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.]