How Big Data in Schools Impacts Network Security

By    July 31, 2015

Following on my previous blog on holistic data visibility in winning NBA championships and improving business operations and revenue models, I was reminded of this article from the New York Times: Some Schools Embrace Demands for Education Data.

The piece details all that a Wisconsin school district seeks to measure in the name of improvement, from school bus routes to classroom cleanliness and of course, student progress. Schools are taking a page from the business world in embracing metrics and analyzing every bit of data that comes their way – even kindergarteners use brightly colored dots on charts to show how many letters or short words they can recognize. In other parts of the country, schools are using data to determine the cause and effect of long-held policies. Administrators noticed a dip in marching band and orchestra enrollment in the Arlington Independent School District near Dallas, and waived instrument rental fees to determine whether or not this was a barrier to entry. It was – enrollment shot up after the fees were suspended.

Time will tell whether or not the American education experience improves as a result of these measures intended to more accurately and quickly identify where students are struggling early on. Along the way, educators will have to iterate on their findings, and administrators will need to upgrade their networks to handle the increasing amounts of private data being stored on students.

It is this latter point that school districts should pay close attention to. Parents are increasingly wary of the amount of data being collected on their children – not only academic performance but health, fitness and sleeping habits, in addition to disciplinary matters, according to Khaliah Barnes, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s student privacy project. Enlisting the help of tools such as Clever, a “single login education-tech app” that recently raised $30 million, can help insofar as a school’s network incorporates a layered approach to security such that there’s no single point of failure that opens the floodgates to intruders.

Just like the teachers and students in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, we enjoy logging and analyzing data to continuously improve our work. The more we hear from operators in the field, the better. If you are a network administrator for a school or your network handles connectivity for the schools in your community, we’d love to hear about your challenges in the comments below or on our forum.