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Sun Sets on Controversial Student Data Project inBloom

Monday, April 21, 2014 - 04:25 PM

A brand-new iMac in the computer lab at the Academy for Software Engineering (Daniel P. Tucker)

The non-profit corporation inBloom which sought to create a national repository of student data will shut down, following concerns raised by parents, school boards and elected officials over privacy and commercializing student information.

The company also cited New York's recent mandate, included in the state budget, to halt its relationship with the controversial venture. New York was the most recent of several states around the country to do so.

"I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months," said Iwan Streichenberger, inBloom CEO, on the company's website. "It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning."

Streichenberger's full statement can be read here. News of the company's closure was first reported Monday by Education Week.

inBloom partnered with several states to capture student information so that third-party vendors could develop educational tools for teachers. The company's plans sparked a mix of excitement from some, including the New York State Education Department and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, both funders of inBloom.

“Anything that limits the tools teachers and school districts can use to directly benefit their students is disappointing," the Gates Foundation said in a statement released Monday. "Teachers should be able to easily support the individual learning needs of students. We believe the technology behind inBloom is an important part of making that a reality.”

But inBloom sparked outrage from many others. Parents criticized the release of sensitive student data — including details like test scores, disciplinary records and home addresses — without the power to opt out.

"The whole notion that every single aspect of a student's life should be put online somewhere and stored in a data cloud and shared with vendors is something that horrifies most parents and horrifies most privacy experts," said Leonie Haimson, an outspoken opponent of inBloom and head of the organization Class Size Matters.

She said she viewed inBloom's loss of clients and its decision to close as a victory for parents.

State education officials did not reply to requests for comment.

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