Friday, January 19, 2018

Parents and Privacy Advocates React to NY Student Data Breach

Articles about the data breach were published in the NYT, Chalkbeat and elsewhere.  According to NYSED, the data of ten NYC students at PS 15 Jackie Robinson school in Queens was illegally accessed and 31 students on Long Island.


For more information contact:
Lisa Rudley, (917) 414-9190;
Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329;

Parents and Privacy Advocates React to NY Student Data Breach

Yesterday, the New York State Education Department announced that their testing vendor, Questar, suffered a data breach that included student names, student identification numbers, school names, grade levels and, in some cases, teacher names of students who had taken computerized NYS assessments. NYSED has assured us that no test scores, IEPs, or other highly sensitive data were breached. According to Questar, a former employee is suspected of carrying out this breach and only 52 students were affected.  Check the above link for the schools and corresponding number of students in each whose information was breached. 

NYSED has acted swiftly, demanding that Questar perform an independent security audit, reset passwords on all user accounts, and submit a corrective action plan.  In addition, the NYS Education Commissioner has referred the matter to the New York State Attorney General for possible prosecution. Yet many questions remain, including whether computerized testing is more vulnerable to breaches, how we can be certain that the information of more students wasn’t affected, and whether Questar violated the terms of its contract with NYSED.  We have asked the NYS Education Department to provide a copy of its contract with Questar in order to learn what specific security measures were mandated in the first place.

The NYSED Chief Privacy Officer, Temitope Akinyemi, has held two recent meetings with a Data Privacy Advisory Council, whose members include Lisa Rudley of NYSAPE and Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, along with other privacy advocates and district officials, to begin the long-delayed process of developing regulations to implement the 2014 student privacy law, NYS Education Law  § 2-d.

NYSED is also planning to hold public hearings in April and May of this year so that parents and other stakeholders statewide can provide input as to what privacy and security protections should be included, and what provisions should be added to the Parents’ Bill of Privacy Rights. 

Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy said, “This breach serves to remind us all that the state and vendors should minimize the amount of personal student data collected, and maximize the methods used to protect it.”

Jeanette Deutermann of Long Island Opt-Out and Co-founder of NYSAPE said, “Although parents opt out of state assessments for many reasons, protecting their children’s data is one of those reasons. This breach makes it clear that that reason is justified.”

Eileen Graham, a Rochester parent and education activist commented, "Given the widespread use of technology, a breach of this nature must not happen again.  Protecting our children's data and privacy should be the highest priority.”

Deborah Brooks of the Port Washington Advocates for Public Education added, “This is not the first student data breach and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last. Every day, schools collect and share our children’s computer data, usually without our consent or even our knowledge.”

Concluded Lisa Rudley, co-founder of NYSAPE, “I hope that NYSED moves quickly to advise districts and schools on how to best protect and secure personal student data.”

In the meantime, parents, teachers, and district administrators and school staff may want to consult the privacy language in the model vendor contract developed by the Massachusetts Student Privacy Alliance.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Join us Tuesday to urge the Mayor to involve parents in the selection of a new Chancellor!

On Tuesday, January 23 at 10 AM, on the steps of Tweed, the co-Chairs of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, representing all the PTAs and PAs in NYC public schools, and the co-Chairs of the Education Council Consortium, representing the elected and appointed members of the Citywide and Community Education Councils, along with other parent leaders and advocates, will urge Mayor de Blasio to involve parents in the search and selection of a new Chancellor, as he promised to do during his first mayoral campaign.

A flyer to distribute or post in your schools is hereA flyer in Spanish is here.

When: Tues. Jan. 23, at 10 AM

Where: Steps of Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St. in downtown Manhattan.

CPAC and the CECs will also release letters, demanding that the live up to his pledge to collaborate and respect parent input when it comes to the education of NYC children and the future of our schools. Please come and show your support!

Please also remember to sign up for our Parent Action Conference on Saturday, January 27, ten days from today, where we will collaborate on an action agenda for the rest of the school year; more info here.

Please spread the word and hope to see you Tuesday at Tweed!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Five questions to SUNY about proposed enrollment revisions at Success Academy charter schools

 I will post any response I receive from Mr. Rossi.

January 15, 2018

Ralph Rossi, General Counsel
SUNY Charter Institute
By email to:
Dear Mr. Rossi:

Proposed revisions in the enrollment of many charter schools are under consideration by the SUNY board.[1]  I cannot ascertain if the SUNY board has voted on these revisions already, but I have questions about those proposed by the Success Academy Network:

1.       1. Success Academy is the only Charter Management Organization requesting SUNY authorization to revise current enrollments at 12 schools, revisions that have presumably already occurred. Can you explain how requests for authorization to revise current school enrollments are legal?

2    2. Five of these Success Academy charter schools are proposing expansions in their enrollments for this year and next.  There is also a net increase across all twelve Success Academy schools of 444 students proposed for next year.  According to the mandated process described on the SUNY charter institute website, SUNY requires that “A material charter revision to modify enrollment to more than what was provided for in the charter agreement (charter paragraph 2.2 (a)) would require the school to submit…[an] Explanation of how the plan fits the facility or facilities plan of the school.” [2]
Can you supply the explanations provided by Success Academy of how these expansions fit the facilities plans for these five schools and across the Network as a whole?

     3. Success Academy Cobble Hill is one of the five Success Academy schools requesting an expansion of its enrollment.  Yet the average utilization of D15 schools, according to the DOE Blue Book report for 2016-2017, is already at 114%, and 70% of K-8 schools in the district are already overcrowded. About 79% of K8 students in the district, nearly 20,000, are crammed in overcrowded schools, and 92 cluster rooms missing from these schools. according to DOE’s latest utilization report.[3] Meanwhile the student population in the district is still growing fast. Housing starts data posted in March of last year 2017 multiplied by the City Planning ratio would project that more than 4,700 additional K-8 seats will be needed in D15 by 2019.[4]

The NYC five-year capital plan has only funded about half of the D15 seats necessary, according to the DOE estimates.[5]  Yet the NYC DOE’s Office of District Planning has confirmed to the President of the Community Education Council D15 that only 61% of currently enrolled SACH students live in the district.  Does SUNY take this information into account before approving the school’s expansion, and if not, why not?

             4.  I note that Success Academy Cobble Hill as well as four other SAC schools, including SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 all violated federal student privacy law, according to SUNY 2016 site visit reports.[6] In each of these Renewal Reports, the same observation is made:

The Institute and school worked cooperatively to correct minor infractions at the site visit regarding Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) wherein the intent of the school was laudable but technically a violation, and the New York Freedom of Information Law(“FOIL”) wherein the list of records was incomplete. 

Can you explain what these FERPA violations involved, and why you consider them “minor infractions”?  As you may or may not be aware, the Success Academy is currently under investigation by the US Department of Education for serious FERPA violations in at least one another case.[7] 

      5.  In looking more closely at the Renewal report of Success Academy Cobble Hill, I see the following charts, which appear to show that only a small percentage of students with disabilities and English Language Learners at the school were tested on the state exams in 2017, compared to the overall number of students with these classifications. [8] 

Can you explain why such a small number of students at these schools in these categories were tested?

Hoping to hear from you soon, 

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters/Parent Coalition for Student Privacy
124 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10011

Cc: Camille Casaretti, President, Community Education Council 15
Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Kathleen Cashin, Regent Luis Reyes
Joseph Belluck, chair of SUNY Charter Committee
Chancellor Carmen Farina
Laura Barbieri, Attorney, Advocates for Justice

[4] Housing start data: combined with NYC Planning public school ratio.

[6]  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 14, 2016), p. 22.   See also  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 14, 2016).  p. 22.  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 15, 2016), p. 22. (Report Date: October 11, 2016, Visit Date: September 16, 2016), p. 24. (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 13, 2016), p. 22.

[7] Dale King, Director, Family Compliance Office, US Department of Education, Letter to Fatima Geidi, December 7, 2017.