Posted 10 months ago on June 18, 2013, 4:16 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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School Data Profiteering
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 09:26 By Dan Schneider , Dollars & Sense | Report
When you were a kid and got in trouble at school, did they ever threaten to “put it in your permanent record?” That’s a scary prospect, knowing that the information could be seen forever by anyone with access to it. But what if that record had more in it than just grades and disciplinary problems? What if it included things like when your parents got divorced, or that you had been homeless for a while?
Starting at the end of last year, a nonprofit organization called inBloom began to test new cloud-based software to collect information from student records and use it to individualize the education a student receives. Much of this individualized instruction will come from third-party for-profit companies that will be granted access to students’ data, effectively giving corporations that deal with inBloom free rein to mine student data as they see fit.
A joint venture of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, inBloom has a long list of corporate partners, including Amazon, Dell, and Scholastic (maker of The Magic School Busand The Magic Treehouse children’s book series). Originally, inBloom was known as the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), a Gates Foundation- and NewsCorp-backed organization that had been quietly developing a “set of shared technology services” for several years, in order to “connect student data and instructional materials.”
By 2013’s South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, SLC had rebranded itself as inBloom. The Gates Foundation is a well-known advocate of charter schools, school-privatization measures, and reforms like increased reliance on standardized testing and merit-based pay. (All these changes are unpopular with teachers and teachers’ unions.)
The information collected by inBloom goes well beyond what’s found in a typical permanent record. The data elements that the inBloom database is set up to collect include “Pregnant Teen,” “Unschooled Refugee,” “Foster Care,” and “Removed by Child Protective Services.” It also includes whether, in a disciplinary incident, a student was a “Victim,” “Perpetrator,” “Witness,” or “Reporter.” Louisiana is currently inBloom’s largest guinea pig. In addition, the program has been deployed for testing in public school districts in Massachusetts, Illinois, Colorado, and North Carolina. New York City’s Department of Education is also participating. Schools in Delaware, Georgia, and Kentucky will begin their own tests of the data-gathering software in fall 2013. In New York City, Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy organization for smaller class sizes, has been working diligently to make parents across the country aware of what their school districts may be doing. “There’s not a single school district that’s allowing parents the right of consent, or to opt out of the program,” Haimson told Dollars & Sense.
Equally worrisome to Golin is the role teachers would play under the inBloom system. “The role of the teacher is to input data, to be a data collector, and to pass on lessons designed by algorithms and apps back to their students. The expertise is in the cloud, not in the teacher,” Golin said.
This article is from the May/June 2013 issue of Dollars & Sensemagazine.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.