Kids’ grades, behavior, medical issues, and more—with their names and social security numbers attached—will be tracked by their public schools, entered in a database, and sold to private companies, in the name of improving educational services, Reuters reports:
The most influential new product [at the SXSWedu conference this week in Austin] may be a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.
In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.
Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services. Entrepreneurs can’t wait. “This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.
The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.
So far, seven states – Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts – have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.
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