At least two of the three leading Democratic mayoral candidates are set to nix plans for handing sensitive student data, including test scores and discipline records, to private companies.
The move against the $100 million inBloom project — if former Controller Bill Thompson or Public Advocate Bill de Blasio win in November — could spell the end of the already faltering data-sharing plan and set off a showdown with the state.
“Like any parent, I know that private student data should never be bought and sold without explicit parental consent,” said de Blasio in a statement. “As mayor, I will protect students’ privacy and stop this needless invasion of privacy.”
Thompson spokesman John Collins, said, if elected, “Bill Thompson will make sure parents consent before personal information about their children is shared with a private company.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the third leading Democrat for mayor, has staked out a slightly more conciliatory position, expressing “concern.”
InBloom, funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was originally conceived of as a joint project for multiple states. Of the nine states that originally expressed interest, five have now backed away.
The idea is to format student data — including attendance, test scores, learning disabilities and disciplinary records — in a way that can be used by educational tech companies to improve classroom instruction and aid students in danger of failing.
The companies would not be allowed to sell students’ data, but concerned parents fear the information could be compromised or stolen.
“Parents demand that their children’s personal information be pulled out of inBloom and that we should have the right to decide which companies have access to the information,” said Shino Tanikawa, a public school parent with NYC Kids PAC, which has championed the privacy issue.
It’s not clear whether New York state officials will allow future mayors to have a say.
The inBloom system is expected to be ready this fall, and state officials don’t plan to allow parents or districts to opt out. They say the information is required by law, most data have been submitted for years, and inBloom is a required part of the federal Race to the Top grants.
“In order to fulfill the Race to the Top commitments, we will be providing a statewide data set ,” said Associate Commissioner Ken Wagner, who noted the project aims to boost security standards for districts around the state.
“We do have state-of-the-art protections built into this project.”