November 29, 2020

New Jersey: For “Security Reasons” Pearson is Monitoring the Social Media of Students Taking PARCC Common Core Test

UPDATE: March 17, 2015 Pearson Under Fire for Monitoring Students’ Twitter Posts (via NY Times)

UPDATE: We’ve reached out to Pearson for a comment and to see if they will answer some of the questions we’ve asked at the bottom of this post. 

From The Washington Post:

Pearson, the world’s largest education company, is monitoring social media during the administration of the new PARCC Common Core test to detect any security breaches, and a spokeswoman said that it was “obligated” to alert authorities when any problems were discovered.

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The superintendent of a New Jersey school district wrote an e-mail to colleagues (see below) about the monitoring, saying that she found the practice “a bit disturbing.”

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Asked for a comment about the monitoring of social media during the PARCC administration, Pearson spokeswoman Stacy Skelly said in an e-mail:

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, we are obligated to alert PARCC states. 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, integrity of the test results.

Read the Complete Article
Includes full text of the letter sent by school superintendent.

Full Text of Post by Bob Braun (Broke the Story)

Not The First Time

The Washington Post story points out another example of student social media being monitored by the California Dept. of Education.

Also, a story we shared on infoDOCKET back in 2013 was about a company named Geo Listening that monitors social media for schools and reports the findings back to school and school district officials daily.

Note from Gary Price, infoDOCKET Founder/Editor:

Here are several of the many questions that came to mind as I read the material we shared above:

  • Until today who was aware of the monitoring?
  • What happens to the student if they are determined by Pearson to be involved in a security breach?
  • Are students clearly informed of security concerns before they take the exam? Is this “monitoring” being disclosed to students, faculty, staff at any point. It doesn’t seem like this is the case but we would like to know for certain. If a student is reported what can the student/parent/guardian do learn more?
  • How can Pearson guarantee the person posting the item is the actual student? What if the student was using the name of another person as their Twitter handle? It sure might be easy to get a someone in trouble? What if they aren’t using a name at all? For example, what happens if someone posts using a name like @YTJH11?
  • Does Pearson report “suspicious” posts and then expects the school district to track down the actual student(s)?
  • Does Pearson expect a school district to question a persons friends or followers to obtain additional information
  • What is Pearson specifically monitoring for? Only tests questions as mentioned by the spokesperson? If they spot other behavior they deem in appropriate will they share it with the school? With police
  • Is Pearson doing the “monitoring” themselves? Have they hired a third-party to do it?
  • Specifically, what is and is not being monitored? For example, are they only monitoring social media? Which services? Are they only material that’s being posted publicly? For example, will they “friend” people in an attempt to access additional info? Do they monitor non-text services like Snapchat and YouTube?

Hat Tip: Matt R. Weaver

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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