Two tenth-graders in Maryland were recently found to have cheated on a statewide English assessment by posting test questions on Twitter.
A testing company caught the pair only hours after posting the answers using advanced software to search through social media to locate key words or phrases that could signify cheating. Any punishment will be administered by the school.
One student posted a photo of an essay question, which was then retweeted and marked as a favorite by other users, boosting the chances of others to view the post on the site, reports Liz Bowie for The Baltimore Sun.
While social media has been used for years to cheat on exams such as the SAT and ACT, it is only recently that younger students are participating, as standardized exams begin to be introduced that are tied to the more rigorous standards of the Common Core curriculum.
"What is new here is that this is happening in K-12," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, an organization that works to eliminate the misuses and flaws of standardized tests.
A new test associated with the Common Core standards were introduced this year in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and in 10 additional states. While a paper version is available, most schools are opting for the online version, which is offered over the course of a month. Schools who do not have enough computers for all their students have the option to offer the test as space becomes available rather than at one set time.
Previously, students took the Maryland School Assessment to track progress in math and reading. The test was offered using paper and pencil over a week or two each spring.
A similar instance found a New Jersey student tweeting a question about the Common Core test. The question was then flagged by the testing company and deleted, starting a national debate concerning children's privacy and test security, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.
"Sharing images of test questions on social media is the 2015 equivalent of a student copying test items and handing them out," said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for PARCC, whose new Common Core tests are being administered for the first time this year in the District, Maryland and 10 other states. "Protecting students and teachers from breaches — which are a violation of testing policies — is the right thing to do."
Educational publisher Pearson, who administers the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, reported over 70 instances of online cheating by students posting answers to social media sites across 6 states this year, according to spokesman Jesse Comart.
Pearson is working with a test security firm in their investigation, which uses software to look at all social media sites, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.