By guest blogger Ben Kamisar
Education technology nonprofit inBloom, which helps schools store and use student data, suffered another setback this week when concerns about the privacy of student information prompted the Jefferson County, Colo., school board to end its relationship with the organization.
The decision comes in the wake of growing concerns across the country about the privacy of student data. inBloom initially had operations in nine states, but now is only working in New York and Illinois.
Lesley Dahlkemper, Jefferson County's board of education president, called inBloom's integration of student data "promising," but she added that many parents felt "anxiety" about hosting their children's data on external servers. "We decided that it was important to listen to the community."
The district planned to use inBloom's servers to store its data for integration with its "classroom dashboard," a new program that aims to centralize student data so that parents and teachers can track student achievement in real time. While the board voted unanimously to drop inBloom at a meeting Thursday, Dahlkemper said that its motion directed staff members to continue to implement the classroom dashboard.
"We will continue to look for other ways of addressing this because it is very promising," she said. "There was concern about putting the data on servers other than the district servers, but the question becomes, can we do that in house? If we can, what will that look like?"
As Jefferson County elected three new board of education members on Election Day last Tuesday, the board plans to discuss the dashboard's future when its new members are sworn in later this month.
The move represents yet another step back for inBloom, which provides technology infrastructure to create more personalized learning. But the company, which received $100 million in grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, faced privacy concerns from the beginning despite assurances that it believes that "student data privacy is a top priority." (Education Week receives financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its coverage of the education marketplace and innovation in education. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.)
"Over the last several years, JeffCo has worked hard to put the right pieces in place to begin to transform teaching and learning in its classrooms," inBloom spokesman Adam Gaber said in an email, referring to Jefferson County by its nickname. "While not a silver bullet, inBloom was a critical part of this strategy, and today's decision threatens to unravel all the hard work and progress made to date."