Teachers Union Sounds Alarm Over Use of Hamden Student Data

The Hamden school system turned over data to an education research group and leaders with one of Connecticut's largest teachers' unions say the group is worried about how it will be used.

"We’re very very concerned about the rights of students and parents of such education data," said Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association.

At issue is a study commissioned by the Hamden Board of Education through a memorandum of understanding with the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a group commissioned by former Gov. Jodi Rell.

The non-profit organization provides data analysis and reports to school districts free of charge. The study in Hamden was focused on system-wide expenditures.

The CEA is critical of the wide-ranging data that includes information about students, layouts of schools and that fact that parents were not informed that the information had been released at all.

"They’re capable of selling all of this information to be used to manipulate a variety of different ways for purposes that are unknown to us other than they own the data," Waxenberg said.

Hamden Public School officials couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of CCER, said he was "disturbed" by the way the CEA characterized the work done by the non-profit. He said the study has a value of $103,000 based on consulting fees.

Villar said a district attorney reviewed the group's agreement with Hamden and the memorandum of understanding has a clear confidentiality clause that prevents anything the CEA alleged from happening.

"The data is not student or personally identifiable. We don’t receive a full data set that would allow us to put things together to determine that this is an individual student’s record. We don’t need that data. We’re not interested in that. We’re looking to do a high level district analysis," Villar said.

CCER has conducted analyses for multiple large school systems, including Waterbury, Meriden and Bridgeport.

Villar said the group takes safeguards to make sure the data, which does include information about students, is safe from hackers.

"We use secure protocols on servers, we don’t send emails with files, we don’t use thumb drives or that sort of thing," he said.

Waxenberg isn't convinced and wants to see policies at the state level that ensure that all student data is kept in the right place.

"We do not believe that that data should be allowed outside of the local board of education, the state board of education, and without parental consent to a third party," he said.

Parents waiting outside a school in Hamden said they want to be informed before the school system enters any agreement that involves the sharing of student information.

"Well it depends what it is but still they should talk to the parents first" said Yerika Cruz. "Doesn’t matter what it is. They should just let the parents know before they do anything."

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