InBloom Outbloomed, KABOOM! InBloom controversy now is only in New York state... Parent and teacher victory as CPS dumps InBloom and Illinois makes InBloom 'voluntary' for smaller school districts

Less than a week after a major public forum in Chicago brought together opponents of the controversial privatization of student data in Chicago via a contract with a company called "InBloom," Chicago Public Schools has officially announced that the nation's third largest school system will not be utilizing InBloom. Instead, CPS will utilize the State of Illinois system.

Leoni Haimson (standing left) presenting during the November 21 forum in Chicago. Substance photo by David Vance.The Chicago decision was reported in a November 27, 2013 story in the Chicago Sun-Times, which quotes CPS spokesman Becky Carroll. There is no press release on the CPS website. The Tribune and the city's other news media had not reported the story as of the evening of November 28, 2013.

The most extensive discussion of the Chicago decision came from Leoni Haimson in New York. In the context, she reports that New York (state) now remains the only state in the USA still using InBloom.


Chicago parents give thanks as their schools pull out of inBloom Inc., but NY Commissioner KIng remains fully committed; why?

As reported in todays (November 27, 2013) Sun-Times, Chicago is dropping inBloom like a hot potato. This $100 million project, created by the Gates and Carnegie Foundations, continues to lose adherents. Already, seven other states originally listed as inBloom partners have dropped out or put their data-sharing plans on hold. (See the timeline and list in my testimony below this article.)

Up to yesterday, Illinois and New York were the only two states still committed to sharing data with inBloom Inc.

Some back story: Last Thursday night, November 21, I was an invited to speak at a forum on student privacy in Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union and several activist parent groups, including More than a Score and PURE; see the video of my presentation here.

Unknown to me at the time, the Illinois state official who is heading the inBloom project, a man named Brandon Williams, was in the audience. Earlier that day, I had been part of a parent and teacher group which had briefed the editors of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times about inBloom. At these meetings, both sets of editors appeared seriously concerned about the vast privacy and security implications of the project. Yet only one article had appeared in the Chicago press about this issue at that point, also in the Sun Times, two days before.

At the forum on Thursday night, Brandon Williams privately told the representative from the CTU that the issue was getting too hot and that Illinois Education Commissioner Chris Koch had decided to keep the states student data system, called ISLE, completely separate from inBloom, which before they had intended to be conjoined.

Now, district participation would be completely voluntary - even for the 35 school districts that had received Race to the Top funds out of 866 districts in the state. These districts would NOT have to return their RTTT funds even if they decided not to participate in inBloom, because their data could be uploaded only into ISLE, the internal state data system.

This decision led Chicago officials to immediately drop out inBloom, the first of the 35 Illinois districts to publicly disengage. Moreover, the Illinois State Education Dept. already had said that even if a district wanted to upload data to inBloom, no student health or disciplinary data could be shared, because this would be too sensitive - only purely academic data.

Contrast these developments to what is happening here, where the NY Education Commissioner John King remains wholly committed to this project, despite scathing criticism from state legislators, superintendents, principals, school boards and parents. The latest Superintendent to speak out against inBloom, John Bierwirth of the Herricks school district, has said that all Nassau County superintendents were on the same page opposing this project, and that I dont think theres a person in Nassau County who thinks InBloom is a good idea." He added that "the state education department hasnt provided a good answer" when asked what the real purpose of this project is, and that the commissioner is digging a hole deeper day after day.

Indeed, at forums in all parts of the state, King is regularly assailed for his determination to provide childrens most private data to inBloom Inc. against the will of their parents. This personal student data will be stored on a vulnerable cloud, to be provided with for-profit vendors, including those producing the data dashboards. Last night, at a forum with more than 700 angry parents, teachers and students at Eastport-South Manor High School on Long Island, King was angrily confronted again and again on this issue. One parent said about his data-sharing plans, "I can't sleep at night thinking about this; Dr. King, how can you?"

When he tried to repeat the stale inBloom talking points, he was interrupted by parents yelling from the audience. Despite this growing fury, the Commissioner continues to insist that even without the support of school boards, even if districts decide to return their RTTT funds as more than thirty have now done, even without the consent of parents, he will share an entire statewide data set with inBloom, including their student disciplinary and health data, and more specifically their suspension records, disabilities and 504 diagnoses.

At the same time, King and other NYSED officials are encouraging districts to share even more confidential data with inBloom Inc., and to sign up for additional personalized learning tools produced by for-profit vendors, who will data-mine and use this information to help them produce products to be sold back to schools and districts. Even as every other of the nine original inBloom states has apparently pulled away from the project, New York stands alone. Why the difference?

We can only speculate. Earlier this week, in a front page story in the Albany Times Union, James Odato reported how the Regents fellows, the key officials who are helping drive reforms and implementing Kings agenda, are being paid for with $19 million from some of the nation's wealthiest philanthropists, including the Gates and Carnegie Foundations, the two backers of inBloom Inc. Odato described how the Fellows inhabit a separate silo at State Ed: The three-year-old operation, which now comprises 27 full-time staffers and a half-time intern, is unique in public education systems nationwide the arrangement is stirring concern in some quarters that deep-pocketed pedagogues are forcing their reform philosophies on an unwitting populace, and making an end run around government officers. According to Odato, because they are privately funded, the Regents Fellows are not bound by ethics rules or the Public Officer's Law that govern the behavior of other government officials.

We also know through a FOIL submitted by activists in Louisiana that that Amrit Singh, the Regents Fellow in charge of inBloom in New York, was actively recruiting John White, the Louisiana State Superintendent, into the project last year, and helped persuade him to provide a statewide set of student data to inBloom Inc. A few months after the Louisiana student data as uploaded, White ordered the data be deleted from the inBloom cloud, after protests by parents and school board members. We also know that the Gates Foundation gave at least $15 million to the NY State Education Department between 2007 and 2012, for this and other programs, including the Common Core. See our spreadsheet here. In the Washington Post, principal Carol Burris pointed out how Gates Foundation has provided financial support to Common Core Inc., which produced the highly flawed math modules that NYSED purchased for $14 million, drawing on earlier research by Jessica Bakeman of Capitol NY.

Last week, an article in the Catholic Education Daily reported that the Gates Foundation has donated more than $10.5 million to private companies like Common Core Inc., to help them develop Common Core aligned curricula. Mercedes Schneider has explored how Gates has spent at least $150 million to develop these products and convince states to adopt the Common Core. We also know that last year, the NYC Department of Education received $1.8 million from the Gates Foundation through its private fundraising arm called the Fund for Public Schools, for the integration of Common Core implementation strategies with new forms of teacher professional development to align with emerging functionalities and capacity of Shared Learning Infrastructure [SLI is another name for inBlooms data system]. Thus, Gates has more than a quarter of a billion dollars invested in the Common Core and inBloom alone.

At this point, we dont know what other financial incentives the Gates Foundation may have provided to NYSED officials since 2012 or now may be dangling in front of them, as they watch one state after another disengage from their data-mining project. All we know is now, New York is the last state standing that appears willing to sacrifice the privacy of its public schoolchildren at the altar of the Gates Foundation and inBloom Inc.

Posted by Leonie Haimson at 11/27/2013 01:05:00 PM ShareThis


CPS will use state-run data program, not controversial inBloom storehouse, BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter November 26, 2013 9:06PM, Updated: November 27, 2013 10:09AM

Chicago Public Schools has decided against using inBloom, a controversial data storehouse run by a nonprofit, and will work directly with a state-run data program, a spokeswoman said.

In Illinois, an online platform called the Illinois Shared Learning Environment, or ISLE, is in development to collect student data in one place.

The services of inBloom, which would allow access to a broader range of digital applications and content, were an optional add-on, but not mandatory, Illinois State Board of Education officials have said.

On Tuesday, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said CPS will use only ISLE.

She said CPS has the resources to implement the data-sharing effort on its own and doesnt need a third party.

We believe the best course of action for CPS is to work directly with [the state board of education] to provide the data needed to participate in this important initiative, Carroll said.

Critics of inBloom were concerned about privacy, the security of the data and how the data would be used.

One CPS parent who has been worried about inBloom, Cassie Creswell, lauded CPS. This is great news, she said.

But Creswell said more information about ISLEs system is needed.

A state board of education spokeswoman has said data collected by ISLE will be relevant only to instructional applications and wont have anything to do with a childs health or disciplinary matters.

In Illinois, two Downstate districts will pilot the ISLE program this winter, according to the state board. Over the next two years, 35 pioneering districts that receive federal money will start participating in ISLE.

That includes CPS, which committed to participate in ISLE and over three years will receive $19 million of federal money from the Race to the Top fund.



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