New York State Pushing Ahead With Student Database


Despite protests from parents and privacy advocates New York state is pushing forward with a database that will contain student grades, test scores and even medical records.

After months of debate about the risks of storing student data in a private database, New York is pressing ahead with a plan to do just that for every public school student’s grades, tests scores, and attendance records. The state is partnering with inBloom, a tech startup proposal that drew interest from several other states that have now reconsidered the program.

Concerns from parents about who will have access to the information have stalled the momentum of a startup that promised to bring efficiency and cost savings to recordkeeping that is still largely handled district by district across the country.

“The fear that everyone has is that five years later, you’re going for a job, and Big Brother is going to find out that when you were in junior high school, you did something stupid,” said New York State Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Catherine Nolan, a Queens Democrat who has a son in a public high school.

Founded in February with a $100 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp., the Atlanta-based data-storage company inBloom drew early interest from several states.

But within months, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, and Delaware pulled back. Massachusetts is using inBloom services in one pilot district but has made no commitment to further involvement. The school board in the Jefferson County, Colo., district in suburban Denver canceled inBloom this month amid parent opposition.

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Illinois has a similar database but that state doesn’t require districts to report data if they don’t want to, so that leaves New York as the only state that does. The education commissioner pooh-poohed concerns over security and privacy, saying collecting the data “is necessary for the good functioning of districts, schools, and states.” Why? We’ve done without it for this long.