inBloom timeline

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 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, post online petitions that garner 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 Generation 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.” 

August 9, 2011: In the Huffington Post, Leonie Haimson writes the first blog post pointing out the dangers to student privacy of this Gates-funded venture, called the Shared Learning Collaborative.

August 25, 2011: NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli writes a letter to NYS Education Department, informing them that he is rejecting their contract with Wireless to develop the internal state database: “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 a press conference in NYC, releasing a letter to NYSED demanding that it reveal its contract with the Shared Learning Collaborative, hold public hearings, and require parental consent before sharing any student’s personally identifiable information with the Shared Learning Collaborative or the Gates Foundation.

Later that day, SED finally releases its contract with the Gates Foundation to the media.  It confirms our worst fears that parental consent is not going to be required; in addition, there are only minimal protections from “data leakage” and the Gates Foundation has written the contract to shield itself from nearly any financial and legal liability if the project violates FERPA or other laws and if data breaches do occur.

October 20, 2012: Leonie Haimson and Justin Wedes attend the Gates Foundation “Shared Learning Collaborative camp” for software developers in NYC.  We meet 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 will 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 from SED 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 in a few weeks, and generates thousands of emails to Commissioner King and Stacey Childress who is running this project for the Gates Foundation.

October 26, 2012: Stacey Childress of the Gates Foundation writes on the SLC blog,  temporarily changing their position on privacy, and that “…Under federal law, school districts must manage and honor parent requests to opt out of programs that require the use of student data.”  This blog post is no longer available.

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, later to be called inBloom.  Streichenberger is the former marketing director of  a company based in Atlanta called 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 Gates Foundation explains that this new corporation will be “financially sustainable” without philanthropic support by 2015, 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.

December 12, 2012: The Gates Foundation backtracks on their statement that districts must honor parent requests to opt out, and instead write in their newly posted Security and Privacy Policy the following disclaimer:

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  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 18, 2013:  Class Size Matters produces a national fact sheet for parents in the nine states that inBloom  lists as “partners”, including Louisiana, NY, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Delaware, Illinois, Colorado, and Massachusetts,  alerting them to the threat to student privacy  The next day Diane Ravitch reprints our warning.

January 22, 2013: Alerted by Diane’s blog, Louisiana education activists, including Lee Barrios, file a Freedom of Information request to their State Superintendent John White & their state Board of Education, asking for the contract and all communications with the Gates Foundation or SLC concerning their plan to share data.

January 28, 2013: NY State Sen. Liz Krueger writes a letter to NYS Commissioner King, objecting to this plan.

February 6, 2013: The official launch of InBloom Inc. the corporate spin off of the SLC. In its privacy policy it states: “inBloom, Inc. cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.” The company is headed by Iwan Streichenberger, as earlier announced,  and the CPO is Sharren Bates, formerly of the Gates Foundation and before that the NYC DOE head of the ARIS project.

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” to help the Gates Foundation promote inBloom at the SXSWEd conference in Austin, Texas.

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.  Cahill dismisses 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 protesting the state’s plan to share data with inBloom. 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: Several Community Education Councils including for District 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 1, 2013: The bill A.6059 / S.4284,  to protect student privacy and bar inBloom from redisclosing any student data without parental consent has 38 sponsors in the NYS Assembly and 3 sponsors in the Senate.

April 19, 2013: Louisiana State Superintendent, John White, responds to parent protests and agrees to pull the state of Louisiana out of the inBloom project.

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 and refuse to attend.  A representative from NYC DOE,  Adina Lopatin, Deputy Chief Academic Officer, 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:  At a debate, all the Democratic candidates for NYC 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.

As of May 29, 2013, the NYS bill A.6059 / S.4284, to protect student privacy has 59 sponsors in the Assembly and 22 sponsors in the Senate.

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 runs a segment on inBloom, drawing further national attention.

August 1, 2013: Guilford County  pulls out of using inBloom  — the one pilot district in North Carolina.

September 4, 2013: New York State Senate introduces S.5930-2013 bill, the same as A7872, which would allow parents of students and students of 18 years of age or older to request that personally identifiable information and/or biometric record not be disclosed to certain third parties and prohibits the education department and schools that receive the request from disclosing such information of that particular student.

September 4, 2013: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who eventually wins the Democratic primary and is elected NYC mayor, 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 put restrictions on the state and districts sharing data with third parties, and prevent any redisclosures of personally identifiable student data without parental consent, as inBloom is designed to do.

September 24, 2013: In response to parents’ concerns and an online petition, the Superintendent of Jefferson County, Colorado, the one inBloom pilot district in that state,  announces that parents will be allowed to opt out of inBloom and the dashboards populated with data 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 plans and how parents were able to request parental opt-out for that district, though scant attention is given to the plans to share data in NY State.

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.

October 25, 2013: Beginning in late October, Race to the Top districts across New York State return their funds so that they can refuse the data dashboards to be populated with student personal student data from the inBloom cloud. These districts, which as of February 17, 2014 include at least forty, include Pleasantville (Westchester County), Southold (Long Island), Pearl River (Rockland County), and Hyde Park (Dutchess County).

October 28, 2013: Southold (Long Island) schools superintendent David Gamberg writes to inBloom requesting that his district’s data be deleted from the inBloom data cloud.  In the letter, Gamberg references a specific provision in the contract between New York State and inBloom which states “If a school district decides they no longer wish to use the SLI system, they may request that district student data be deleted from the SLI data store.”  Read more here and here.

November 7, 2013: After an election which caused the school board to turn over, and the Superintendent to resign, the school board in Jefferson County, Colorado votes to sever its contract with inBloom.

November 13, 2013:  A lawsuit is filed on behalf of NYC parents, barring NYS Education Department and Commissioner King from sharing personal data with inBloom on the ground that this violates the state’s Personal Privacy Protection Law.

November 20, 2013: The New York State Assembly holds a hearing on student privacy where both John King, NYSED Commissioner, and Ken Wagner, Associate Commissioner, give testimony.  Parents, state superintendents, and Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters testify 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 school system announces it will opt out of using inBloom , shortly after Chicago parent groups and the Chicago Teachers Union hold a forum on the data-sharing project.  It is reported a day later that all districts in Illinois will have the choice to opt out of sharing data with inBloom.  At this point, NY is the last known remaining client of inBloom.

December 11, 2013: The New York State School Boards Association report survey results  showing that 75 percent of board members oppose sending personal student data to inBloom and 78 percent of school board members believe parents should be able to opt out of having their children’s data shared.

December 12, 2013: After several public hearings throughout the state, NYS Senator John Flanagan releases a report that includes a proposal to delay the educational portal populated by inBloom; and also introduces Senate bill S.6007-2013 which would require the state Education Dept. appoint a privacy officer. See our press statement for more.

December 16, 2013: Many members of the New York State Assembly send a letter to New York State Education Commissioner John King suggesting that given the recent backlash from parents, administrators and others, they should reconsider their plan to share student data with inBloom.

December 19, 2013: New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver calls on State Education Department to suspend their plans for student data sharing with inBloom.

January 8, 2014: In legal filings in response to the lawsuit filed on behalf of New York City parents, the NY Attorney General reveals that NYSED has moved back its date for the transfer of the student data to inBloom to no earlier than April 1, 2014. According to the AG office, NYSED claims the delay is because their “contractors” are behind schedule.  In a tweet, the inBloom CTO, Sharren Bates disputes this, saying “Our dev backlog is public & shows no current tech delays.”

February 7, 2014: Judge Thomas Breslin of the New York Supreme Court dismisses the lawsuit filed by New York City public school parents to prevent the NY State Education Department from uploading personal student data to inBloom.

February 10, 2014: NYSED Commissioner John King announces “the State has delayed the launch of the data dashboards related to inBloom to allow SED to work with legislators to address concerns about data security and third party providers used by the State and districts.”

February 20, 2014: NYSED officials reveal that they will begin to share data with inBloom, as early as July.

February 28, 2014: The NYS Assembly holds a hearing where Ken Wagner from NYSED and representatives from inBloom continue to insist that this data-sharing project must go forward. Read more here and here. See video of the hearing here.

March 5, 2014: The NYS Assembly passes A8929 by a vote of 117-10, allowing parents to opt out of the sharing of personal student information with vendors. Read more about the bill’s passage here.

March 10, 2014: Governor Cuomo’s appointed Common Core panel recommends the state end its relationship with inBloom in their report “Common Core Implementation Panel: Putting Student First”. Read more here.

March 31, 2014: The New York State legislature approves the 2014-2015 state budget bill which will prevent the state from sharing personal data with any “Shared Learning infrastructure service provider” or “SLISP” –that is, a company which is storing the information for the purpose of providing it to a data dashboard provider.  For more information on the privacy provisions installed in the budget bill, read our blog post here.

April 2, 2014: Politico’s Stephanie Simon reports that the New York State Education Department has directed inBloom to delete all data stored there to date.  The Journal News reports the Education Commissioner’s spokesperson Dennis Tompkins said in a statement, “As required by statute, we will not store any student data with inBloom and we have directed inBloom to securely delete the non-identifiable data that has been stored.”  Given that NY is the last known inBloom client, the company’s future looks shaky.

April 21, 2014: inBloom’s CEO Iwan Streichenberger announces that inBloom is shutting down, nearly three years after we first wrote about this data-sharing project.  See our statement here.

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