Pearson Raises Eyebrows With Social Media Monitoring


The education publishing company Pearson is monitoring social media accounts to see if students are leaking test information.

This was first reported on the blog of Bob Braun, a former education reporter for Newark, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. He published a letter that Watchung Hills Regional School District superintendent Elizabeth Jewett sent to the district’s staff about the monitoring, writes Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post.

It read in part:

…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.

…they suggested the student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it.

The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during PARCC testing. 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 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).

Once the district investigated, they discovered that the tweet about the exam had been posted after school hours and did not contain a picture. CBSNewYork writes that it was merely a comment and not test content.

Pearson made a statement that confirmed their monitoring, saying:

The security of a test is critical to ensure fairness for all students and teachers and to ensure that the results of any assessment are trustworthy and valid. We welcome debate and a variety of opinions. But when test questions or elements are posted publicly to the Internet, including social media, we are obligated to alert PARCC and our state customers. Any contact with students or decisions about student discipline are handled at the local level. We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity and integrity of the test results.

They made no mention of their methods, but it is believed that they are using keyword searches, according to Perry Chiaramonte of Fox News.

Braun said in an interview:

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.

Jewett then posted a letter on the district website affirming that the email represents her views and those of the district’s Board of Education.

A student in Hope Township, New Jersey also encountered troubling new policies, writes Christie Duffy of Pix 11. Chlow Wagner declined to take the PARCC test and was forced to sit silently for a total of seven hours as others took the exam. Her mother let her stay home one day, but when she came back, she was removed from her regular classes and forced to make up the time she missed watching others take the test. She said, “I missed math, language arts, and half of my science period. So I had worksheets and reading to catch up on.

Her mother, Renee Wagner, said:

Testing was over and they pulled her out of class almost as a punishment, it seemed, because she should have been in class learning.

At that point I started writing letters. To the superintendent, to the mayor, to the state assemblyman.

The school’s principal Stacey Brown has said that a meeting is scheduled to discuss the policy.

03 23, 2015
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