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to vendors without parental notification or consent Summary: The Gates Foundation formed a private LLC called the Shared Learning Collaborative, which has now spun off into a separate corporation called inBloom Inc. This corporation is designed to collect confidential student and teacher data provided to them by states and districts throughout the country, to be shared with software vendors and other commercial education ventures, to help them develop and market their products. NYS, along with school districts in five other states, Illinois, Colorado, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, agreed to participate in Phase one which has already begun; three more states, Louisiana, Delaware, Georgia, and Kentucky, will be joining imminently. Louisiana later moves from phase two into phase one. There are serious questions about the legality and ethical nature of this project. The US Dept. of Education recently rewrote the regulations for FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, to allow more liberal sharing of student data; to go into effect in January of 2012. In response, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a lawsuit claiming that the new regulations violate the law. The plan to share personally identifiable & highly confidential student data in such an unrestricted manner, in an open-ended timeframe, without parental notification or consent, is unprecedented in US history, and would violate both FTC and HIPAA protections if they had authority over student records. Timeline; May 5, 2011: the NY State Education Department sends a letter to the State Comptroller Di Napoli, asking him to approve a $27 million no-bid contract with Wireless Generation, to build the state’s student and teacher data system, required under Race to the Top. Wireless Gen built NYC’s data system, ARIS. June 8, 2011: Daily News breaks the story of this proposed contract. Controversy ensues, primarily as a result of conflict of interest concerns. Six months before, Wireless Generation had been bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, just days after Joel Klein announced he would resign from DOE to work at the company, heading up its new “educational” online division and “overseeing investments in digital learning companies.” July 2011: News Corp is engulfed in a huge scandal, including allegations that its UK newspapers engaged in phone hacking. Several advocacy groups, including Class Size Matters, the Working Families Party, and Think Progress, posted online petitions that garnered thousands of signatures, urging the Comptroller to veto the Wireless contract. Several NY state legislators also write letters to the State Comptroller in opposition to the awarding of the contract. August 3, 2011: Vicki Phillips of the Gates Foundation announces the creation of an "amazing" new software program that like a "huge app store … with the Netflix and Facebook capabilities we love the most." She reveals that Wireless Gen is the “vendor” chosen to “build the open software that will allow states to access a shared, performance-driven marketplace of free and premium tools and content.”
Aug 25, 2011: NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli writes a letter to NYS Education Department, informing them that he is rejecting their contract with Wireless: "in light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corporation, we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved." December 2011: the NY Board of Regents approves NYSED’s plan to share student and teacher data with a new LLC, to be funded by the Gates Foundation called the Shared Learning Collaborative LLC, as reported in an article the Wall St Journal. The Gates Foundation has awarded $76.5 million to this LLC, to be spent over seven months, with $44 million of this funding going to Wireless Generation, to design and operate the system, though according to one Regent, they were not told of the involvement of Wireless before their vote. Here is an excerpt from a Gates’ fact sheet about this project: The Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) is building a set of shared technology services that will make it easier for a wide range of content developers and publishers, regardless of location or size, to reach educators…. The Shared Learning Collaborative will offer educational publishers and content creators an opportunity to expand their customer base and differentiate their offerings in the marketplace. Jan 2012- October 2012: Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters repeatedly asks SED through the Regents for their contract with the Gates Foundation; none is provided. Yet it is clear from Gates website that the project is going ahead rapidly. October 14, 2012: CSM, along with other parent leaders and attorney Norman Siegel hold press conference in NYC, releasing a letter to NYSED demanding that it reveal its contract, hold public hearings, and require parental consent before sharing any student’s personally identifiable information [PII]. Later that day, SED finally releases its contract w/ Gates Foundation to the press. It confirms our fears that parental consent is not going to be required; in addition, it appears that there will be only minimal protections from “data leakage” and the Gates Foundation has written the contract to shield itself from most any financial and legal liability if this occurs. October 20, 2012: Leonie Haimson and Justin Wedes attend the Gates Foundation “SLC camp” for software developers in NYC. We meet with Sharren Bates, who formerly headed up the ARIS project for DOE and is now running the SLC for Gates. Bates makes it clear that they do not recognize the right of parents to consent before data will be shared with 3rd parties, and that this data will include names, test scores, grades, disciplinary and attendance records, special education status and IEPs, etc. October 24, 2012: SED attorney Richard Trautwein replies to our letter, and denies that parents have the right to consent before their children’s confidential data is shared with Gates or other third party vendors, because this sharing is being done to “improve instruction”. He also claims that the public is already aware of this plan and no hearings or further disclosures are necessary. The same day, we post an online petition to the Governor, Attorney General, SED, Regents and Gates Foundation, asking that all data sharing of personally identifiable information be halted until parents are alerted and receive the right to consent. The petition receives more than 2600 signatures and generates thousands of emails to the Gates Foundation.
On the same day, deShawn Wright, Gov. Cuomo’s Asst. Sec. of Education, writes us that it has proven impossible to arrange a meeting with NYSED and that instead, they have agreed to answer written questions within five business days. February 7. 2013: MA ACLU, MA PTA, Citizens for Public Schools & Center for CommercialFree Childhood send a letter to MA State Board of Elem & Secondary Education, objecting to the state’s disclosure of confidential student data without parental consent and asking to see their contract with the Gates Foundation. February 21, 2013: Leonie Haimson sends a list of 16 simple factual questions for SED through deShawn Wright, the Governor’s Asst. Secretary for Education, and reminds him that SED promised to respond within five business days. More than a week later, Wright tells her that SED finds the questions too lengthy and difficult, and won’t say when they will respond. March 1, 2013: in an press release, EduScholar, a for-profit vendor announces its “partnership” with inBloom, and that “inBloom and eScholar are working together to launch the New York State Education Data Portal (EDP), which will be implemented in the Fall of 2013. eScholar myTrack will provide a data dashboard and goal management system, while inBloom will deliver the data infrastructure from which eScholar myTrack will pull and load data.” March 3, 2013: the first article in mainstream media in Reuters, confirming all the information above, and adding that NYSED is sharing all student data statewide with inBloom, not just NYC data. The story was followed up by Hechinger Report, Politics 365, The Denver Post, and The Answer Sheet. March 3, 2013: Hundreds of parents begin sending opt-out letters and emails to Commissioner King, Chancellor Walcott, Stacey Childress of the Gates Foundation, Michele Cahill of Carnegie Foundation, The Attorney General, Regents Head Merryl Tisch and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, stating they do not want their children’s data shared with anyone. March 6, 2013: Ken Wagner, NYSED Associate Commissioner for Curriculum, Assessment, and Educational Technology appears on a panel entitled “Field Notes on Implementing inBloom” at the Hilton in Austin, Texas at the SXSWEd conference. Meanwhile, NY parents who have emailed opt out letters to Commissioner King’s office get no response. When a NYC parent follows up by phone, a NYSED staffer tells her that they are too busy compiling the data and transmitting it to inBloom Inc. to respond to parents’ concerns. March 8, 2013: Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, Norman Siegel, NYS Senator Liz Krueger, PEP member Patrick Sullivan and special education parent Karen Sprowal meet with Michele Cahill, the vice-president for the national program and director of urban education at Carnegie Corporation of New York, to discuss our concerns. March 13, 2013: Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell introduces bill # A06059 to protect student privacy that would block the NY State Education Department and DOE from sharing our children’s confidential personally identifiable data with corporations without parental consent. Senator Mark Grisanti introduces a companion bill in Senate, # S04284. The New York Daily News subsequently writes about the bill here.
March 14, 2013: Class Size Matters holds a press conference on the steps of Tweed along with parents, Councilmembers Letitia James, Daniel Dromm and Stephen Levin on this issue. The Daily News reports on the issue in a two page spread including an op-ed by Leonie Haimson; the press conference is also covered by CBS News, GothamSchools, ABC Local, NBC New York, the Village Voice, the New York Daily News and WNYC/Schoolbook. March 21, 2013: As of March 21, Community Education Councils 2, 21 and 30 pass resolutions opposing the inBloom project and in support of protecting student privacy and parental consent. April 1, 2013: The bill to protect student privacy has 38 sponsors in the Assembly and 3 sponsors in the Senate.
Prepared by Leonie Haimson and Molly Moody, Class Size Matters, April 1, 2013; firstname.lastname@example.org