Sunday, May 04, 2014

Seattle Schools Updates

Update:  it seems that despite the fact the ConnectEdu has declared bankruptcy last week, they may trying to forge on.  I will ask about the contract that SPS has with this organization and the SPS student data they have.

End of update.

The district recognized some Nutrition Services staff as part of School Lunch Super Hero Day.  This week is School Nutrition Week so thank a kitchen staff member for watching out for students at your school.

It is also PTA Teacher Appreciation week so please do thank your child's teacher for their hard work.  May 6th is National Teacher Day. 

It is also Choose Privacy Week as observed by the American Library Association.   It's a time for discussion about "privacy rights in the digital age."  Something for everyone to think about considering the district has is using ConnectEdu and havd kids sign up WITHOUT previously explaining to parents what it is and what student information is being put into the online sign-up form.

The district calls the sign-up "a district mandate."

I would like to see where a child has to enrolled in this program or face consequences.  I doubt it.

Apparently your child is asked for race (which I believe is not technically legal under FERPA) as well as other items.  It asks for the student to okay to sharing info with businesses which seems wrong to me.

To note, children who are 13 (the age of most children entering eighth grade) are one year past the age where the Children's Online Privacy Act (COPPA) prevents them from entering their full name, email, phone number, etc. about themselves online.

Also, from Ed Week:
There can be "metadata" collected on students via digital devices and online learning programs, which can include keystroke information, the time and place at which a device or program is being used, the type of device on which the service is being accessed, and more.

Under some circumstances, such metadata are not protected under FERPA and may thus eligible to be used for data-mining and other non-educational purposes.

One parent asked about deleting the account and the district had to really jump thru some hoops to figure out how to do it.  You might ask your child if he/she signed up for this program.  The district sent home, after the fact, a family flyer on this program.

Of course, they are Gates-backed to the tune of $500K and that was "to develop an online teaching and learning platform to improve students' literacy skills in the Common Core standards). And I see they just filed for bankruptcy protection last Friday.  They terminated all but 10 of their 65 employees on Friday.

So maybe this particular program will go away but be vigilant in making sure your child does NOT input information into any school computer beyond their name and grade without your knowledge. 

The district is still soliciting members for its School Family Partnerships Task Force.  The deadline is May 12nd.

Seattle Schools was named one of the top ten school districts for school lunches by The Daily Meal.
They used a great photo of a school interior by Joe Wolf but I don't recognize the school.

The district is also doing sign-ups for Kindergarten Jump Start which is a week of activities from August 18-22 to get kindergarteners and their families ready for the big day. 

The district is still looking for Special Ed parents to take a survey on the Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (CCAP).   The deadline is May 13th.

As well on May 13th, there is an informational meeting on the Wilson-Pacific BEX project at 6:30 pm.   More on this to come but this continues to look like one of the worst capital building mistakes in SPS history.


Anonymous said...

I think the correct amount of the Gates grant to ConnectEdu was $500,000, not $500M.

Maybe I am naive, but I had not heard of a foundation making a "grant" to a for-profit corporation. An interesting form of micromanagement of the economy. Hopefully they can't do it with tax-deductible funds... maybe the foundation maintains a taxable fund also?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you for that correction; it was $500k.

As for the grant, the Gates Foundation will fund just about anything.

mirmac1 said...

Thank you for this Melissa. Basically all a student has to do is enter their Student number, then enter a Gmail email address. (That is their "Login for Life.") Then all their Powerschools data will be exported to the ConnectEdu databases overnight. By then, it is out of the district's control - and the parents'.

mirmac1 said...

"The 12-year-old education-technology company ConnectEDU filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday and dismissed some 55 of its 65 or so employees, the Boston website BostInno reported.

ConnectEDU was best known for its online database of student information that it hoped would help colleges recruit students. But it had other ambitions as well, and as recently as last September it received a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an online-learning platform tied to the Common Core State Standards. The company’s bankruptcy filing said its assets totaled between $1-million and $10-million, while liabilities amounted to between $10-million and $50-million.

The company said in a news release that it hopes to reorganize and keep at least part of its business alive"

I'l bet that giant database of student information will be an attractive asset to sell....

syd said...

Are they freaking kidding? If Seattle is included in 10 best school district lunch program, then we are in a sorry state as a nation. What is being served in not fresh and is very processed.

Sidwell, really?

"Brazilian delicacies like feijoada, caldo verde soup, all-natural chicken with coconut milk, and mango and pineapple with lime and mint. There’s a soup every day, like borscht, creamy spinach soup or Tuscan white bean, and creative dishes like the Creole caprese salad or hot and sour Cajun gumbo served on “Fat Tuesday.”

That is not what children eating school lunch in Seattle are getting.

Is that image a stock photo or a real Seattle school?

Charlie Mas said...

The student information is an asset of the bankrupt company and it will be sold by the Bankruptcy Court. There won't be any meaningful control over who buys it or what they do with it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I don't know Syd...the lunches at my kid's school look pretty great. Fresh salads, etc. And kids seemed to be eating them. A huge improvement from when I was in public school decades ago. Now if they only had time to stand in line and eat the food...

Lincoln Parent

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Melissa Westbrook said...

Syd, it has a Joe Wolf credit so I assume it's SPS.

ben said...

When it comes to nutrition and school lunches what would help my kids the most would be an adequate amount time to eat. It doesn't matter how good the lunches are or are not when they simply can't be finished. I now have encountered the 2nd school with a 15 minute lunch period. Here's one case where a district mandate of a minimum amount of time would be useful.

dw said...

Charlie said: The student information is an asset of the bankrupt company and it will be sold by the Bankruptcy Court. There won't be any meaningful control over who buys it or what they do with it.

Are you quite sure about this? If confidentiality contracts exist, do they not continue to hold if and after a company dissolves? At the very least, the buyer of assets is usually legally held to confidentiality terms in the original contracts, though that gives me little comfort.

Is there precedent for a company with lots of personal data of children going bankrupt and selling the kids' data as or after they went under? Student data collection on a large scale is a relatively new field, so it wouldn't surprise me if this hasn't happened yet, but I do suspect similar things have happened in other areas where personal data is at stake, like medical records. What happens when a small medical practice goes bankrupt? One would expect in that case that a new practice might come in and try to buy the client base, but that's not the case with student data, since it's mostly hidden away from the owners of the data, used for other purposes. It's not like the students or parents have any control or say in the matter.

This is both happy news (I don't like that company) and troubling news (we don't know what will happen with all that kid data.

mirmac1 said...


"Perhaps the most important thing you can do up front to protect yourself is to do your due diligence. Make sure you use a well-known, established, financially strong provider. You should also look into the strength of other indirect providers in the chain and learn what protections the direct cloud provider has in light of the contingencies mentioned above. Furthermore, it would be wise to address in your cloud provider agreement steps for protecting yourself in case of bankruptcy.

One of the more significant issues that could arise is whether or not your data is part of the Estate and therefore not yours to obtain/recover. Accordingly, it is critical that your agreement with the cloud provider make it absolutely clear that you own all data and information provided by or obtained from you and that the cloud provider has no legal or equitable interest in, or claim to, such data and information. It is useful as well to have, in addition to the foregoing, the cloud provider acknowledge that such data and information will not be considered by the cloud provider to be part of its bankruptcy estate. Additionally, it would be useful to require the cloud provider to agree to notify you immediately of any determination that it makes to file for bankruptcy protection, and to turn over to you before such filing a copy of all of your data in a medium that can be easily used by you."


Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, several years back I tracked all the lunch hours in the district. Astonishing. Garfield used to have a 40 minute lunch! But there was not a single 15-minute one and I agree, not good.

(I was watching Anthony Bourdain's travel show and he was in France. He went to a French public elementary school. Yes, they have a cook. Yes, they eat at tables and chairs. Yes, they have freshly made food.)