By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The growing controversy over the federal government’s collection of many Americans’ phone records for national security purposes could end up sinking a $100 million database designed to track the personal information of the nation’s K-12 students.
According to Reuters, “The database, funded mostly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is intended to track students from kindergarten through high school by storing myriad data points: test scores, learning disabilities, discipline records – even teacher assessments of a child’s character.”
The database is managed by the Gates-funded nonprofit organization known as inBloom Inc., Reuters reports.
Once collected, the data will be shared with educational technology companies that will design computer software that teachers can use in the classroom to personalize the learning process for students.
Reuters reports that public support for the new educational database – a key component of the new Common Core national learning standards initiative – has been dropping as more Americans learn about it.
Of the nine states that originally planned to use the inBloom database to store their student data, only three – New York, Illinois and Colorado – remain “active participants,” reports Reuters.
Officials in Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky and Delaware canceled plans to use the inBloom database, while leaders in Massachusetts and North Carolina “are still evaluating the project,” the news organization reports.
Those defections occurred even before the recent revelation that the government seized three months’ worth of phone records for Verizon customers, in the name of national security. As more Americans become concerned about their shrinking privacy rights, it’s quite possible support for inBloom and other education databases will erode even further.
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Regardless, President Barack Obama is pushing ConnectED, an initiative to expand the Internet capabilities of the nation’s K-12 schools. Improved Internet connectivity is essential for schools to implement the student databases.
Also, “the move to digitize classrooms comes just in time for states that are slated to implement assessments tied to the Common Core,” reports the Huffington Post.
Last Thursday, Obama announced that “over the next five years, we’re going to partner with private companies to put people to work laying fiber optic cables to our schools and setting up wireless connections in our schools with speeds 10 to 100 times faster than what most schools have today.”
While schools will have the infrastructure to support the databases, there’s no guarantee states will make use of the student databases.
According to Reuters, “inBloom is continuing to lose momentum.”
Perhaps the same could be said of the entire Common Core initiative.