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Head in the cloud

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The opposition mounted by local school districts against using a single system to store and access student information is akin to them arguing with a stop sign.

All school districts in New York State will be linked next year to a database maintained by inBloom, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Information such as test scores, grades and attendance records will be stored on a cloud-based server, which is expected to go live in March.

But some local districts have raised questions over the security of the information. Others have said they have their own system and shouldn’t be compelled to join this network.

One big reason for local school districts to join the system is that participation is linked to federal funding through the Race to the Top program. New York State will collect and place student information from all districts on inBloom’s cloud system, whether or not the districts participate.

So not only will districts that opt out lose this federal funding, they won’t be able to access the student information that’s already stored on the cloud. And they’ll have to pay back any unused grant money from the Race to the Top program.

Some district officials may believe this to be unfair, but the fact is that the decision has already been made for them. The cloud is there, and student information from all districts will be stored on it. Why not join the party?

The security of computer-based information systems remains a concern of many people, and this situation is no exception. But how secure are such systems on the local level?

And if there is a breach, who would be in a better position to resolve the problem and enhance security: a local school district that’s having trouble balancing its budget every year or an organization backed by the considerable financial resources of Bill Gates’s foundation?

Officials at inBloom also believe they can offer teachers and administrators better tools to track student progress by standardizing the many incompatible systems operated by school districts. Schools also will have the full range of services offered by this pioneering organization including access portals for parents.

Local districts should accept that this is the wave of the future and move into it now. They’ll get a secure system, continued federal funding, cutting-edge educational tracking tools and peace of mind.

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