FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | September 24, 2014

These questions are a starting point in getting a sense of how your school or district understands and responds to issues of student privacy.

Also, in looking at privacy and data storage, it will likely become necessary to differentiate between data that is considered an "educational record" and data that is not considered an educational record. The definition of educational records is part of FERPA. Under FERPA, parents also have rights to review and challenge data that is collected and stored as part of an educational record.

Other data will likely be covered under district policy and/or a vendor terms of service.

With that said, here are some questions to jumpstart the conversation:

  • Ask for a list of vendors who get educational records covered under FERPA.
  • Ask for a list of vendors who get student data that is not considered an educational record.
  • Ask to see executed legally binding contracts between the school (or district...
Bill Fitzgerald | September 23, 2014

Bias in schools manifests itself in various ways, ranging from the school to prison pipeline, disparate discipline based on race starting in preschool, to corporal punishment applied to students of color, to higher diagnoses of learning differences based on race, to teachers showing stunning disrespect toward their students and communities...

Bill Fitzgerald | September 22, 2014

A couple weeks back, I put out a post on the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of ClassDojo. For background context to this post, please read the comment thread in response to the original. One of the commenters was Sam Chaudhary, the co-founder of ClassDojo. He made some excellent points in his comment, and I wanted to be sure to respond. Toward that end, and toward not having the dialogue get lost in the comment threads, I pulled this response into a new post. Sam's comments are included as quoted text, and my responses follow.

Bill, hey! This is Sam, co-founder of ClassDojo. Thank you for such a thoughtful post and some excellent feedback; I wanted to chime in with a few thoughts - all of us in education are trying to do the best we can for students, and that is good common ground to start from!


Bill Fitzgerald | September 17, 2014

This year, in the wake of the murder of Eric Garner at the hands of NY City police, in the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer, in a city where "policing" has meant stop and frisk based on racial profiling, a group of New York City teachers chose to open the school year wearing NYPD t-shirts.

This petition has some great suggestions on how to move forward constructively.

Go sign it.

Bill Fitzgerald | September 10, 2014

According to the ClassDojo home page, over 35 million teachers, students, and parents now use ClassDojo. That's a lot of data, and we should be mindful about the ways in which the rights to the that data are assigned.

The goals of ClassDojo - also as stated on their home page - are to:

Improve behavior

Improve specific student behaviors and engagement by awarding and recording real-time feedback.

Share data

Print or email beautiful behavior reports to easily engage parents and staff.

Save time

Save time by recording behaviors and accomplishments right in class, with just one click: NO extra data entry required.

However, while teachers are recording data on...

Bill Fitzgerald | September 7, 2014

When I see a group of white teachers, largely female, posing and smiling in their NYPD t-shirts, it gives me pause.

Not because their union told them not to, but because it shows an incredible degree of cluelessness and disregard for the students they are supposed to be serving.

According to the NY Post the photo above shows teachers at PS 220 in Queens. By my count, there are 20 people in the photo. I was curious about the demographics of the school where this picture was taken, so I went to NCES where you can look these...

Bill Fitzgerald | September 6, 2014

Update, 25 September 2014: ClassDojo founder Sam Chaudhary responded to this post in the comments. I followed up in a new post. End update

As part of a survey of privacy policies I was doing for work, I took a read through the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for Class Dojo. For those unfamiliar with Class Dojo, teachers can use it to collect and share feedback on student behavior. One of the uses of this information (optional - not required) is to create an online, real time behavior wall, where all kids or classroom visitors can see other kids' feedback.

The Class Dojo privacy policy is pretty easy reading. They clearly have made an effort to make the...

Bill Fitzgerald | September 1, 2014

I've written about this a few times, and I'm wondering what movement (if any) there has been within either union leadership or rank and file on open content as a union concern, especially as it relates to teacher professional development and local control. Doing this well would require paid staff time, which is why union involvement is key.

To quote from an earlier blog post on the subject -

At a high level, here is how this could be done:

  • If every teacher within a school shared 3-5 of their best units from each course they taught, that translates into a significant amount of useful content that is relevant and successful within a local context.
  • If a group of districts agreed to pool the resources shared by teachers from the different schools within the district, the shared content would likely translate...
Bill Fitzgerald | August 29, 2014

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, gives students and parents rights to access, review, and dispute educational records. FERPA also attempts to define an "educational record."

However, having rights is one thing, being able to use them is another, and being informed of those rights is yet another. In order to get a sense of how easy or difficult is is for students and parents to learn how to use their FERPA rights in different educational settings, we conducted a series of basic searches on charter school districts and large urban school districts.

Our method is pretty simple: start with a Google search on the term FERPA and the phrase "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" limited to a specific school district or charter organization.

In some cases, we would then do a follow up search using the site's native search for both terms separately: FERPA, followed by "...

Bill Fitzgerald | August 28, 2014

Washington State Schools that were making progress a year ago are now failing - not because anything changed in schools, but because the US Department of Education moved the goalposts.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction put out a press release, but Randy Dorn, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was pretty succinct:

"By losing our waiver, we've had to do some things I think are ridiculous, stupid, ineffective and a waste of resources."

Because the USDOE shifted the definition of "progress" nearly 90% of schools in Washington State are not making enough of it. In Washington "adequate progress" is...


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