NY Assembly Democrats Call for DOE to Suspend Plan for Student Data Sharing

Last week New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the New York Assembly Education Chair Catherine Nolan released a letter to New York State Education Commissioner John King that expresses concerns about the department’s plan to share student data with an outside vendor.  The letter was also signed by 50 Assembly Democrats and it requests that the State Education Department withhold sharing data with inBloom, the vendor that the New York Department of Education selected to collect information from children in New York.

“It is our job to protect New York’s children. In this case, that means protecting their personally identifiable information from falling into the wrong hands,” said Silver. “Until we are confident that this information can remain protected, the plan to share student data with InBloom must be put on hold.”

“After receiving moving and credible testimony at a recent hearing, the Assembly Majority has serious concerns about the potential flaws of the SED’s plan to share student data and their ability to protect student privacy. We feel compelled to question this plan and we strongly believe that student information should not be shared with InBloom at this time,” said Nolan.

You can read the letter below:

 

This letter comes after public hearing held in November on this issue.  as well as two important pieces of legislation passed by the Assembly earlier this year, A.7872-A  and A.6059-A to address ongoing concerns related to the distribution of personally identifiable student information.

New York school districts receiving Race to the Top funds are expected to participate in the EngageNY Portal, an informational instruction system recently established by the New York Department of Education. The Portal will allow educators, administrators, parents and students to access a variety of additional educational materials, resources and student information. To make this service available, the Department has contracted with InBloom, a third-party vendor which collects and stores student information released by SED and school districts. This includes information such as demographics, parental contacts, out-of-school suspension records, course outcomes and state assessment scores.

This amount of information being held in a centralized location makes it easier to exploit.  Parents were never asked for permission by school districts or the state to share their student’s information with inBloom and inBloom doesn’t guarantee total security of information.  This letter is appreciated, but instead of just calling for a pause in the plan Assembly Democrats (and Republicans – this is a non-partisan issue) should call for a halt.  The legislation passed earlier does attempt to address the situation, but my perspective of A. 7872-A in particular is that it contains too many loop holes and parents should have to opt-in rather than opt-out.