Student Data: Protect Your Child's Data

 Update: so there is definitely something amiss here.

One, the FTC had made ConnectEdu promise NOT to sell off student data assets and yet that appears to be what happened.  Only the new company, Graduation Alliance, may have gotten away with it because they seem to have bought the entire ConnectEdu and so got bit just the data but the entire company. 

Two, I asked SPS a number of questions but only got this reply:

Thanks (sic) you for bringing this to our attention. We are working with the new company to resolve this quickly and ask them to comply by not selling the information.
Well, I don't think the company is selling the information but they surely bought it up and did NOT return it to the district as was promised.  From a thread in June 2014 from KUOW:

After learning that the company had filed for bankruptcy and was looking to sell, Rahm said the district tried to end its contract with ConnectEDU and have all student data on the site deleted.
The company’s lawyers refused, citing bankruptcy protections.


A ConnectEDU attorney has promised Seattle Public Schools that any company that buys the student data will have a privacy policy at least as strong as the original.

Still, the FTC said such a sale would likely be illegal unless the 20 million students nationwide with data on the ConnectEDU are first notified and allowed to remove their personally identifiable information from the site. 

I think the district either knew that the data had not been returned to the district for the district to destroy OR they didn't know ConnectEdu was sold OR they did know but figured that the new company was offering kids the option to opt out (and that was good enough).

I found this at the Graduation Alliance press page:
Graduation Alliance, which partners with school districts across the United States to serve at-risk students, announced on Thursday it has acquired key assets from college and career planning company ConnectEDU

Kelly said privacy of student data will be a paramount consideration in the transition.

"We’ll be working proactively to give students who were engaged in ConnectEDU programs the opportunity to continue to build on those relationships or opt out," he said. "We’ll go above and beyond to make sure students understand that they have ownership of their personal information."

The statements below to students, that's "above and beyond?"

No, it's not.

End of update

HS Parent gave this info on another thread:

Did anyone else with a HS student receive this email today from ConnectEDU about a request to purge student's data?

"Thank your for using the Connect! service. On July 2nd 2014, the technology which powers Connect! was purchased by Graduation Alliance from ConnectEDU. Graduation Alliance is excited to support the excellent college and career planning resources you've come to expect, and we're committed to managing your information in accordance with all FERPA, COPPA and PPRA guidelines.

Per the standard terms and conditions, we are required to provide all users of Connect! "reasonable notice" as well as "an opportunity to remove personally identifiable data from the service." 

Requesting your information be removed from Connect! is your right as a user, however it is important you understand requesting your information be purged will result in removal and destruction of all data currently associated with your account. Once purged, you will no longer have access to your account. Information such as resumes, career preferences, college recommendations, etc. will no longer be retrievable.

To request your information be removed from the system, you will need to visit the following web page and confirm your desire to expunge your account:

Remove my account

To remain an active user of Connect!, simply do nothing!

On behalf of everyone at Graduation Alliance, thank you for using Connect! We look forward to supporting the college and career planning of all current and future users.

Graduation Alliance"

If it were me, I'd tell my students to take their data off this group.  Why?

1) You, as a parent, should look at the website and know the questions your child is being asked before data is given away.
2) If you are satisfied that the questions are few and okay with you, your child can always sign up with this company.
3) Most kids who created a resume likely didn't do it at a website but in class.  They probably have a copy and it doesn't matter if it goes away on this site.
4) Send in a note to your child's teacher/teachers saying that you do NOT want your child signing up for anything on-line without you knowing about it and having the ability to review the site before the sign-up takes place.  Make sure your child knows this.

I'm sure that this company wants your child to  "simply do nothing!"

More food for thought from the Room for Debate section at the NY Times, discussing the issue of student data protection.  Unfortunately, the format precludes a longer discussion but it is interesting to contrast what the businesses say versus those trying to protect data.


mirmac1 said…
Good advice Melissa. Because once the data is on, it is a bear to have it removed.
Anonymous said…
More info on this email notice-
Emails were sent to both my student and to my email for two separate accounts, so if you want to clean out the data storage, you will need to do it from both accounts.
I was very surprised that it was so easy to do - you just hit the "Remove my account" button, and check the box on the next page & submit---no log ins with forgotten passwords, etc.
I agree with both Melissa & Mirmac- this is a good opportunity as it will not come around twice!

HS parent
mirmac1 said…
Good to hear. We had to wait 48 hours while it went through a overburdened technician at ConnectEDU.
mirmac1 said…
I take it that if: a parent/guardian has the email go to spam; they do not read English; they have no access to email; or, they have no idea about the amounts of data about to be handed over to some business (seriously, never heard of Graduation Alliance) then it's assumed they're in!
Anonymous said…
Just as we read about EduConnect, the majority of the board just enrolled children in low income schools into a data study.

Really Upset said…
Above comment was from me.

Really Upset, details please. Which study is this?
mirmac1 said…
It's the Data-sharing experimental study that has no demonstrative long-term benefit to SPS for the use of our most needy children as guinea pigs.
Really Upset said…

The board voted on this research project. tonight:

Director Peters voted NO and Patu abstained.

All other directors voted YES. Blanford was rather aggressive.

This research project falls under new FERPA laws. To hell with Duncan, Obama and Gates. Still, the majority of the board should have noted NO on this initiative.

The district will have to hire an individual for $87K.
So it's the Mathematica study; I had looked at that.

It includes Sand Point, Hazel Wolf K-8, Alki and Schmitz Park. Are they considered low-income schools?

When I see this kind of thing, it makes me tired. They use the word "data" 25 times.
Anonymous said…
@ mirmac1, that seems a bit extreme. "It's the Data-sharing experimental study that has no demonstrative long-term benefit to SPS for the use of our most needy children as guinea pigs."

While technically true that they aren't currently able to demonstrate the long-term benefit, that's the whole point of the research, right? Research is not inherently bad. Should we ban trials of investigational new drugs because we don't know for sure that they'll ultimately be effective?

The fact is, there are a lot of assessments done on most kids. As far as I can tell, most of that information is wasted in the classroom. Does it need to be? Could it actually be useful in guiding instruction? I don't know. The data are there--but not being used. It's possible that having someone help teachers and administrators understand how to actually use the data already available to them could have a positive impact.

I've worked with a lot of people over the years, people who blindly collect data but don't know how to use them to inform their thinking. It sounds like this research will provide coaching and technical assistance to some schools on how to use existing data. That professional development could be valuable. I didn't see anything in the study design about conducting new assessments specifically fort this purpose, either. While I have some concerns that the expectations and time burden on participating teachers is too high--and will likely result in an implementation that doesn't show great fidelity to the planned intervention--it's possible that some teachers may find value in getting assistance with how to interpret and use data to inform their teaching.

I agree, however, that district staff need to be very cautious about sharing student data. They won't be releasing student names, addresses, or SSNs. Student ID#s are probably fine, as these would be meaningless to anyone outside the district. DOB, however, is a bit messier. When we're talking about students at a particular school, a DOB is a pretty unique and personally identifiable number. There are other ways to provide general age data, and I think the district should have pushed back on this item (as they apparently did on FRL eligibility and disabilities).

Half Full
Anonymous said…
Is this just data for current students, or does it reach back further than that to kids who have graduated/left school and have become adults?

sandi k

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