Chicago Schools Turn Down inBloom Partnership

By Ben Kamisar — November 27, 2013 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the Marketplace K-12 blog.

The student-data management provider inBloom lost another potential client this week as the Chicago public school system, the third-largest school district in the country, plans to move ahead on its student data efforts without any third-party assistance.

As was first reported in the Chicago Sun Times, Becky Carroll, the chief communications officer for Chicago Public Schools, said that the 404,000-student system will not use inBloom as it moves to put in place the Illinois Shared Learning Environment, an online platform designed to streamline the use of student data.

In an interview with Education Week, Carroll said that the decision was not an indictment of inBloom, but instead an understanding that the third-largest school district in the nation had the capacity to do the work on its own.

Chicago school officials had been considering whether a third-party would be needed to help implement the online portal. But Carroll said the Illinois state board of education recently gave districts the choice of whether to partner with inBloom. The Chicago district, having not yet made a formal commitment, subsequently decided not use the data provider.

“For some districts, especially small- or mid-size districts, the services inBloom provides might work very well for them,” Carroll said. “In our case, we have an IT department and a department of accountability that has the resources and staffing to execute this.”

The education nonprofit, which school districts can hire to help store and manage student data, has seen a number of defections over the past year, as administrators and parents raised concerns about privacy and the sharing student data with third parties.

InBloom has been touted as a bold new approach for digitizing student data, and it was initially launched with partnerships with nine states and $100 million in grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, a string of dropouts has left inBloom with just two states as clients, Illinois and New York. In New York, an ongoing lawsuit seeks to block the state’s partnership with inBloom. That legal challenge, coupled with the news about the Chicago school district’s decision, would appear to have created a new level of uncertainty about the inBloom’s presence in those states.

Earlier this month, the Jefferson County, Colo. school board voted to divest of its partnership with inBloom. Lesley Dahlkemper, the district board of education president, told Education Week that many parents felt anxious about giving a third party access to their children’s data.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.