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Preserving privacy




Response to the Feb. 16 post “What Philly should know about creating successful community schools,” by Mark Duffy and Della Jenkins.

I hope a robust discussion about the rights of students and their families to privacy and security of their data goes hand-in-hand with any development of the community school model. While proponents of community school partnerships will advocate for wide sharing of personal information to inform data-driven decision-making, and possibly to determine return on investment, if Pay for Success or Social Impact Bonds are used to start these initiatives, there are many dangers inherent in creating extensive dossiers on children and families that aggregate academic, directory, health, mental health, and non-cognitive measures like grit, resilience, and growth mindsets in one place.

Sure, compiling all this data will be touted as being in a child’s best interests, but the flip side is that it could also easily become a profiling document, a “permanent record,” where seemingly inconsequential actions by young children limit their future options in the workforce development pipeline.

This issue has already arisen with the United Way’s “Promise Partners” community schools program in the Salt Lake City area. There, they have a campaign to encourage parents to waive FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) rights for their children to allow unencumbered data-sharing from school to partners, partners to schools, and even among the 50 or so partner groups that include everyone from the local chamber of commerce to mental health and religious organizations. This is a problem.


Alison McDowell
The writer is a parent of a Philadelphia public school student and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

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