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Student Data: Private Property or Shared Resource?

Louisiana parents gave the House and Senate education committees an earful last week.

“There seems to be no effective safeguard in law to protect our children’s information from the whim and will of BESE and LDE,” said Sara Wood of Mandeville.

She was talking about data privacy. Seven bills have been filed this session, each trying to prohibit how much individual information about Louisiana students is shared—and with whom.

This became an issue when it was revealed, in early 2013, that Louisiana Superintendent John White had signed onto the Shared Learning Collaborative, which later morphed into the InBloom project. The brainchild of the Gates Foundation and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, the idea was for multiple states to share each of their students’ personal information in a database, which would be used by the companies administering Common Core’s new on-line standardized tests. It could also be sold to private vendors of educational materials.

Parents, like Mandy Menard of Olla, in LaSalle Parish, went ballistic.

“They don’t need to know,” Menard said. “It’s none of their business, whatsoever!”

The story exploded, fueled by education bloggers and Twitter feeds. Parents called their school districts, districts called BESE, and--in April 2013—BESE called a meeting to air the issue.

The next day, Superintendent White announced Louisiana was withdrawing from InBloom, and that he had so notified them. Mainstream media carried the story widely.

Yet the day after White’s announcement, InBloom tweeted: ”Louisiana still part of InBloom community. Many inaccuracies in coverage.” No one knew who to believe.

Under Common Core, Louisiana students will still be required to upload personally identifiable information—birthdates, home addresses, social security numbers—in order to take the new high stakes tests. That has parents, like Ralph Roshto of Lacombe, still concerned about data privacy.

“If you want to expose the most personal details of your child’s identity and sell those details to who-knows-what organizations, for who knows what purposes, then sign your own children up,”

Roshto says. “But you won’t do it with our children.”

House and Senate education committees will resume hearings on the proposed privacy bills this week. The fate of these bills is being closely watched, to gauge the will of lawmakers regarding 17 other measures—bills designed to delay or halt implementation of Common Core.