Despite Parents’ Privacy Concerns, Colorado’s JeffCo Chooses inBloom

To prepare for assessments designed for Common Core State Standards, many schools district across the country are investing in software to analyze individual student performance in more detail. And business is booming: for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, education technology software is an $8 billion market, according to estimates from the Software and Information Industry Association.

In Colorado, Jefferson County Schools recently selected InBloom to provide a data management system for storing contact information, grades and disciplinary data, test scores and curriculum planning for the district’s 86,000 students, according to Natasha Singer of The New York Times.

InBloom offers a solution that could collect information from the district’s many databases and store it in the cloud to make access easier and protect data with high-level encryption. In addition to storing data, the company’s software offers personalize learning experience by funneling student data to software dashboards where teachers could track individual students and, with the right software, customize lessons in real time.

InBloom software allows school districts to effortlessly share student records with developers seeking to create educational tools for schools. Cynthia Stevenson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, sees InBloom as a potentially revolutionary way to help educate students.

In February, inBloom made its debut by announcing that nine states, representing more than 11 million students, had agreed to help develop or test the technology.

InBloom wants to speed the introduction and lower the cost of the assessment tools by standardizing data storage and security. The idea is that inBloom’s open-source code could spur developers to create apps for all its clients, reducing the need for them to customize software to each school district. In theory, that would make the products cheaper for schools.

In August, Jefferson County Schools held a special school board meeting to discuss to discuss plans to outsource student data storage to inBloom with parents, school board members and privacy lawyers.

What troubled the naysayers at that August session was that the district seemed to be rushing to increase data-sharing before weighing the risks of granting companies access to intimate details about children. They noted that administrators had no policies in place to govern who could see the information, how long it would be kept or whether it would be shared with the colleges to which students applied.

Of the nine states, Colorado, New York and Illinois are actively pursuing the inBloom service.

The federal government recently made changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which requires schools to obtain parental permission before sharing information in their children’s educational records. The updated rules permit schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management.

Jefferson County plans to invest up to $2 million in a student assessment dashboard being built by LoudCloud Systems, a software developer in Dallas, and Stevenson wants inBloom to supply data to that dashboard.

The district expects to decide by January on whether to test the data repository next fall.