The Jeffco school board voted unanimously last Thursday night to scrap plans to test and implement the inBloom system for storing student information.
“It was such a great sense of relief to hear that our voice was heard and that our concerns were recognized,” said Jeffco parent Rachael Stickland.
The district's controversial plan to test the system was a prominent issue in the campaign for the Nov. 5 school board election, in which three conservative candidates won seats on the five-member board.
The district had been planning to pilot inBloom, which would have stored and centralized student data in a “cloud”-based system. Teachers would use that centralized information to make data management easier — giving teachers more time to teach.
The vote to abandon inBloom, by the existing board, also came shortly after longtime schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson announced plans to retire at the end of the school year. Stevenson’s last day will be June 30, 2014.
Although ties with inBloom have been cut, the school board remains focused on delivering a “classroom dashboard” for teachers but will search for alternative data-storage options.
“The dashboard will help teachers identify where students need extra help and which children need more challenging material,” school board President Lesley Dahlkemper said. “It provides a wealth of resources for teachers to engage students and their different learning styles.”
Listening to the community
“InBloom has some great things to offer,” board member Jill Fellman said after last Thursday’s meeting. “But it’s dividing our community, and that’s not what we want.”
Parents started voicing concerns about inBloom and the security of student data after a presentation to the school board in March.
“It was entirely unexpected of the current board to vote to sever ties with inBloom,” Stickland said. “I’m obviously pleased the board responded to the legitimate concerns of the community.”
Stickland started the website www.schoolbelongstothechildren.org and an online petition in March asking the district to end its relationship with inBloom.
In September, Stevenson announced that parents would be able to opt out of inBloom if they didn’t feel comfortable with student data being stored in the cloud.
“I think, for members of our community, there were concerns about placing student achievement data on a … server other than a district server,” Dahlkemper said. “We felt it was important to listen to our community.”
The board’s unanimous vote brought a quick death to a program the district had been working on extensively. In 2011, the state Department of Education approached Jeffco about piloting inBloom, and Jeffco staff decided in February 2012 to move forward with the pilot and gave a presentation to the school board in March.
In June, Stevenson created a Data Management Advisory Council to make a recommendation on whether or not to move forward with the inBloom pilot. The council was made up of parents, teachers, district employees and representatives of Jeffco’s business community.
The council had one last meeting scheduled this month before it was to make its final recommendation. The district was also weeks away from releasing what information it planned to store in inBloom.
“I think it was an appropriate decision (to cancel inBloom),” Dahlkemper said. “I think that as we work with the new board, we can talk about what lies ahead in terms of advances in technology. (And) we want to make sure we engage the community every step of the way.”
A watchful eye
During the election campaign, the three newly elected school board members all had said they were opposed to storing student data in the inBloom cloud, but parents will be watching this new board closely as well.
“I’ll continue to hold the new board as accountable as the previous board,” Stickland said. “Every parent should be aware and vigilant when it comes to protecting our student data.”
Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1042. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.