ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Many of the computers, servers and mobile devices used by the Minnesota Department of Education to transfer billions of dollars in state aid to schools and to store sensitive student data would be easy pickings for hackers, according to a report from a state auditor.
StarTribune.com reports the “legislative auditor” discovered the education department’s “mammoth computer systems … lacked ‘adequate internal controls’ and comprehensive security plans” and that bureaucrats “had failed to document where private (student) data was held or the internal controls needed to secure it.”
The news site notes that the information technology audit was preventative in nature; there is no indication of a security breach on the government computers.
Education Department spokesman Josh Collins described the findings as “very concerning” and said the state will correct the problems.
“The security of student data is very important to us,” Collins told StarTribune.com.
MN.IT official Cathy de Moll said education department officials “do security checks on 30,000 computers a day. We’re watching all the time for attacks and breaches, protecting our systems from being brought down.”
Minnesota parents should hope the educrats are serious about tightening up security. It appears state schools have already begun collecting scads of academic and personal data on their students and storing them on longitudinal data systems.
Most other states are collecting – or will soon begin collecting – information on their students, too.
The idea is that schools can use the data to track each student’s progress – his academic strengths and weaknesses – and create personalized learning experiences, with the help of emerging K-12 learning technology.
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To be clear, the data collection is not being done by the federal government, and it’s not required under the new Common Core learning standards.
However, the federal government is helping facilitate schools’ data sweep by using 2009 stimulus funds to help states build the longitudinal data systems that will track students’ progress from kindergarten through college.
And some also believe a major reason the federal government is nudging states into the Common Core is so all of the nation’s K-12 students will be studying the same things at the same time. This uniformity will allow technology companies to create learning software that schools in Common Core-aligned states can use to personalize the learning process for students.
Proponents of this master plan believe it will revolutionize public education.
A growing number of Americans, however, find this grand education plan to be very frightening, as the potential for abuse and misuse of personal data is very high.
This story of Minnesota’s lax and chaotic computer labs only adds to those concerns.
The takeaway from all this is that Americans might not be able to stop the government’s data-collecting ways, but at the very least, they can demand their state uses top-notch security programs and practices.