Keshia Clukey

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State database to track student information

Posted by keshiaclukey on May 9, 2013 at 7:35 PM

State database to track student information


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Family income. Test results. Race.

This fall, such student characteristics will be collected from districts statewide in the state Education Department's Education Data Portal.

The portal will be available to sixth- through 12th-grade students, parents, educators and those authorized by the district.

Having a database on the state's nearly 3 million students might sound like Big Brother to some, but experts say it will save money and help improve education and data security.

"We see it as a benefit," said Al Marlin, state School Boards Association communication manager. "It's going to move forward student achievement. The plan that the state Education Department has in place should help the student, teacher and parent."

Data already is being collected by school districts, Marlin said. It includes standardized test scores, enrollment information, program participation and student demographics such as wealth and race. It does not include Social Security numbers; instead each student is given an identification number.

Misty Fuller, who has three children in the Utica City School District, likes the idea, especially gaining access to her students' grades, missed homework assignments and the ability to contact teachers through the parent dashboard.

She does, however, worry if nonparents could access the information.

"I think any parent would be curious of exactly who can access it and what information would be given freely."

The cost: $100M

New York is one of six states that's testing the portal this year.

The nearly $100 million funding for the portal, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. of New York, will last until 2014.

The portal is being hosted by the nonprofit organization inBloom Inc., which essentially is storing the data for the state, said inBloom spokeswoman Genevieve Haas.

The records are owned and controlled by the districts and only they can decide who has access to student data and for what purposes.

If data were to be breached, an encryption technology would render the data unreadable, according to the inBloom website.

"It'll be more secure with the state," said Mark Vivacqua, Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES district superintendent.

The state expects the portal to improve instruction, student learning, and college and career readiness, according to a March memo from Ken Wagner, associate commissioner of Curriculum, Assessment and Educational Technology.

Jamie McNair, a teacher, who has a kindergartner in the New Hartford Central School District, said it makes sense for teachers to have the data.

"I'm 100 percent comfortable with those professionals using that data to enhance the curricular instruction for the kids in that room," McNair said. "My concerns may be more with the quantity of data, who's receiving that data and the uncertainty of what a third party might use that for.

"Beyond the classroom teacher, from my perspective, the data has diminishing returns in terms of its value to really help a student perform any better," McNair said.

The future

Many districts, such as Utica, already have a data portal, though the statewide system would have expanded services such as the student and parent access.

"I think there'd be more consistency, accuracy, accountability and reliability," said Lori Eccleston, district director of curriculum and instruction, about the state portal.

The state hopes to procure federal Race to the Top funds to continue the program through 2015, after which districts can decide whether to continue with it.

The database would cost an estimated $2 to $5 per student annually, Haas said.

In a district such as Utica, with more than 11,800 students, continuing with the database would cost more than $59,000 per year.

District Superintendent Bruce Karam said the cost will be taken into consideration.

"We're hoping that it will be funded by the state," he said. "These are very bad economic times right now and we can't afford additional costs on anything."

Education Data Portal breakdown

*In the fall, New York will launch its Education Data Portal, a database of student educational data such as standardized test scores, enrollment numbers, program participation, and student demographics such as wealth and race. It does not include Social Security numbers.

*The portal will be accessible to educators in fall, and to sixth- through 12th-grade students and parents by spring. Any third-parties must be approved by the district. It is being run through inBloom Inc., a nonprofit organization.

*The database will support improved instruction, student learning and college and career readiness for students. It is expected to create more standardized information statewide, to be more secure than current systems and to save money to districts.

*It was piloted this year in six states, including New York where it was launched in New York City. The $100 million implementation is funded until 2014 through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

*It is expected to be funded for the 2014-15 school year in New York through the federal Race to the Top grant. Districts are not required to continue the program after summer 2015. The portal is expected to cost between $2 and $5 per student.

*For information, visit

Source: New York State Education Department; Genevieve Hass, inBloom Inc. spokeswoman

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