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Dear Commons Community,
Various media are reporting that Pearson, the company that developed and administers the Common Core standardized tests, is spying on students to determine if there is any leaking of exam questions. Word that Pearson was monitoring social media posts for students commenting on the exams was first reported on the blog of Bob Braun, a former education reporter for The Newark Star-Ledger.
Pearson — the British-based publishing house with it’s U.S. headquarters in New Jersey — has the contract to develop and provide the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) standardized tests. PARCC is one of the two agencies that developed the Common Core program.
On Friday, Bob Braun published a copy of a letter sent to the staff of the Watchung Hills Regional High School District in the town of Warren by Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett about the social media monitoring.
“…my testing coordinator received a call from the NJDOE [New Jersey Department of Education] that Pearson had initiated a Priority 1 Alert for an item breach within our school,” read the letter from Jewett. “ …they suggested the student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it.”
Jewett pointed out in the letter that after further investigation they determined that the unnamed student had actually posted the tweet referring to the PARCC exam after school hours and that he did not include a picture as previously thought. She also said the child’s parents were concerned about the monitoring and confirmed that the publisher was monitoring student activity on the web.
The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during PARCC testing,” she said in the letter. “I have to say that I find this a bit disturbing—and if our parents were concerned before about a conspiracy with all of the student data, I am sure I will be receiving more letters of refusal once this gets out (not to mention the fact that the DOE wanted us to also issue discipline to the student).”
Officials at Pearson did not explain how they are monitoring student activity, but it is believed that they are conducting key word searches for any mention of the PARCC tests on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The company has acknowledged the monitoring, saying, “We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity and integrity of the test results.”
The posting of Jewett’s letter has raised concerns among those in the Garden State.
“Twitter is a public forum but the problem here is that you have a large, multinational corporation and a state agency seeking out the bad guys and punishing them,” Braun told FoxNews.com. “This is a $108 million dollar contract and the state is turning the power over to Pearson.
“I want to know how they were able to connect a tweet with a kid at a certain district. Pearson was able to track the student down. I’m not able to do that,” Braun said.
This is not a good situation and plays into all of the fears that parents and educators have had about student privacy as more and more of public education is placed in the hands of mega-corporations.