Student Data Project Moves Ahead in N.Y.


New York is moving forward with a plan to build a database to track the academic lives of students statewide, restarting a process halted by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli over privacy concerns.

The database, approved Tuesday by the state Board of Regents, is part of a larger system that will connect several states and allow educators to share curriculum materials, applications and student data from transcripts to individual test answers.

The project stalled this summer when Mr. DiNapoli, citing concerns about the privacy of student data, canceled the state's $27 million contract with Wireless Generation, a News Corp. subsidiary. The move came at the height of a phone-hacking scandal involving editors and reporters at several of the parent company's British newspapers. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.

Wireless Generation already is building software that will be used by at least nine states as part of a $44 million project called the Shared Learning Collaborative, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. States will get free access to the open-source software to use as the foundation for their own systems, which they will start using as early as next year.

New York, which plans to participate in the project, had hired Wireless Generation to build on the framework. Mr. DiNapoli killed that contract in August, which officials said set back New York's participation by a year.

Still, Wireless Generation could have access to student data if the system needs maintenance or upgrades, company and state officials said.

When he canceled the deal, Mr. DiNapoli said he was concerned with the project in general, not just with the company.

On Tuesday, the New York Board of Regents authorized the Education Department to hire one or more companies to finish the job for New York. A spokesman for Mr. DiNapoli declined to comment.

Wireless Generation has not decided whether it will resubmit a bid, company spokeswoman Joan Lebow said.

"We lost the contract due to concerns raised about, not Wireless Generation, but our parent company's role in past events," she said. "Wireless Generation is an education company that follows strict privacy procedures handling student data for schools and districts in all 50 states where we provide tools to help teachers teach."

The New York State United Teachers, the state's largest teachers union, initially had strong concerns with Wireless's involvement, urging the comptroller over the summer to cancel the contract.

But in November, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, became an adviser to the project.

"That leaves us in the position of monitoring the contract and monitoring the developments and watching and waiting," NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said. Mr. Korn said the union would monitor how the state uses the data.

New York officials said the data will help teachers figure out what's working well on a classroom or with individual students.

Write to Lisa Fleisher at

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