It’s understandable why some school superintendents are nervous about the state’s request for an array of educational and personal information on every student, which would then be handed over to a nonprofit education organization.
Even if it is funded by the highly credible Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and it involves federal Race to the Top grant money, a lot is at stake here. This has to be done right.
Information ranging from test scores to the number of times a student has been suspended to personal details of parents would be passed along to what is supposed to be a secure database.
Two local superintendents – Williamsville’s Scott G. Martzloff and West Seneca’s Mark J. Crawford – have said they will not sign off on using the new online system, even if it means giving up federal grant money.
They are just two of the superintendents across the state who refused to follow orders from the state Department of Education to sign up for a “data dashboard” to manage individual student profiles in the new EngageNY Portal.
A nonprofit organization, inBloom, received startup funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to standardize information about students across the country. Perhaps the organization will do a highly credible job, but the notion of a nationwide database of personal information on students understandably raises red flags. Between routine hacking into databases and revelations about the National Security Agency’s collection of everything from telephone metadata to social media updates, it’s all a bit unnerving.
Chief among the two local superintendents’ concerns are security, cost of the new online services once federal grant money runs out and the length of time the information will follow a child. All good questions that, at least in Martzloff’s opinion, haven’t been sufficiently addressed.
He and anyone else asking, especially parents, should be made comfortable with the process.
The new system would allow access by teachers and administrators to state test scores and dates a student missed a class. It would also offer a useful tool by allowing educators to compare progress in their classrooms with similar classes across the state.
It sounds reasonable, but it is troubling that school districts choosing not to select a “data dashboard” to use with the EngageNY portal will not only forfeit their remaining federal Race to the Top grant money but the move will not keep their student data out of the new state system.
Education officials have to take great care to provide guarantees on security and who is authorized to have access to the information, and work hard to answer any concerns.