By Stephanie Simon
"An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares.
But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.
"In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school - even homework completion.
"Local education officials retain legal control over their students' information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.
Entrepreneurs can't wait.
"This is going to be a huge win for us," said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software."