In an article published this weekend, the New York Times explored the issue of data collection and privacy concerns. The following quote from Bob Wise, a former governor of West Virginia who is affiliated with data collection and storage nonprofit inBloom, was somewhat troubling:
Do you want to take your child to the doctor and have three data points — height, weight and age — or do you also want data from a hospital in another state? I want the most data points available so my child can have the best diagnosis.
Note the faulty comparison in Wise’s remarks, that is, the comparison of hard science (medicine) to a social science (education).
In medicine, accumulating data on a patient may actually improve the accuracy of the diagnosis and suggest an appropriate treatment. In education, there is no evidence that collecting and analyzing data points will enable schools to “diagnose” a problem. Even if “the most data points available” helped teachers to identify students’ shortcomings, the “treatment” will not be as straightforward as prescribing medication or initiating therapy.
Wise would be wise to consider the costs and benefits of student data collection. Indeed, privacy invasion risks and financial burdens associated with data collection may outweigh the purported diagnostic benefits.
For more information on inBloom and data collection generally, read this.