When there are less than 10 students who are proficient in a particular subject area, Baltimore City Schools will no longer give the exact percentage that is proficient. Previously the school system indicated there were 13 Baltimore high schools with zero students proficient in math or English. If one was aware a particular student attended one of those schools, it would be apparent that the particular student was not proficient. At the very least, this is a privacy concern. However, it also likely rises to the level of a FERPA violation.
The school claims there is more to the issue. However, due to “data privacy reasons” the school is unable to release any details that would either vindicate their actions, or give more information about the incident. Here is a link to the message the principal sent to families about the social media posts and the incident. In the letter the principal states that no students are barred from using any restroom at the school.
There are videos of the incident in each of the CBS articles.
GeekWire’s review of the showroom at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Chicago (June, 2018) includes five hurdles to more digital media adoption by schools. Even though privacy is one of the five, there are privacy concerns in each of the other four hurdles.
- Equity – Not all students have access to computers or connected devices at home to help with homework and research. School systems that supply devices must often balance monitoring for genuine concerns and threats (Can you imagine the outrage if bullying leading to suicide occurred on 1:1 device, but the school system didn’t monitor the device?) with driving students away from using devices because of privacy concerns.
- Infrastructure – The article points out that many schools lack the infrastructure to support digital media consumption in the classroom. Quick or cheap fixes to infrastructure result in security concerns, which results in privacy concerns.
- Training – The article also mentions that training on implementation of ed tech is often not provided at either post-secondary institutions or in the school districts that have purchased ed tech. When teachers are not properly trained, they risk accidentally releasing sensitive student data. 95% of all data breaches are the result of human error.
- Interoperability – For data that is generated by different ed tech providers to truly be useful, educators need to track both the little picture (How does this ed tech measure a student’s ability to spatially visualize a coordinate pair?) and the big picture (What is the relationship between this particular student’s mastery of spatial visualization and his or her understanding of algorithmic functions?). Often there is even a bigger picture (What does this student’s mastery of six mathematics concepts and eight language concepts suggest about the best approach to educate the student?). Interoperability seeks to connect the data output of various ed tech providers so that it is easier to make the bigger picture connections. When large databases are created, there is inherent risk: unauthorized access, data theft, and unintentional releases of data are a few to think about. Are the benefits of interoperability balanced with the risks that are created?
Another article by an ISTE attender proudly proclaimed that ed tech, as we know it, is dead. Policymakers must encourage proper guardrails be placed around all ed tech, including digital media, to ensure that ed tech is servicing the needs of students and keeping students’ personal information private.