Who Is In Charge

Privacy concerns, federal involvement dominate data security discussion

Local control and privacy concerns came head to head during the State Board of Education’s discussion of student data collection and security Thursday.

Board members praised the Colorado Department of Education (CDE)’s data policies but also raised concerns over the level of oversight at the district-level.

“I’m confident about the state level,” said board president Paul Lundeen. But district breaches, he said, were worrying.

But officials said their ability to change district practice was limited by district autonomy.

“Despite what some people think, we’re still a very local control state,” said Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond. He raised the possibility of legislation that would mandate districts to abide by stricter data use and public reporting policies, like one recently adopted in Oklahoma.

That idea received a warm reception from other boardmembers.

“My sense is there’s so much slippage we would benefit from a law like Oklahoma,” said member Debora Scheffel.

Scheffel also sparked a more tense debate over data reporting to the federal government.

Scheffel said she had heard from parents concerned that a 2008 loosening of federal reporting restrictions and the coming PARCC tests would open the door for more access of student level data by the federal government.

“CDE provides no student-level data to the federal government,” asserted Dan Domagala, the department’s chief information officer.

When Scheffel pressed, member Elaine Gantz Berman jumped in.

“You are speaking like you know the facts,” Berman said. “We need the facts.”

But Scheffel continued to press department officials, raising concerns about the safety of data used to do internal analyses, which are often conducted by third part vendors.

“[Vendors] don’t have the right to use data for other purposes” once they have completed their research, clarified Kady Lanoha, who is a senior policy associate for CDE.

Besides, added officials, that data does not have student names attached.

“No one’s going to show up at your door looking for Suzy,” said member Angelika Schroeder, who expressed irritation at privacy concerns related to PARCC.

But student names and parental control over student data remained a concern for Scheffels.

“If a parent wanted to know what was stored in a database, how they go about that?” she asked. “If they wanted to expunge [the record], how would they go about that?”

Officials said much of that was in the hands of districts, as the state did not log parental data and would be unable to make the connection between parent and student.

But Domagala suggested they could clarify the process for parents, adding it to their district guidelines web page and to their parent resources page.

Lundeen also urged state officials to think “down the road and around the corner” about privacy issues. He and other board members raised concerns about teachers’ use of apps and personal devices to support instruction and assess students.

He said the problem would come from “entrepreneurial educators,” who he praised.

“When people are trying to do the right thing, how do we protect them?” said Lundeen.

Lundeen urged department officials to provide clearer guidance to districts and teachers.

“Downloading apps for the benefit of your students may have benefits,” he said. But the guidelines should “at least make them stop and think.”

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.