Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

A company that serves millions of taxpayers in New York City and provides software to manage student data has been out of operation for a week, hampering schools and raising fears of a privacy breach.

Illuminate Education sells a system called Schedule to teachers and administrators to track student participation, grades, special plans, behavioral issues, and family contact information. A related system, Pupil Path, lets students and parents log in for information.

When the systems went down Saturday, the Illuminate said it appeared to be “the result of an attempted security incident.” The company did not explain or return messages from The Post, but sent an email to principals Friday that they are transferring the data to a “new secure environment.”

The city’s education ministry gave no reason for the shutdown, but some experts suggest the Illuminate may be a victim of ransomware, with hackers freezing a system and demanding payment to release it. Such attacks have crippled other educational institutions.

The Illuminate has raised more than $ 16 million from DOE schools in the last three years, records show.

The company is also linked to a scandal under ex-Chancellor Richard Carranza that hired a California friend, Abram Jimenez, with a financial stake in the Illuminate. Jimenez abruptly quit his job for $ 205,000 a year when the conflict of interest was revealed.

Teachers say the outcome has hampered their ability to keep track of children exposed to COVID-19.

According to the DOE policy, when a student tests positive, each classmate – often in multiple classes – must have quick tests to take at home.

Because of the outcome, “we had to manually figure out the child’s schedule,” said a high school teacher from Queens: “How many children fall through the cracks by getting the quick tests?”

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza talks about schools reporting in September while Mayor Bill de Blasio looks on outside the Village Academy.
Illuminate Education is linked to a scandal from former NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza, who worked under former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Dennis A. Clark for NY Post

Grading is also hampered: “I physically write down their grades as if it were 2005 again,” the teacher said.

Leonie Haimson, a co-chair of the National Parental Coalition for Student Privacy in NYC, said a breakup “would be awful.”

“Teachers often use the system to record highly sensitive information about a student’s emotional state or behavior and to recommend counseling or other intervention services,” she said.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said: “We are in close communication with Illuminate Education while they investigate and have been informed that so far there is no confirmation that any of our school’s information was accessed or taken.” He said schools officially register attendance and grades in DOE-powered systems that “were not affected by this incident.”

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