Thursday, April 4, 2013

Commissioner Chester quoted on inBloom (and I'm not sure where he's getting his numbers)

Worcester Magazine covers some of the concerns around student privacy in their article today on inBloom.I was interviewed for the article, so some of this wasn't new to me, but it appears Mr. Bird reached the Commissioner, and I have to say that I found this quote, ah, surprising:

Speaking recently with Worcester Mag, Chester says he is “absolutely tuned into concerns” raised by critics such as Novick and Golin. “Some of it is based on misinformation,” he says. “We are absolutely committed to the security of student-level data and protecting the individual students at school districts.”
School districts on their own already contract with private companies, Chester says. “Your readers’ children are using software that’s being done, in 90 percent of the cases, having private companies filter [students’] records and making them accessible. This is ubiquitous.”
Now, maybe Commissioner Chester specified the "misinformation" to Mr. Bird and it didn't make the article, but I have yet to hear any correction of misinformation in this whole conversation (in fact, I need to do a post; I discovered yesterday that among the information being collected is reasons for teacher transfers of position).
Also, this "90 percent" number is news to me. I've sent something out to other school committee members to see if, in fact, data is being somehow widely shared, under contract, for analysis, and, moreover, for use by vendors. It isn't in Worcester (and, as I suspect that's much of Worcester Magazine's readership, the 90% number isn't accurate).That's the part that the Commissioner doesn't tackle: the use of student information in sales. It isn't just that this information is going to be out on the web; it's that it's going to be used for the express purpose of marketing.
And the old "well, it's already being done" line is really lame. If this is a bad idea, we should do it, and if it's already happening and a bad idea, we should stop doing it.
This will be on the Worcester School Committee agenda for April 25. If you have concerns about this, PLEASE weigh in. If you're in Worcester, contact us. If you're elsewhere, contact your school committee. And in either case, contact the Board of Ed.

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