i-SAFE Direct – Smart Schools, Smart Technology, Smart Choices

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Many educators are challenged to make a decision between traditional hardbound curriculum materials versus free resources that can be found online. As a society we continue to move towards a “unified classroom”. The influence of technology and ubiquitous Internet access is the number one leading influence as to why schools are substituting textbooks for online application tools. Coupled with the fact that school districts spend billions of dollars each year on textbooks. Switching to educational materials, that are openly licensed, enables schools to repurpose funding spent on static textbooks for other pressing education concerns, such as investing in the transition to digital learning (buying tablets, e-readers, chrome books and smartphones). The value propositions are easily comprehended, traditional textbooks are perpetually outdated, forcing districts to continually invest significant portions of their budgets on replacing them. Conversely, the terms of use associated with openly licensed educational resources essentially keep curriculum dynamic and also allow educators to maintain the quality and relevance of their materials through continuous updates. However, there is one critical lynchpin in this conversion from traditional curriculum books to online learning platforms – that is of course – reliable internet access and compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and Student Data Privacy Laws.

Districts across the nation are already adopting smart technologies. Familiar smart devices include ebooks, tablets, and interactive smartboards. Schools have rolled out programs like BYOD and 1:1 to provide students with mobile access to online educational resources. Adaptive learning technologies adjust to each students’ Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), and gathers student data on the back-end for teacher analysis. Online educational programs, online assessments, Student Information Systems (SIS), and Learning Management Systems (LMS) procure, store, share, and report student data which provides insights that enable educators and administrators to make ‘smarter’ decisions.

Open Educational Resources (OER), which are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials, that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose, do create a conundrum for schools in order to comply with CIPA and the ESSA Notice of Public Rule Making (NPRM) https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/09/06/2016-20989/title-i-improving-the-academic-achievement-of-the-disadvantaged-supplement-not-supplant

Student Data and Digital Technology Landscape

School districts and schools throughout the United States are required to collect data on their students such as grades, examination scores and attendance records. However the information that is collected on each child goes above and beyond just simple academic information. Schools also collect personal information on each child which include their sex, race/ethnicity, discipline issues, qualifications for free and reduced lunch, and even special education status. The collection of this data is legislatively mandated and it is also incredibly useful to educational agencies to foster students’ academic achievement. By identifying students’ talents and special requirements, monitoring their academic progress, and developing successful teaching and learning strategies, schools can foster equal opportunity educational development for all students.

Student Data Privacy is of critical importance in today’s society. As networked learning environments become increasingly prevalent, there is a growing need to assure students, parents, educators and policymakers that information about individual students, and their learning, is collected properly and used appropriately. Policymakers have come to realize the value of data in the education process. Data provides critical information about students and educator performance, as well as information about what is working, what might be improved and what information is needed to empower parents, educators and others who have a stake in the education process to help students succeed. In response to policymakers, schools are addressing a variety of issues related to student privacy, recognizing that participation in trusted online learning environments provides a variety of digital skills and competencies that now are basic to classroom performance, workforce readiness and full participation in civic life.

As schools adopt ‘smart’ technologies to augment education, administrators and IT leaders must also make smart decisions with regard to security, cost, and privacy. Here are three solutions:

  1. Secure student identity through i-SAFE Direct
  2. Reduced cost of high speed broadband by adopting CIPA/E-Rate Compliance Technology
  3. Obtain Verified Parental Consent with i-SAFE Direct VPC services
Education Identity Verification Background

i-Safe has been afforded the opportunity to work with thousands of school districts across the nation. We have spent a considerable amount of time working with school districts and their technology departments, as industry experts, assisting them to navigate between the myriad of education related technologies and student data privacy concerns. When a school district requests information about a Student Information Management System (SIS) or a new mobile application tool we find ourselves asking schools, “what student data is being shared, with whom is that data being shared and for what reason?” Commonly school administrators have no idea what data is being collected, who it is going to and the purpose of why it is being shared. The validation and process pertaining to the cycle of free-form sharing of data is under scrutiny. There are key pieces of legislation to assist in this process.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects personally identifiable information (PII) in students’ education records from unauthorized disclosure. It also affords parents the right to access their child's education records, the right to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records.

In addition to FERPA, the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) requires schools to directly notify parents who will participate in activities involving the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information from students for marketing purposes. It also requires schools to directly notify parents if information will be sold or otherwise provided to third parties for marketing purpose. PPRA applies to all K-12 schools that receive any federal funding from the Department of Education.

Navigating FERPA, PPRA and other privacy laws and regulations can be challenging. But more complicated is ensuring that a parent is in fact directly aligned or ‘bound’ with a child allowing full disclosure pertaining to parental consent of the ingestion as well as dissemination of their child’s data. This binding, for which FERPA and PPRA rely upon as the basis of the law, is in actuality a cornerstone issue schools are confronted with today in order to establish the validity of the parent/child relationship association in order to facilitate the requirements within both FERPA and PPRA.

Education Identity Verification Trust Framework Need

Education institutions have a legal and fiduciary duty to authenticate a parent as it pertains to who they say they are and ‘bind’ that parent and child together. School districts must “unequivocally" be in a position to trust identities – not only to validate users but also their suitability and authorization for access to applications and data – in order to operate in an ecosystem of a “trustworthy environment.”

i-SAFE has worked with a number of school districts in order to conduct pilot evaluations associated with parental identity verifications and has discovered striking information.

  • 15% of parental identities, within a school’s student information management system, is inaccurate.
  • 8% of parent/child relationships, within a student information management system, are wrong.

These results are very distributing to schools not only because identity verifications and binding is associated with FERPA and PPRA legislative mandates but also because identity verification and binding is the cornerstone for emergency management contact requirements. Hypothetically, if a catastrophic event or even lighter (water was turned off at the school) parents have a right to be notified and when that notification does not reach that parent/guardian either on purpose or by accident the school faces potential liability. Couple that with the mere fact that most parents today deal in the mobile world vs. that of a land line environment.

In order to rectify this issue for schools i-SAFE Ventures has developed the first “Education Identity Verification Trust Framework.”

Education Identity Verification Trust Framework

In today’s academic climate each school and/or the school district has its own security and privacy policies governing data access. While all of these policies are valid, in the current environment, interoperability is hampered by various security practices invoking different levels of assurance and standards. The lack of a common standard, backed by a single agreement, is precluding schools from making the appropriate “trust decisions” for their student population. Hence, this precludes an acceptable common trustworthy environment for schools to deploy. Such problems have included providing access to parents that either do not have a right to access the infrastructure or is bound to the wrong child. i-SAFE Ventures technology brings a solid foundational solution to an era long systemic problem.

The nucleus of this technology is i-SAFE Ventures “Identity Management Technology” which is a real time verification tool providing administrators with TRUST in who they are engaging with online and who the user actually is within a digital educational environment. Through our proprietary tools i-SAFE is able to ingest personal and contact information of adults and children, such as school registration data, 3rd party data bases of public records, organizational data bases, i.e. visa applications, and user supplied information, to form a complete and rigorous digital binding between verified adults and children for whom they are accountable.

Based on this digital binding, i-SAFE is able to provide the education community the opportunity to communicate directly, digitally and securely with verified parents/guardians, delivering content or work flow related communications, and enabling verified digital consent and acknowledgment.