have asked Jeffco to include an opt-out option for students, which Barnes said EPIC would also support.
Alan Taggert, Jeffco Schools legal counsel, said the district is currently drafting polices regarding privacy and security for the inBloom project.
Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, joined Jeffco parent Rachael Stickland in voicing concerns about unauthorized access to the inBloom database. Stickland also questioned whether there was research to proven that technology enhances student learning.
Weber Elementary teacher David Millard said the inBloom database would save teachers time, allowing them to spend more time “making moments with kids and not at the keyboard.”
“Data is too far spread,” Millard said, explaining that Jeffco teachers have to log into a number of different systems to access student academic data. Millard told the school board that he currently organizes his data in color-coded spreadsheets.
The inBloom system would connect Jeffco’s existing databases and streamline teacher access to data and possibly even pedagogical techniques, Stevenson explained.
A teacher could log into the system near the end of a math unit and see which students were struggling, which were right on target, and which students had advanced beyond the unit and needed advanced work. The system would also allow teachers to access pedagogical strategies for struggling students and suggestions for students working above grade level, Stevenson said.
Streamlined access to data is something Jeffco teachers have been requesting for years, Cormier said.
Sharren Bates, the inBloom chief product officer, told board members that inBloom only does “data transportation.” The nonprofit organization does not dictate content and is not a testing component, she said.
They merely connect digital systems so they can all be accessed in one place, like a car dashboard, Bates said.
Bates said inBloom employees will not be able to access student data unless there is a specific request for technical support.
Tony Dyl, Colorado Assistant Attorney General, explained that under current FERPA laws, contractors like inBloom are prohibited from disclosing data to third parties without parental consent or district consent. In the case of district consent, FERPA requires that specific consent is needed from the district and that a FERPA-compliant agreement was in place between the district and third party.
In addition, Dyl said, student data must be destroyed after the student’s relationship with the district is terminated.
Questions from the audience were also collected during the study session. A few were addressed before the allotted time ran out, and board president Lesley Dahlkemper said district staff would use the contact information provided on the question sheets to respond to all those whose questions were not addressed during the study session.
Jeffco Schools will also host several Leading Innovation meetings to give parents and community members more information about the inBloom classroom dashboard. The meeting schedule is as follows:
Thursday, Aug. 29 – Chatfield High School
Monday, Sept. 9 – Evergreen High School
Monday, Sept. 16 – Arvada West High School
Wednesday, Sept. 25 – Wheat Ridge High School
Thursday, Sept. 26 – Columbine High School
Wednesday, Oct. 9 – Dakota Ridge High School
All Leading Innovation meetings begin at 5 pm.