After Parent, Community Protests, States Dumping inBloom Database

inBloom Inc’s $100 million database, built to hold records of million of public school students, has struggled to gain a positive following since its release this spring. States are pulling out of partnerships with the project and parents are angered, with many feeling that it the collection of data constitutes a privacy violation, reports Stephanie Simon of Reuters.

The database was created to track students from kindergarden to senior year of high school. It was slated to include test scores, information on learning disabilities, discipline records, and teachers’ assessments of students. The purpose of this would be to consolidate records and make it easy for teachers to cater to students academic weaknesses.

The system is capable of identifying students by name, race, and economic status, which makes it easy for school districts to share this information with companies developing educational software.

School districts already store student data and often share it with private vendors hired for jobs such as tracking reading scores. InBloom simply consolidates in one secure, cloud-hosted database the reams of student information now scattered among an array of computer servers, teacher grade books and file cabinets.

Many parents and civil liberty groups are worried about the potential security issues.

Amidst the outcry in Louisiana, Superintendent John White has pulled all of the student data from the system, stating that he was unsure that there is a use for inBloom.

Georgia, Kentucky and Delaware were originally listed as partners on inBloom’s website, but said they never had any intention of being involved with the database.

Massachusetts and North Carolina are also listed on inBloom’s website, but both states reported that they are still evaluating the decision and may never upload any data.

The only remaining active participants are New York, Illinois and Colorado.

InBloom is now free but plans to start charging participating states an annual fee of $2-5 per student. These funds will help cover expenses for development and maintaining the database.

Despite the skepticism, many teachers see the database as potentially helpful.

When teachers got a sneak peek, “by far the most common question was, ‘Could we get this in my classroom tomorrow?’” said Greg Mortimer, the chief information officer for the 85,000-student district. He added that the project should save the district money because software developers will be able to hook their programs cleanly into the inBloom infrastructure. The way things now stand, he said, the district has to spend heavily to integrate each app into the county’s cumbersome and overlapping data systems.

Some states held interest in accessing the inBloom teaching resources without participating in the database. Instead, states banded together to create a online library.

Officials at inBloom say they have done a poor job articulating the need for the database and vow to do better. Yet they have not addressed all of the concerns raised by parents.