Privacy Matters

Jeffco schools to help set national standards for student privacy

Students at Edgewater Elementary School in Jefferson County work on iPads during class.

A new partnership between Jeffco Public Schools and 26 other districts nationwide could lead to more rigid security measures for student data.

For the next six months 27 school districts, working with The Consortium for School Networking, will work toward establishing a nationwide set of standards around student privacy. The end result will be known as the Trusted Learning Environment Seal that public schools can adopt to assure the community that their student’s data is protected.

The consortium is a professional association for district technology leaders.

“Our families and staff need to be able to trust the institutions, including ours, that have access to their data,” said Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee in a statement. “In the context of student and staff information, it is especially important to ensure the protection of personally identifiable information.”

Student’s personal data being shared with agencies outside the districts, for profit, has been a concern of parents and advocacy groups. Earlier this year, a bill that would have regulated more tightly how student data can be shared was killed at the General Assembly.

Jeffco’s participation in the consortium is a reaction to the public outcry prompted from a previous endeavor.

Student’s personal data being shared with agencies outside the districts, for profit, has been a concern of parents and advocacy groups. Earlier this year a bill that would have regulated more tightly how student data can be shared was killed.

Jeffco’s participation in the consortium is in part a reaction to the public outcry prompted from a previous endeavor.

In 2013, the suburban school district was a member of the student data pilot program known as InBloom, which was backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

InBloom was a cloud-based service that tracked a variety of student data, kept them on a central dashboard, and could be accessed by teachers. Some critics of the program said it was too invasive. The district, facing public outcry, eventually opted out of the program. And InBloom was shuttered quickly thereafter nationwide.

Jeremy Felker, director of instructional data reporting, said Jeffco was asked to participate in the consortium because of data security measures the district developed after leaving the InBloom program. The TLE Seal is not a cloud option for districts to securely store their data, but rather, a stamp of approval for taking precautions to protect student data.

Currently, Jeffco officials spend up to four weeks screening any software, free or paid for, for language that allows teachers and officials to share student information. The district has created a list of approved programs and cloud services.

“The TLE Seal is one more step in our process to ensure that Jeffco Public Schools is implementing best practices for protecting student and staff data,” said McMinimee.

At the end of the six months schools will be able to implement the TLE Seal to ensure the protection of their students’ data.

[Disclosure: Chalkbeat is a grantee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.]

 

talking SHSAT

Love or hate the specialized high school test, New York City students take the exam this weekend

PHOTO: Christina Veiga/Chalkbeat
At a town hall this summer in Brooklyn's District 15, parents protested city plans to overhaul admissions to elite specialized high schools.

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test has been both lauded as a fair measure for who gets accepted to the city’s most coveted high schools — and derided as the cause for starkly segregating them.

This weekend, the tense debate is likely to be far from the minds of thousands of students as they sit for the three-hour exam, which currently stands as the sole admissions criteria for vaunted schools such as Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech.

All the debate and all the policy stuff that’s been happening —  it’s just words and there really isn’t anything concrete that’s been put into place yet. So until it happens, they just continue on,” said Mahalia Watson, founder of the website Let’s Talk Schools, an online guide for parents navigating their school options.

Mayor Bill de Blasio this summer ignited a firestorm with a proposal to nix the SHSAT and instead offer admission to top middle school students across the city. Critics say the test is what segregates students, offering an advantage to families who can afford tutoring or simply are more aware of the importance of the exam. Only 10 percent of specialized high school students are black or Hispanic, compared to almost 70 percent of all students citywide.

For some, the uproar, coupled with a high profile lawsuit claiming Harvard University discriminates against Asian applicants, has only added to the pressure to get a seat at a specialized school. Asian students make up about 62 percent of enrollment at specialized high schools, and families from that community have lobbied hard to preserve the way students are admitted.

One Asian mother told Chalkbeat in an email that, while she believes in the need for programs that promote diversity, the SHSAT is “a color blind and unbiased” admissions measure. Her daughter has been studying with the help of test prep books, and now she wonders whether it will be enough.  

“In my opinion, options for a good competitive high school are very limited,” the mom wrote. “With all the recent news of the mayor trying to change the admission process to the specialized high schools and the Harvard lawsuit makes that more important for her to get acceptance.”

Last year, 28,000 students took the SHSAT, and only 5,000 were offered admission. Among this year’s crop of hopeful students is Robert Mercier’s son, an eighth grader with his sights set on High School of American Studies at Lehman College.

Mercier has encouraged his son to study for the test — even while hoping that the admissions system will eventually change. His son plays catcher on a baseball team and is an avid debater at school, activities that Mercier said are important for a well-rounded student and should be factored into admissions decisions.

“If you don’t do well on that one test but you’ve been a great student your whole career,” Mercier said, “I just don’t think that’s fair and I don’t think that’s necessarily a complete assessment of a student’s abilities or worth.”

Teacher's tale

Video: This Detroit teacher explains how she uses her classroom to ‘start a real loud revolution’

Silver Danielle Moore, a teacher at the Detroit Leadership Academy, tells her story at the Tale the Teacher storytelling event on October 6, 2018.

Silver Danielle Moore doesn’t just see teaching as way to pass along information to students. She views teaching as a way to bring about change.

“The work of us as educators is to start a real loud revolution,” Moore told the audience this month at a teacher storytelling event co-sponsored by Chalkbeat. “The revolution will not happen without resistance, and social justice classrooms are the instruments of that resistance.”

Moore, a teacher at the Detroit Leadership Academy charter school, was one of four Detroit educators who told their stories on stage at the Tale the Teacher event held at the Lyft Lounge at MusicTown Detroit on October 6.

The event, organized by Western International High School counselor Joy Mohammed, raised about $120 that Mohammed said she used to buy a laptop for a student who needed it to participate on the school’s yearbook staff.

Over the next few weeks, Chalkbeat will be posting videos of the stories told at the event.

Moore, a self-proclaimed “black hip-hop Jesus feminist” opened her story with a memory of leaving a teacher training session four years ago to travel to Ferguson, Missouri, to be part of Labor Day weekend protests after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by a police officer.

“There was so much grief but also so much fight in that place,” she recalled. “I will never forget the moment I stood at the place that Mike Brown was killed. I will never forget the look in his mother’s face.”

She recalled bringing that experience back to Detroit and to her classroom.

“Imagine, after that weekend, returning back to the classroom on September 2nd,” she said. “I fought that weekend for Mike Brown … but I also did it for the 66 kids I would have that school year and every child I have had since then.”

Watch Moore’s full story here:

Video by Colin Maloney

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