15 Sep 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by tinynewyorkkitchen
Patch Instagram photo by tinynewyorkkitchen
Patch Instagram photo by tinynewyorkkitchen

Pleasantville Schools Withdraw from Race to the Top

Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter said the district will return grant funds in favor of protecting student privacy.

Pleasantville Schools Withdraw from Race to the Top
Citing a desire to "protect student privacy," Pleasantville Union Free School District Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter said she thinks it's "a really big deal" that the Board of Education voted to withdraw from the federal Race to the Top program.

The district's Board voted on a resolution at Tuesday's meeting to return the $6,000 in grant funds—distributed over the course of four years—that would require Pleasantville to "comply with a number of New York State requirements, including participation in an electronic data portal—a data dashboard," according to a statement from the schools.

Most area parents, Fox-Alter said, "are very unaware" of the strings tied to the grant money.

In an interview with Patch Friday, Fox-Alter said the "data dashboard" would remotely host student information that ranges from academic programs to immunization records, disciplinary records and attendance.

"This dashboard has the potential to collect over 400 data elements that have been identified in the State Education Department’s data template dictionary," according to the statement.

Many of the student-tracking data is already collected—and protected—by the district, according to Fox-Alter.

"Pleasantville already has a password-protected system that provides student information to parents and protects student privacy; the data dashboard required by the State Education Department is both redundant and, through inclusion of personally identifiable information such as discipline flags, immunization shots, attendance, and more, could violate students’ privacy rights," the statement said.

Fox-Alter added other area school districts have taken similar measures in the name of protecting student privacy, including Hastings-on-Hudson, Mount Pleasant, Pocantico Hills, Pelham, Rye Neck and Hyde Park.

"The potential for data mining is staggering," Pleasantville's Superintendent added. "It is frightening that corporations such as Pearson and EScholar are involved in this data cloud and are forecasting great profit in the K-12 public education market."

The goal of the Board resolution, Fox-Alter explained, is to encourage New York State's Education Department "to stop and reflect on this."

In New York State, Race to the Top includes standardized curriculum models and assessments, including the Common Core.

On Monday, New York State Commissioner of Education Dr. John B. King, Jr. will be taking part a forum about Common Core and related topics at Port Chester Middle School. Pleasantville UFSD is encouraging residents to attend and take part in the public comment portion of the forum.

"The fact that our board adopted the resolution—that's a really big deal," Fox-Alter said. "It's about protecting student privacy."

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