Why We Applied for the TLE Seal: Baltimore County Public Schools

CoSN sat down with the latest recipients of the Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal to find out more about what they learned by going through the Program.  In this first in a monthly series of interviews, we bring you insight into how Jim Corns and the team at Baltimore County Public Schools approached the application process, and provide you with their advice for TLE Seal applicants.

  1. Why did you decide to apply for the TLE Seal?
 
Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) has worked diligently to safeguard our student data and guide students in becoming good digital citizens.  Multiple areas of the organization work in conjunction to achieve these goals.  In applying for the CoSN Trusted Learning Environment Seal, BCPS sought to both document all our current efforts and receive external feedback on the implementation of those efforts.
 
BCPS used the CoSN Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning Toolkit to create our Student Data Privacy Requirements and implement processes to further address data privacy so the application for the TLE was a great way to have our progress evaluated by a trusted outside organization.  Documenting our practices in a way that individuals outside of BCPS could understand helped us to further refine and streamline our initiative.
 
  1. When it comes to developing and improving your school system compliance program, what do you find most challenging?
 
BCPS serves roughly 112,000 students and 18,500 employees.  Our biggest challenge is ensuring a consistent message to all of our stakeholders.  Students, parents, teachers, administrators and vendors all need to hear the same message so that we are partners in the work of data privacy.  BCPS implemented online professional development for our staff so that everyone within the organization received the same message.  Growing Up Digital is the portal for parents and students to have access to this information.  BCPS communicates to our vendors, through our student data privacy requirements, the consistent message of the importance of data protection.
 
  1. What did you learn by going through the application process?
 
As we completed to application, we saw that we were implementing many amazing processes around the safety of student data and digital citizenship.  Working through the application process allowed BCPS to document not only the implementations of data privacy, but also the artifacts that demonstrated their effectiveness.  The requirement of artifacts within the application was the most powerful aspect of the process.  More than simply saying that a process is in place, you are required to provide evidence.
 
  1. How do you refresh your compliance program each year? What steps do you take to ensure that the program is constantly improving?
 
BCPS has two standing committees that focus on data privacy and governance.  The first was established by the superintendent and has three board of education members as well as the Executive Director of Information Technology, Executive Director of Innovative Learning, Chief Academic Officer, and several other leadership positions.  This group meets to discuss systemic policies and practices and to keep the board of education abreast of all initiatives.  The second committee is made up of a group of BCPS administrators and teachers.  This group operationalizes recommendations from the first standing committee.  With these two groups overseeing implementation, our program is under constant dynamic revision. 
  1. What advice do you have for future TLE Seal applicants?
 
The best advice is to work through the application process no matter where you feel you fall in regards to readiness.  The application is more than simply a form, it helps to guide and challenge your team.  As you work on the application, engage a diverse set of stakeholders to collaborate on the work.  The TLE Seal is larger than your IT Department.  With diverse stakeholders at the table, the seal application takes on a unifying property.  The 25 Practices of the TLE crosscut the entire school system and allow all facets of the organization to see their part in data privacy and protection. 
 
For more about the Trusted Learning Environment Seal Program and how it can help inform your school system compliance program and build trust within your community about your data privacy and security efforts, visit TrustedLearning.org.
 
Jim Corns, Jr joined Baltimore County Public Schools as the Director of Innovation and Digital Safety in August, 2016.  In his 23 year education career, he has taught at the elementary and middle school levels as well as served as CIO in three other Maryland school systems.  He graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Elementary Education.  He is an active CoSN and ISTE member.
 

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