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Parents, School Leaders Have Little Control Over Student Data Mining

The ed tech startup Knewton has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students

By monitoring children's mouse clicks, keystrokes and other data, edtech companies aim to determine not only what individual kids know, but also how they think. Private-sector data mining has exploded, particularly in education, said Stephanie Simon, reporting for

The goal is to identify potential problems early and to help kids surmount them. But the data also are highly vulnerable to being shared, sold or mined for profit. Parents are growing increasingly wary, and school administrators are often in the dark, too. When they try to ask pointed questions of ed tech companies, they don’t always get clear answers.

The 1974 Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) actually gives school districts the right to share students’ personal information with private companies to further educational goals. Companies are supposed to keep standardized test scores, disciplinary history and other official student records confidential. But the law did not anticipate the explosion in online learning.

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