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.
October 26, 2012: Stacey Childress who runs this project for the Gates Foundation, writes on the SLC blog that “…Under federal law, school districts must manage and honor parent requests to opt out of programs that require the use of student data.”
November 2012: Gates Foundation awards NYC”s Fund for Public Schools $1.8 million to to be spent on DOE’s “integration of Common Core implementation strategies with new forms of teacher professional development to align with emerging functionalities and capacity of Shared Learning Infrastructure” (which is how they describe the SLC.)
November 26, 2012: Gates Foundation announces that Iwan Streichenberger will be CEO of the new corporation to replace the SLC; formerly marketing director of Promethean, which sells whiteboards. The new corporation is to take over this massive “data store” along with all the confidential student and teacher data. The corporation will also be “financially sustainable” without philanthropic support by 2016, implying that states, districts and/or vendors will have to pay for its considerable cost and maintenance in future years.
December 5, 2012: Our attorneys reply to SED in a letter, pointing out how their contract and letter only reconfirms our fears that this project will violate student privacy rights; we again demand that they disclose their plans to parents and offer them the right to consent.
Policies Re Parent Rights to Approve Disclosures of PII to Third Party Application Providers. School District and State Educational Agency Customers are responsible, as appropriate, for determining and notifying parents of policies regarding the extent to which parents (or students 18 and over) are given advance notice of, and the opportunity to decline, the provision of PII for their children (or themselves) to a Third Party Application Provider that uses the PII to provide educational services to schools or students. Each School District and State Educational Agency shall be responsible for handling any complaints from parents (or students 18 and over) regarding the disclosure of their student information to a Third Party Application Provider.
December 20, 2012: We meet with De’ Shawn Wright, the NY Governor’s Deputy. Sec. of Education to discuss with him our concerns. He says he will ask SED to meet with us to hear our concerns and answer questions. Later, he says that he will submit our 16 questions to SED for their response within five days.
January 22, 2013: Louisiana education activists, including Lee Barrios, file a Freedom of Information request to the State Commissioner & Board of Ed, asking for the contract and all communications with the Gates Foundation or SLC concerning this plan.
January 28, 2013: Sen. Liz Krueger writes a letter to NYS Commissioner King, objecting to this plan.
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 Commercial-Free 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: Community Education Councils 2, 21 and 30 have passed resolutions opposing the inBloom project and in support of protecting student privacy and parental consent. Many more CECs and Community Boards follow.
April 19, 2013: Louisiana State Superintendent, John White, agrees to pull the state of Louisiana out of the inBloom project due to privacy concerns.
April 30, 2013: On April 30, 2013, Class Size Matters and 23 other sponsors and held a Town hall meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall about inBloom, Inc. About 150 parents and community members attended, and the event was covered by Village Voice: NYC Parents Grill Department of Education Over Private Student Data Cloud ; EdSurge: NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom; The Indypendent: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools;WINS radio/CBS: Parents Irate Over NYC DOE Plan To Give Student Data To Nonprofit Organization ; Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Parents eye city plan to give individual student records to private biz. Though NYSED sends observers, they refuse to answer questions. Gates Foundation and inBloom Inc. turn down our invitations. NYC DOE does answer questions and reveals that confidential student data has already been shared with inBloom Inc. More on this event here.
May 4, 2013: Georgia schools Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, assures parents at a town hall meeting he “will not share the student data with InBloom.”
May 11, 2013: Via Twitter, Reuters reporter Stephanie Simon announces that “there are no plans” for Delaware, Georgia or Kentucky to share their confidential, personally identifiable student data with inBloom Inc.
May 21, 2013: Comptroller John Liu sends a letter, warning the Regents and the NYS Commissioner King against sharing student data with inBloom and for-profit vendors without parental consent.
May 22, 2013: A resolution is introduced in the NYC Council by Council Members Brewer, Jackson and Lander, against the sharing of personal student data without consent and in support of the student privacy bill, A.6059 / S.4284.
May 28, 2013: All the Democratic candidates for Mayor affirm their opposition to this data sharing plan, except for Speaker Quinn who is not present.
May 29, 2013: In Reuters, Stephanie Simon confirms that “Kentucky, Georgia and Delaware – all initially listed as partners on the inBloom website – told Reuters that they never made a commitment and have no intention of participating….Officials in two other states on the list, Massachusetts and North Carolina, said they are still evaluating the project and may never upload student data.”
New York still plans to go ahead with uploading the information of 3.6 million students statewide on the insecure inBloom cloud, officially making the state the worst in the nation for student privacy. Colorado still intends to go ahead for the students in Jefferson County, and Illinois for Bloomington students, though the state says they will expand data sharing for 35 other districts starting in 2015-2016.
June 13, 2013: Bill A7872, introduced by Chair of the Assembly Education Committee Cathy Nolan, is passed. The bill allows parents to request that personally identifiable student information not be disclosed by schools to third parties, unless required to do so by court order or for safety reasons.
June 28, 2013: CNN publishes a written and visual piece on inBloom, drawing further national attention.
August 1, 2013: Guilford County, North Carolina pulls out of using inBloom in their district.
September 4, 2013: New York State Senate introduces S.5930-2013 bill, the same as A7872, which would allow parents to request that personally identifiable student data not be released to third parties by schools.
September 4, 2013: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who eventually won the Democratic primary for the 2013 New York City mayoral election, tells the New York Daily News, ““As mayor, I will protect students’ privacy and stop this needless invasion of privacy.”
September 11, 2013: New York State Senate introduces S.5932-2013 bill, the same as A6059, which would prohibit the release of personally identifiable student data to third parties unless there is parental consent.
September 24, 2013: Jefferson County, Colorado announces that the district will allow parents to opt out of inBloom and the data dashboards to be piloted next year that will be populated from the inBloom cloud.
September 30, 3013: The NYC Council Education Committee holds hearings on Resolution 1768-2013 in support of the bills A.6059-A/S.5932. Many parents and advocates testify in support of the resolution and the need to protect student privacy. Ken Wagner, the New York State Education Department’s Deputy Commissioner testifies and states under oath that New York State has yet to upload any personally identifiable data. He insists, however, that the sharing of personally identifiable student data with inBloom Inc. and other vendors without parental consent is important to ensure that students are college and career ready.
October 6, 2013: The New York Times publishes an article on inBloom, inc. and elaborates to a national audience about the Jefferson County, Colorado project and how parents were able to request parental opt-out for that district.
October 22, 2013: The article published on October 6, 2013 in the New York Times inspires Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey to write to Commissioner Arne Duncan requesting answers to several questions about student data and how it is being shared.
November 7, 2013: The school board in Jefferson County, Colorado vote to part ways with inBloom.
November 20, 2013: The New York State Assembly held a hearing on student privacy where both John King, NYSED Commissioner, and Ken Wagner, Associate Commissioner, gave testimony in front of the Committee on Education. Parents, state superintendents, and Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters all gave compelling testimony against the sharing of personally identifiable student information to third parties. A video of the hearing can be found here.
November 26, 2013: Chicago public schools decides to opt out of using inBloom and instead work directly with a state-run data program developed by the Illinois Shared Learning Environment. It is reported a day later that all Race to the Top districts in Illinois will not be rolled out automatically with inBloom.
Prepared by Leonie Haimson, Peter Dalmasy and Molly Moody, Class Size Matters; email@example.com