May 282015
 
 May 28, 2015  U.S., Youth & Schools

Kate Ramunni reports:

Hamden school officials are coming under fire for sharing information about students with a firm hired to assess the district’s performance and finances, with critics saying parents should have known what would be detailed about their children.

The firm, however, calls the claims “false and inflammatory.”

The Connecticut Education Association lashed out Thursday at Hamden administrators for sharing the information with the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, which was hired to do an assessment of student achievement and the district’s finances.

Read more on The New Haven Register.

Is the CEA legitimately concerned in this case, or are they using this to push an agenda to get a state student data privacy law – or both?  The CCER’s statement to the reporter should be considered carefully:

“CCER does not and has never collected personally identifiable student data from public school districts. We have no interest in that level of data, and we would never seek to profit off of the free services that we provide to districts. The data that we collected from Hamden was both anonymous and subject to a confidentiality clause. It neither contains identifiable student data nor is something that we could sell to a third party,” he said. “The reason that we collected this anonymous information was to provide a free service to Hamden. We helped the district to compare the way it allocates its resources with the way other districts do so, in an effort to improve efficiency. We spent about $100,000 on this project because we care deeply about Hamden’s students, and we want to help all Connecticut districts to improve.”

The one question that comes to my mind immediately is whether these “anonymized” data could be re-identified.  According to a CEA spokesperson, the information shared with CCER included:

“unique student identifiers such as students with disabilities, designations as to whether the student has an individualized education program (IEP), English learners, indications when services began and ended, students’ preferred language and native language,” Waxenberg said, “and the one of most concern is whether they are eligible for free or reduced price (lunch), if they’re homeless, and their ethnicity.”

According to NeighborhoodScout.com, Hamden Public Schools has 5,836 students enrolled in their schools.

Update: More on the controversy here.

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