K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents
With the launch of the Gates Foundation inBloom, we see the real reason for the Common Core.
2011 Gates Grantee: Shared Learning Collaborative, LLC
2012 Gates Grantee: inBloom, Inc.
You can read the horrible history of the Shared Learning Collaborative here at the website of the Chief Council of State School Officers.
But now Shared Learning Collaborative has become inBloom, Inc. On the website it says, "Our name has changed, but our vision remains the same: Making personalized learning a reality for every student."
Personalized Learning: Another important education term is coopted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
inBloom Inc. Launches to Enable Personalized Learning Through Easier Access to Information and Technology
New nonprofit organization is working with nine states representing more than 11 million students, with support from a wide range of education technology companies.
ATLANTA -- Feb. 5, 2013 -- 9 a.m. EST Ă˘€“ Today the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) announced the launch of inBloom Inc., a nonprofit provider of technology services aimed at connecting data, applications and people that work together to create better opportunities for students and educators.
Currently, school districts are racing to adapt materials and assessments for the Common Core State Standards, and publishers are working to keep up with new academic requirements. At the same time, educators are being inundated with an escalating amount of data and technology in multiple formats, creating a disjointed system that makes it extremely hard for teachers to tailor instruction, curriculum and learning approaches to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners.
"Education technology and data need to work better together to fulfill their potential for students and teachers," said Iwan Streichenberger, CEO of inBloom Inc. "Until now, tackling this problem has often been too expensive for states and districts, but inBloom is easing that burden and ushering in a new era of personalized learning."
The inBloomĂ˘„Â˘ data integration and content search services enrich learning applications by connecting them to systems and information that currently live in a variety of different places and formats while helping to reduce costs for states and districts. This comprehensive view into each studentĂ˘€™s history can help those involved in education -- from teachers to administrators to parents -- see students' progress, gain insights into how they might do better and act quickly to help each student succeed. It also helps educators locate standards-aligned instructional resources from multiple providers and match them with their students' needs.
"inBloom lets us compile and access assessment data from more than a dozen different systems," said Tom Stella, assistant superintendent of schools, Everett, Mass. "This information, paired with relevant content that maps to a student's individual needs, helps maximize a teacher's time and a student's learning potential by letting them focus on in-class teaching and learning."
In addition, the inBloom framework enables technology providers to develop and deploy products without having to build custom connections to each state and district data source. This means more developers will have the opportunity to create new and powerful applications to benefit students, with lower implementation costs and faster time-to-market.
Twenty-one education technology companies have already announced plans to develop applications that will work with inBloom through the serviceĂ˘€™s open application programming interface (API). Many of these applications will be demonstrated at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas, March 4Ă˘€“7.
Nine states, representing more than 11 million students, are participating in the development and pilot testing of the inBloom technology services to ensure they meet the needs of states, districts, teachers and students. They include Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina. Five states have already selected districts to be part of the pilot testing: Jefferson County Public Schools, Colorado; McLean County Unit District No. 5 (Normal) and Bloomington Public Schools District 87 (Bloomington), Illinois; Everett Public Schools, Massachusetts; New York City Department of Education, New York; and Guilford County Schools, North Carolina.
Student data privacy is a top priority for inBloom, and protections for student privacy, including compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), have been addressed throughout the design and ongoing operations of the services. InBloom worked with its pilot states and districts and a panel of student privacy and security experts to create the policy that governs its handling of sensitive data.
About the Shared Learning Collaborative
The Shared Learning Collaborative is an alliance of states, districts, educators, foundations and content and tool providers passionate about using technology to improve education. The SLC developed all the inBloom software components and has worked with education technology companies and developers to encourage the development of inBloom-compatible applications.
About inBloom Inc.
inBloom Inc. is a nonprofit organization established to carry forward the mission of the Shared Learning Collaborative, which is to work to make personalized learning a reality for every U.S. student. inBloom provides technology services that allow states and public school districts to better integrate student data and learning applications to support sustainable, cost-effective personalized learning. inBloom is funded with initial philanthropic support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. For more information about inBloom, visit www.inBloom.org.
Old Secretaries of Ed just keep getting consulting gigs. Margaret Spellings is on the board of directors of the new inBloom enterprise. Here are the rest.
Take a look at the Governance and Organization Technical Advisory Group:
In addition to seeking advice from more than 100 education, technology and business advisors, inBloom benefited from a six-member governance advisory group with a range of expertise. This former group committed significant time to help design and set up the long term governance and organizational structure for inBloom, Inc.:
Michael Horn, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Education, Innosight Institute
Michael Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund
David Riley, President, Alembic Foundation
Andrew Rotherham, Co-Founder and Partner, Bellwether Education Partners
Cheryl Vedoe, President and CEO, Apex Learning
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
AFT dues-paying members, how much will you stand for?
inBloom is nonprofit. All its providers are for-profits. inBloom Providers are the usual suspects.
If you can stand the horror, an inBloom white paper on standards alignment, providing chapter and verse of how they sequence learning.
This whole package provides a bit more information about what the Common Core Gates Standards are really up to.
You can see a small excerpt in Gates Foundation Anal-Retentive, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Strikes Again.
Here's an excerpt from an inBloom white paper Learning Standard Alignment in inBloom Technology, page 20. Copyright 2012 inBloom, Inc. and its affiliates. They want all the skill duckies in neat little rows. No one seems willing to put a name on this document. I don't think there's a human name in the whole paper. The paper describes:
Objective assessment results provide an important measure of student fulfillment of learning objectives. Again, for inBloom compatible applications to analyze student objective achievement, assessment results must be provided to the inBloom Data store. But assessment metadata, indicating standard alignment, must also be included in the inBloom Data store; assessment maintainers, vendors and educators will need to provide this alignment information.
New horror term of our time: inBloom Data store.
There are no human names in the references--just links to work of entities that talk the same way:
Common Core State Standards(the 'Common Core')
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (Index of Terms)
And so on.
PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN!
Kudos to Stephanie Simon for offering at least a modicum more than a refried press release and offering at least a shred of doubt.
By Stephanie Simon
(Reuters) -- An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares.
But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.
In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school -- even homework completion.
Local education officials retain legal control over their students' information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services. (emphasis added)
Entrepreneurs can't wait. (emphasis added)
"This is going to be a huge win for us," said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.
CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week's SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products - educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.
The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.
States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states - Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts - have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.
"We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education," said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.
IF DATA LEAKS, WHAT REMEDIES?
Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any "school official" who has a "legitimate educational interest," according to the Department of Education. The department defines "school official" to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.
The database also gives school administrators full control over student files, so they could choose to share test scores with a vendor but withhold social security numbers or disability records.
That's hardly reassuring to many parents.
"Once this information gets out there, it's going to be abused. There's no doubt in my mind," said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.
Parents from New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, "What are the remedies for parents?" asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. "It's very troubling."
VENTURE CAPITAL MAGNET
Fans of the project respond that the files are safer in the database than scattered about school districts. Plus, they say, the potential upside is enormous, with the power to transform classrooms across the U.S.
Does Johnny have trouble converting decimals to fractions? The database will have recorded that - and may have recorded as well that he finds textbooks boring, adores animation and plays baseball after school. Personalized learning software can use that data to serve up a tailor-made math lesson, perhaps an animated game that uses baseball statistics to teach decimals.
Johnny's teacher can watch his development on a "dashboard" that uses bright graphics to map each of her students' progress on dozens, even hundreds, of discrete skills.
"You can start to see what's effective for each particular student," said Adria Moersen, a high school teacher in Colorado who has tested some of the new products.
The sector is undeniably hot; technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year, according to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on the sector. The investment company GSV Advisors tracked 84 deals in the sector last year, up from 15 in 2007.
In addition to its $100 million investment in the database, the Gates Foundation has pledged $70 million in grants to schools and companies to develop personalized learning tools.
New products regularly come to market, but both educators and entrepreneurs say adoption has been slow because of technical hurdles.
WARNING SYSTEMS TO FORESTALL DROPOUTS?
Schools tend to store different bits of student information in different databases, often with different operating systems. That makes it clunky to integrate new learning apps into classrooms.
At the Rocketship chain of charter schools, for instance, administrators must manually update at least five databases to keep their education software running smoothly when a child transfers from one teacher to another, said Charlie Bufalino, a Rocketship executive.
The extra steps add expense, which limits how many apps a school can buy. And because the data is so fragmented, the private companies don't always get a robust picture of each student's academic performance, much less their personal characteristics.
The new database aims to wipe away those obstacles by integrating all student information -- including data that may previously have been stored in paper files or teacher gradebooks -- in a single, flexible platform.
Education technology companies can use the same platform to design their software, so their programs will hook into a rich trove of student data if a district or state authorizes access.
That prospect has some companies dreaming big.
Larry Berger, an executive at Amplify Education, says the data could be mined to develop "early warning systems." Perhaps it will turn out, for instance, that most high school dropouts began to struggle with math at age 8. If so, all future 8-year-olds fitting that pattern could be identified and given extra help.
Companies with access to the database will also be able to identify struggling teachers and pinpoint which concepts their students are failing to master. One startup that could benefit: BloomBoard, which sells schools professional development plans customized to each teacher.
The new database "is a godsend for us," said Jason Lange, the chief executive of BloomBoard. "It allows us to collect more data faster, quicker and cheaper."
Whether all this data, and all the programs that use it, will transform education is another question. Most data-driven software has only been tested on a small scale; results are often mixed.
Though he is bullish on the sector, Michael Moe, the chief investment officer at GSV Capital, cautions that there is as yet no proof the new technology will produce "game-changing outcomes" for students -- or, for that matter, sterling profits for investors.
Others are more skeptical still.
"The hype in the tech press is that education is an engineering problem that can be fixed by technology," said Frank Catalano of Intrinsic Strategy, a consulting firm focused on education and technology. "To my mind, that's a very naive and destructive view."
(Reporting by Stephanie Simon; editing by Prudence Crowther)
Stephanie Simon, with notes by Susan Ohanian
March 04, 2013
Index of Common Core [sic] Standards