Major Illinois school district tells teachers they can’t use interactive math tool Zearn two days before classes start

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Popular web based math learning tool Zearn appears to be off limits in at least one major Illinois school district heading back to school — at least for now.

Zearn, which coordinates with the material originally developed under the Creative Commons licensed EngageNY name, provides students with an online portal that lets them engage with interactive activities to teach new concepts and test existing skills.

The State of Illinois’ new SOPPA (Student Online Privacy Protection Act) took effect July 1, 2021, and any vendors collecting personal information from students are now required to sign an agreement with districts that ensures they will comply with SOPPA limitations on data collection, use, tracking and other elements.

According to an Aug. 17, 2021, internal email obtained from Indian Prairie School District 204, Zearn do not sign such an agreement with it and therefore the tool is off limits for the 2021-2022 school year, which starts Aug. 19, 2021.

In other words, teachers were given about two days notice that Zearn is off limits.

IPSD is one of the largest school districts in Illinois — serving roughly 28,000 students in suburban Chicago. The district provides elementary teachers with Eureka Math, which is also based off EngageNY, manuals as a curriculum “resource.”

IPSD officials noted that math learning tools Dreambox and Reflex Math are still available and approved as vendors under SOPPA requirements.

The district says it is exploring other options for teachers and will provide a list of resources that may help replace Zearn.