Companies managing student data are coming under Congressional scrutiny

Controversy is growing over new services and tools that help schools manage, analyze and store the mounds of data they collect on students. In the latest development, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) yesterday sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, asking how closely the department has scrutinized the practices of data-centric companies and whether it has issued privacy protection guidelines.

First reported by The New York Times, he wrote that “putting the sensitive information of students in private hands raises a number of important questions about the privacy rights of parents and their children.”

Markey’s letter follows growing opposition from parents, educators and privacy advocates to student data programs like the Gates Foundation-backed InBloom non-profit and an effort from the non-profit Common Sense Media to create privacy safeguards.

While student data has the potential to personalize and improve instruction, it’s clear that the industry needs to make better efforts to communicate those benefits and assure parents and educators that it’s holding itself to a high bar for privacy.