Skedula Raises Questions on Privacy

skedulaBy Keturah Raymond ‘15 and Wai Man Wang ‘15

Grading discrepancies and privacy issues are some of the problems students and teachers face regarding Skedula and Engrade. Skedula and Engrade, two automated online grading systems that are used by the school, have presented a number of problems to both students and teachers.

“I believe that online grading systems are a great way for us students to know how we’re doing in class and what areas we need to improve on,” said Minyi Chen ’14. “It’s a faster, easier, and a more accurate way not only for the students, but for the teachers as well”.

As Midwood entered the new school year of 2013 who introduced a new online system, Skedula that replaced the simpler Engrade. It was mandated that teachers upload grades from the 3rd marking period onto the site.

“Skedula’s system is more complicated than Engrade,” said Minyi Chen ’14. “It incorporates the same features Engrade has such as messaging teachers, a calendar for assignments and most importantly the student’s grades. However, it has some things Engrade doesn’t have such as statistics for grades, your attendance, your class schedule and it also includes exam scores from elementary school to high school.”

Even though Skedula is slowly taking over as the source of the school’s online grading system, Mrs. Sharon Ramos, a Skedula trainer and Calculus teacher said many teachers

lean towards using Engrade instead because it is easier to use.

“Some teachers complain about the accountability because if students see one grade online and another grade on the report card, there is a discrepancy there, and so making sure these gaps are accounted for are important,” said Mrs. Ramos. “Most complaints are about how much time it takes for teachers to be able to use Skedula effectively, also, some teachers are concerned of materials that are posted being made available to the people other than just the students, and they want to keep the materials private.”

Both Skedula and Engrade include personal information such as address, parent’s names and phone numbers and so on. Though a child’s parents provide all this information, they do not disclose the information for it to be put online.

Michelle Zak ’15 expressed concern about her information being put online. “I’ve noticed every state test grade I’ve ever gotten, and my parent’s names as well as my osis number,” she said. “Anyone could just hack into my account and use my information against me.”

According to the New York Times on December 13, 2013, a study by the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School found instability in the protection of students’ personal contact information in contracts that schools sign in order to allow the use of webtools in their schools.

The study also found that the contracts did not provide the type of information that would be collected from students and other contracts also did not forbid vendors from selling personal information.

“We found that when school districts are transferring student information to cloud nine providers, by and large key privacy protections are absent from those arrangements,” said Joel R. Reidenberg, a law professor at Fordham University in an interview with the New York Times on December 13, 2013. “We’re worried about the implications for students over time, how their personal information may be used or misused.”

Furthermore, the study suggests that school districts have varying knowledge about data protection.

“Since it is mandatory that students provide personal information to the schools that we attend, we entrust them with our information, and we hope that they will protect our privacy,” said Rebecca Li ’14. “It is especially important for me now because I am a senior applying to colleges, and colleges are known to do research on their applicants. If my personal information were to be used in a negative way by others, my chances of being accepted may decrease.”

Although schools around the country are concerned about the privacy of the students’ personal information, Mrs. Ramos feels differently. “I don’t think that Skedula or Engrade presents any new issues in terms of privacy. Teachers do need access to that information because part of our responsibility is contacting and communicating with families about students’ progress, so it is essential that we have that information,” said Mrs. Ramos.

Though some students expressed their desire for the return of Engrade it seems Skedula is here to stay. Mrs. Ramos argued that Engrade is just as time-consuming as Skedula if not more. “The privacy issue is exactly the same on Engrade as it is on Skedula,” said Mrs. Ramos. “So I don’t think that it would be worthwhile to return to Engrade.”

At this time there have been no breeches of the security system., no students personal information has been made publically available.

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