InBloom calling it quits, and CEO cites New York “misunderstandings”

The controversial data storage nonprofit inBloom is shutting down, its CEO announced today, less than a month after state lawmakers officially ended New York’s partnership with the organization.

The inBloom system had been subject to intense criticism from some parents, district officials and lawmakers who expressed doubt that inBloom-collected data would be kept secure as it was passed back and forth between inBloom, districts and other third-party vendors. They also criticized the potential for districts to share that information with for-profit companies.

One year ago, multiple states had signed on to use inBloom, which the Gates Foundation funded to help states manage and use student data. But over time, many of them pulled out. By February, New York was among the only states planning to use the system fully.

But opposition kept mounting. State lawmakers called for delaying the partnership indefinitely in February. In March, a panel tasked with developing suggestions for improving the rollout of the Common Core standards called for New York to halt its partnership, calling it a distraction.

The state budget deal, which included language requiring the state to end its relationship with inBloom, was the last blow to one of inBloom’s final partnerships.

InBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger called that legislation a result of “misunderstandings” of inBloom, which he called “a technical solution that has never been seen before.”

Class Size Matters’ Leonie Haimson, who helped lead the fight against inBloom, took issue with that characterization.

“The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”,  but inBloom‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved,” she said in a statement.

Here is Streichenberger’s full statement:

Friends and colleagues: In 2011, an alliance of educators and state leaders, non-profit foundations, and instructional content and tool providers formed the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC). The vision of that group was simple: create a resource that allows teachers to get a more complete picture of student progress so they can individualize instruction while saving time, effort and precious resources. I signed on to the project in November 2012 to lead inBloom, the non-profit corporation that is the SLC’s successor. I joined because I passionately believe that technology has the potential to dramatically improve education. My belief in that mission is as strong today as it ever was. Students, teachers and parents deserve the best tools and resources available, and we cannot afford to wait. Over the last year, the incredibly talented team at inBloom has developed and launched a technical solution that addresses the complex challenges that teachers, educators and parents face when trying to best utilize the student data available to them. That solution can provide a high impact and cost-effective service to every school district across the country, enabling teachers to more easily tailor education to students’ individual learning needs. It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole. The use of technology to tailor instruction for individual students is still an emerging concept and inBloom provides a technical solution that has never been seen before. As a result, it has been the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism. In New York, these misunderstandings led to the recent passage of legislation severely restricting the education department from contracting with outside companies like inBloom for storing, organizing, or aggregating student data, even where those companies provide demonstrably more protection for privacy and security than the systems currently in use. We stepped up to the occasion and supported our partners with passion, but we have realized that this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated. Therefore, in full alignment with the inBloom Board of Directors and funders, I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months. It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning. I want to thank you for your partnership in our endeavors and look forward to speaking with many of you in the coming months. Kind regards, Iwan Streichenberger Chief Executive Officer