School reform industry leaders are encountering more and more parental pushback to their totally awesome ideas, and I think it’s about time.
“You’re not going to give out my child’s information to a third-party corporation to do whatever it is they want to do,” Makarishi continued over whistles and applause from the audience. “The people are not going to have it and we are going to fight back.”
Several other audience members had similar things to say regarding inBloom Inc., the controversial data-sharing initiative that parents at Monday night’s volatile forum believe violates the privacy and security of their children. The $100 million initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and federal grants, and built by News Corp’s Wireless Generation, is responsible for designing something called anEducation Data Portal in order to provide data tools to teachers and families.
As Lopatin later clarified, inBloom’s EDP uses student data–including student demographics, parent contact information, dates of absence, suspensions, and state test scores–through an Amazon cloud-based service. That information is then shared with school-contracted vendors. The DOE maintains that this practice does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and that vendors will not be able to even access the data without the school’s permission
“I’m outraged,” said Karen Sprowal, 52, a stay-at-home mom. Her 9-year-old son is a fourth-grader at Public School 75 in Manhattan.
“I send my child to school to be educated. I never agreed to have his information shared with private companies or stored in a database.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio sent a scathing letter to city and state officials protesting the move. “I don’t want my kids’ privacy bought and sold like this,” he said.
InBloom, a 3-month-old database, is funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. built the infrastructure for the new electronic portal.
The state spent $50 million in federal grants to partner with inBloom and finalized its agreement in October to share data with the fledgling company.
I don’t really have strong feelings on the Gates plan to create a “data portal.” It looks like another attempt to get around the hard (probably really grinding and slow and infuriating) work of “improving” public schools to me, but then I’m sick to death of these market-based reformer types. It’s all we can do here to get a school levy passed what with the Failed and Failing Public Schools theme reform industry leaders and media promote, so Big Data is really the least of my immediate problems.
However, I could have told the school reform billionaires that going forward with Big Data Plan without bothering to tell the parents of the students about Big Data Plan would result in absolutely outraged parents. Guaranteed.
In some ways Gates is the least objectionable of the reform billionaires, because he’s the public face of the reform industry. It doesn’t take a genuis to figure out why they put Gates forward as official spokesperson, instead of, say, the Wal Mart Heirs, Rupert Murdoch or Mike Milken (the former junk-bond king) but I give Gates some grudging credit for putting his consumer brand at risk. I didn’t ask for his help with my public school, I don’t believe he’s presumptively credible on public schools, and I will cheer the first elected official who turns down his money because the money comes with what to me is an unacceptable (and undemocratic) level of control of public school policy, but at least he’s risking The Brand.
As I’ve said here before probably too many times, I continue to believe it is completely insane and reckless to turn our public schools over to a small group of extremely wealthy people. I do not understand why these private-public reform schemes are so easily and passively accepted. I suspect they were so easily and passively accepted because the billionaires were mostly “transforming” schools in poor urban areas, so “reform” wasn’t real or pressing to most of us who live outside of those areas. InBloom is planned nation-wide and the ever-increasing focus on standardized tests and endless hours of test prep are nationwide too, hence the new questions. I’m really pleased that the industry is meeting what they call “friction” and what I call “public accountability.” Good on the parents for finally stepping up and asking. If market based reform is as fabulous as reformers say it is, they shouldn’t have any problem persuading a room full of angry parents.