Pearson spying for test security

Pearson and SBAC monitoring of social media – “spying” or infringement of free speech?

Okay, this monitoring of children’s testing comments in social media is no longer about ‘spying’! It is definitely about free speech in my humble opinion.

If you haven’t heard about the hullabaloo that broke out on Friday when Bob Braun reported that Pearson was spying on children who tweeted about the PARCC test in New Jersey, you can read my initial thoughts here and an excellent summary of the entire weekend of craziness by Anthony Cody here.

Turns out that social media ‘monitoring’ is being done for both the PARCC and SBAC tests and attempts are being made to ensure that no one talks about either of the tests, all in the name of test security!

I thought it was bad when my daughter came home last year and told me that she couldn’t talk about the AP European History test because she had to sign a confidentiality agreement.  Turns out the test questions are re-used from year to year.  At least the AP test is optional (we had to pay a fee for her to take the test) and she actually signed a confidentiality agreement.  I didn’t know about the confidentiality requirement in advance but I think she had been told she would have to sign the agreement.

With state tests like PARCC, every student is expected to take the test. There is no choice and now it sounds like if ANYONE talks about the tests, it is considered ‘cheating’ and could be punished.

Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach–it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:

“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.”

Another opportunity for repetition for emphasis here–discussing? Any other form of communication?

So, if children come home from school and their parents ask–”How was your day, sweetheart?” and the children talk about a really dumb question on the PARCC, they will be violating  the rules and be subject to whatever punishment is meted out for cheating–as a blogger did who learned from a child who hadn’t taken the test that there was a passage on it about The Wizard of Oz.

At the Watchung Hills Regional High School district in Warren, three students were caught up in the “monitoring” and at least one of them was suspended. Elizabeth Jewett, the district’s superintendent, won’t say exactly what the students did to violate the rules so we don’t know what the students said and to whom.

Here’s the rub–school officials invoke student privacy concerns to prevent parents from finding out how the privacy of children is violated.

This is definitely too far!!!  There is NO AMOUNT of ‘useful data’ that can be obtained from these tests that will convince me it is worth giving up our country’s free speech rights in order to get that data!

I don’t know if this extreme monitoring is part of New York’s contract with Pearson (we are not administering the PARCC tests yet in New York) but parents must stand in solidarity around the nation and say “No, we will not submit to this take-over of education and the rights of parents, students and teachers!”  REFUSE the state tests!!!

Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015
Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015