Tag Archives: Pearson

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 nysape.org
Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015 nysape.org

Pearson is monitoring children’s social media posts

Thanks to the work of Bob Braun, the nation is now aware that Pearson is monitoring social media for any posts by children regarding the PARCC tests currently being taken around the country.

The spying–or “monitoring,” to use Pearson’s word–was confirmed at one school district–the Watchung Hills Regional High School district in Warren by its superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett.  Jewett sent out an e-mail–posted here– to her colleagues expressing concern about the unauthorized spying on students.

She said parents are upset and added that she thought Pearson’s behavior would contribute to the growing “opt out” movement. So far, thousands of parents have kept their children away from the tests–and one of the reasons is the fear that Pearson might abuse its access to student data, something it has denied it would do.

Pearson claims that they need to do this monitoring for the security and validity of the tests.  However we now know that this involves an awful lot of personal information about the CHILDREN taking the tests in the hands of a third-party vendor.  In New Jersey tweets were found, the specific MINOR student identified along with their school district (ie where they live!) and then the state education department, who is cooperating with Pearson in all this spying, contacted the school district to request that discipline be administered to the child who had tweeted.

It turned out the student had posted–at 3:18 pm, well after testing was over–a tweet about one of the items with no picture.  Jewett does not say the student revealed a question. There is no evidence of any attempt at cheating.

Jewett continues: “The student deleted the tweet and we spoke with the parent–who was obviously highly concerned as to her child’s tweets being monitored by the DOE (state education department).”

“The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during the PARCC testing.”

Jewett continued: “I have to say that I find that 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.”

The school superintendent also expressed concern about “the fact that the DOE wanted us to also issue discipline to the student.” Clearly, if Pearson insists on claiming test security as a justification for its spying on young people, that reasoning is vitiated by its cooperation with the state education department in trying to punish students who are merely expressing their First Amendment right to comment on the tests.

Read Bob Braun’s Ledger where the story initially broke here.  Mr. Braun’s blog experienced very heavy traffic yesterday, and even attacks, as a result of this story so I will include the blog below in case you are still unable to access the story.  Reading it online will be best though as he has updated his blog with information resulting from Ms. Strauss’s investigation.

Valerie Strauss has a follow-up article in the Washington Post here which includes responses from Pearson and Superintendent Jewitt to Braun’s original story.

Before wrapping this up, I read through a number of the comments on Mr. Braun’s blog and found them very interesting.  One gentleman pointed out that twitter is a public forum so it can not be called ‘spying’ when someone searches for information on twitter. The net of the responses basically came down to this summary by Mr. Braun himself:  private, multinational (and, therefore, unaccountable) corporations should not be conspiring with state government to track what students are saying about testing programs and then punish them. 

If this is not a reason to refuse the state tests, then I don’t now what is!

Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015 nysape.org
Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015 nysape.org

***

Here is the BLOG where this story was first announced:

https://www.facebook.com/bobbraunsledger/posts/643261159136837

Bob Braun’s Ledger

MY BLOG ABOUT PEARSON/STATE SPYING ON STUDENT SOCIAL MEDIA IS UP AND DOWN BUT THIS IS A COPY OF THE BLOG. I APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE:
Pearson, the multinational testing and publishing company, is spying on the social media posts of students–including those from New Jersey–while the children are taking their PARCC, statewide tests, this site has learned exclusively. The state education department is cooperating with this spying and has asked at least one school district to discipline students who may have said something inappropriate about the tests. This website discovered the unauthorized and hidden spying thanks to educators who informed it of the practice–a practice happening throughout the state and apparently throughout the country.
The spying–or “monitoring,” to use Pearson’s word–was confirmed at one school district–the Watchung Hills Regional High School district in Warren by its superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett. Jewett sent out an e-mail–posted here– to her colleagues expressing concern about the unauthorized spying on students.
She said parents are upset and added that she thought Pearson’s behavior would contribute to the growing “opt out” movement. So far, thousands of parents have kept their children away from the tests–and one of the reasons is the fear that Pearson might abuse its access to student data, something it has denied it would do.
In her email, Jewett said the district’s testing coordinator received a late night call from the state education department saying that Pearson had “initiated a Priority 1 Alert for an item breach within our school.”
The unnamed state education department employee contended a student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it. That was not true. It turned out the student had posted–at 3:18 pm, well after testing was over–a tweet about one of the items with no picture. Jewett does not say the student revealed a question. There is no evidence of any attempt at cheating.
Jewett continues: “The student deleted the tweet and we spoke with the parent–who was obviously highly concerned as to her child’s tweets being monitored by the DOE (state education department).
“The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during the PARCC testing.”
Jewett continued: “I have to say that I find that 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.”
The school superintendent also expressed concern about “the fact that the DOE wanted us to also issue discipline to the student.” Clearly, if Pearson insists on claiming test security as a justification for its spying on young people, that reasoning is vitiated by its cooperation with the state education department in trying to punish students who are merely expressing their First Amendment right to comment on the tests.
I contacted Jewett by email. By that time she had discovered not one but three instances in which Pearson notified the state education department of the results of its spying. In her email to me, Jewett was vague about the role of Pearson and the education department.
She wrote: “In reference to the issue of PARCC infractions and DOE/Pearson monitoring social media, we have had three incidents over the past week. All situations have been dealt with in accordance with our Watchung Hills Regional High School code of conduct and academic integrity policy. Watchung Hills Regional High School is a relatively small district and a close-knit community; therefore, I am very concerned that whatever details your sources are providing may cause unnecessary labeling and hardship to students who are learning the consequences of their behavior.”
Jewett acted professionally, I believe, but I must point out the irony of her lecturing me about protecting the identity of students when she has just dealt with both an inexcusable breach of privacy involving minors and an attempt by state government to punish dissent. I made it clear to her I have no intention of revealing names of students–but I would be more than happy to speak with their parents.
The state education department official identified as the person cooperating with Pearson is Veronica Orsi, who is in charge of assessment for grades 9-12 in the department. She refused to answer this website’s questions about her involvement and passed them on to superiors who also did not answer.
Neither the state education department nor Pearson’s would respond to my emails on the company’s spying on students. New Jersey is paying $108 million to run its PARCC testing program, an enterprise that has engendered opposition throughout New Jersey–and that was before the spying was revealed.
One motivation is clear–the more students who take the test, the more Pearson gets paid. This explains a lot about the state’s and the company’s aggressiveness in ensuring as many students as possible take the test.
But what isn’t explained is the willingness of the state education department to punish New Jersey children on behalf of a private company. According to sources–and not denied by Jewett–state officials tried to have the students involved suspended.
State Education Commissioner David Hespe spent hours testifying before the Legislature’s Senate Education Committee Thursday but did not once mention the possibility that the London-based Pearson would be “monitoring” the social media accounts of students taking the test. Jewett’s email, however, indicated the department–presumably including Hespe–were well aware of the practice.
A few days earlier, state education department officials–including Orsi–held a background briefing for some media–Bob Braun’s Ledger was not invited–and none of the mainstream media accounts of the session revealed the Pearson spying program.
Testing is scheduled for this month and May. Passing or failing the test has no consequence for the students who take it. PARCC does not serve as a graduation test. It can, however, be used in the evaluation of teachers.

PARCC spying letter

Making Field Testing Mandatory?

The New York State Board of Regents on Monday discussed a proposal to make field tests – the tests that “test out” questions for future standardized testing – mandatory for school districts. The New York State Education Department has said the practice tests are already required*, but some school superintendents disagree. At least eight school districts in the Lower Hudson Valley said no thanks to field tests this past school year – and so far have faced no sanctions (details here).

Many concerned parents contacted the Board of Regents on Monday expressing opposition to changing regulations to make the field tests mandatory but the Board of Regents ignored all of the input and is moving forward with the proposal.  A comment period will begin on December 3 and end on January 20, 2015 and the Regents will be voting on the proposed change to make field testing mandatory at the February meeting (February 9 and 10, 2015).

Diane Ravitch has captured perfectly my thoughts regarding the decision of the New York State Board of Regents to make field testing ‘mandatory’.

The Regents and Commissioner John King think they are in public office to compel the public to do what they want. They don’t understand that they are “public servants,” which means obviously they are supposed to serve the public. When thousands of parents rise up as one to say that their children are over tested and their schools have been turned into test-prep centers, the Regents should listen. They haven’t. They have added fuel to parent anger. It is not going away just because the Regents have passed a motion. The children belong to their parents, not to the state.

– Diane Ravitch New York Regents Encourage Opt Out Movement By Ignoring Parent Objections to PARCC Field Testing November 18, 2014

If you are concerned about testing, please submit comments during the comment period.

“Opportunity for submission of data, views or arguments: Comments regarding the proposed amendment may be submitted to: Ken Wagner, Deputy Commissioner, State Education Department, Office of Curriculum, Assessment and Educational Technology, EBA Room 875, 89 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12234 (e-mail: NYSEDP12@nysed.gov). Comments must be received by the State Education Department on or before January 20, 2015.”

Also be in regular contact with your Regent member regarding your opposition to making field testing mandatory.  Regent Josephine Finn represents Ulster County on the Board of Regents.  Her contact information is RegentFinn@mail.nysed.gov or (518) 474-5889.

When you submit comments to Mr. Wagner, don’t forget to cc Regents, cc and contact your legislators and get your BOEs involved in issuing objections.  Contact information for all of the Regents and legislators is available here on Jolyn’s Education Corner.

Peppermint Patty multiple choice

* Below is information from United to Counter the Core explaining some background information on the field testing debate.

Nysed tried to deceive parents and administrators and forced students to take abusive field tests for years by claiming field tests were mandatory. They led parents and districts to wrongly believe that they were required, but that claim was debunked and found to be untrue by advocates who pushed back last year.http://schoolsofthoughtny.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/attention-field-tests-not-mandated-by-nyseds-own-admission/

Parents and schools refused field tests last year in record numbers! NYSUT supported districts that refused. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/30/nysut-supports-districts-that-opt-put-of-state-field-tests/

NYSED is not happy about this.  So, now they plan to force schools to give the abusive field tests by bypassing parent/district control and free will by changing the law!http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2014/November2014/1114p12d2.pdf
So much for reduced testing in NYS!

 

Feds feed testing mania, New York State Regent Phillips says

At least one New York State Board of Regents member is NOT happy with Arne Duncan’s rejection of the request to allow special education students to be tested two grades below their actual grade level and he believes he knows why the tests MUST go on!

Why is there a testing mania? The need for accountability is the claim. But it is well known that countries whose students far outperform ours require much less testing. A claim for the efficacy of Big Data is made by Pearson and other education testing companies. Testing more frequently is supposed to give us more data. In the long run, more data is supposed to improve our education system. For sure, it improves the bottom line of companies that provide the tests.

Read Regent Phillips opinion article in lohud here.

UPDATE 9/8/14:  This article gives additional explanation regarding the New York State request to allow special education students to be tested two grades below their grade level.

Parents and Educators Reject the Tests, the Scores and Corporate Agenda of NYSED & Pearson

Test scores for the 2014 New York State standardized math and ELA tests were released yesterday.  The following press release articulates concerns that many parents and educators have with the tests themselves and the resulting scores.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2014
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) http://www.nysape.org

Parents and Educators Reject the Tests, the Scores and Corporate Agenda of NYSED & Pearson

Today Commissioner John King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch released the test scores of the state exams in 3-8th grades, showing that, more than 68% of the state’s students were judged not proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) and more than 64% not proficient in Math. The overall results were largely flat with little to no change year over year with only small gains and drops for specific demographic groups.

Members of the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator advocacy groups, challenge the quality of the tests, the accuracy of the scores, and the motives of those who have manufactured these results. This past spring, NYSAPE estimated that at least 44,000 students had opted out of the state exams; today the Commissioner admitted that the number was as large as 60,000 compared to 10,000 in 2013.

As the growing problems with New York’s excessive and speculative testing reforms are exposed, parents across the state are outraged and calling for an overhaul at the state education department.

Lisa Rudley, Westchester county public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “Though Commissioner John King assured us that the new Common Core state tests would be a much better reflection of the skills students will need for ‘college and career’ success with the release of 50% of the questions last week, we learned what educators were forbidden by law from telling us: these were flawed tests, riddled with vague questions, inappropriate reading passages and multiple product placements. In its new Pearson contract signed amidst a financial crisis, NYSED doubled annual spending on testing and even worse, eliminated the transparency of the previous McGraw-Hill contract. Where is the management from NYSED and the oversight from the Board of Regents?”

Dr. Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School on Long Island said, “Considering the more than $28 million taxpayer investment in curriculum modules, this paltry increase in scores is one more indication of the ineffectiveness of State Education Department’s reforms, and the inappropriateness of the Common Core tests. Parents should take heart in knowing that the ‘college readiness‘ proficiency scores have no connection with reality. My high school and many other well-resourced high schools in NY have proven records of preparing students for college success that are no way connected to the state’s newest measure of proficiency.”

Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “If the released questions are this bad, you have to wonder how much worse the other half were. I have no confidence in the results released today. Parents now demand new leadership for a Board of Regents and Commissioner of Education who repeatedly fail to adequately respond to their legitimate concerns.”

“Many of the multiple choice questions required up to five steps and compelled 8 year olds to flip back forth between numbered paragraphs. The question becomes more of a measure of attention, memory and test taking skills rather than their deep understanding of a text. The commissioner has stated that education should not be about test prep, but these tricky assessments all but ensure that test prep will continue — to the detriment of real learning,” said Bianca Tanis, an Ulster County public school parent and special education teacher.

Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Opt Out said, “This past spring, 55,000 to 60,000 New York State students were spared from yet another year of test scores that were designed to show a large majority of failures. The number of opt outs will steadily grow until NYSED takes the concerns of parents seriously and makes the necessary changes to our children’s excessive high stakes testing regimen. High stakes testing and the Regents Agenda have hijacked our classrooms, and every day more parents become aware of how they too must protect their children from these harmful policies.”

Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent and educator notes, “Until the NYSED acknowledges that these developmentally inappropriate exams take time away from instruction, cost taxpayers, and set kids up to fail — in an attempt to perpetuate the false narrative of Governor Cuomo’s ‘death penalty’ for schools — parents will continue to refuse to allow their children to participate in these state tests.”

“The test content was not sufficiently disclosed and there was no quality assurance or mechanism for parents or educators to obtain valuable feedback. The bottom line is that students are getting hurt, money is being wasted and precious time is being spent on high stakes testing at the expense of more meaningful instruction. The system surrounding the NYS testing program is dysfunctional to say the least,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

Fred Smith, a test specialist formerly with the NYC Department of Education (DOE) stated, “The State Education Department took a half-step by releasing 50 percent of the English and math questions from the April 2014 exams. It was a half-step not just because it falls halfway short of full disclosure, but also because SED fails to provide data at its disposal that would enable objective evaluation of the questions, each of which is a brick in the wall of the testing program.”

“Like many other parents, I see how flawed the tests are as a measure of learning, and fear for all those millions of students who are told, unjustly, and at an early age, they aren’t ‘college and career ready’. These tests which ask our children to prove the existence of Big Foot and expose them to numerous and inappropriate product placements are the furthest from rigor one could imagine. I question the motives of the bureaucrats and the testing companies who are forcing these inappropriate exams onto our children – to try to prove to the public that our schools and children are failing, so they can better pursue their privatization agenda and the outsourcing of education into corporate hands,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

###

Toxic Culture of Education – Joshua Katz at TEDxUniversityofAkron

Please give the kids of Kingston 17 minutes to hear Joshua Katz, a high school math teacher in Florida, clearly explain what is wrong with the current state of education (its not the students and teachers!), this ‘Toxic Culture of Education’, and what we can do to get out of it.

Toxic Culture of Education –  Joshua Katz at TEDxUniversityofAkron

Joshua’s Talk:
In the mid 1800′s, Horace Mann captured the potential impact of education on society. We have yet to realize the potential he saw, and in fact, we are missing the mark by a wider and wider margin. We have created a “Toxic Culture of Education” in our country that is damaging students, impacting our economy, and threatening our future. Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, we have embraced a culture of high stakes testing and are perpetuating a false sense of failure in our schools. We have ignored research and data on effective policy making practices in order to serve the interest of private industries that have monetized our students. The impact is being felt in communities, on college campuses, and in our economy. The solution lies in a common sense approach to student development, curriculum choice, career exploration, and relevant data analysis. This talk will present a vision of an education system that allows us to embrace our full potential if we only had the courage to ask “Why Not”?

 

Data mining our children

Many parents are concerned about the multiple (400+) points of data that the New York State Education Department wants to collect on each student in their Statewide Longitudinal Data System* being created and managed by inBloom.  Others might wonder “What’s the big deal?  Why are parents so concerned?”

Here is a photo taken from a Pearson marketing video that might explain just a little bit of the concern.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn2/t1.0-9/p235x350/1958180_679983978721937_441059435_n.jpg

I am not good at judging ages so I can’t tell how old this boy is but the concept that a computer program can determine what his college major and/or career should be causes me great concern.  I started college convinced that I was going to get a double major in math and biology with a secondary education teaching certificate.  I graduated with a degree in computer science (still in 4 years mind you!)  Even if teachers and guidance counselors are contributing to the date being used, how is a parent to know with confidence that some colleges are not being more heavily favored because they have some ‘special arrangement’ with the vendor providing the software?

Here is the full video (photo is taken from about the 5:20 mark):

Vision for Personalized and Connected Living video

My daughter thought the tables that were giant computer screens where the students worked were really cool.  I was chilled by the ‘attendance’ being taken as the students walked through the school door!  Was there retina scanning going on or were the tablets each student was carrying being scanned?  The students collaborating on the train might be neat but what about students like me who get carsick if I try to read at all in a moving vehicle and what kind of wifi access are the students using on the train?  I sure hope they have been thoroughly briefed by the school on what is safe to share via ‘public networks’ versus ‘home networks’ (ie secure networks).

We are told as parents that we need to limit the amount of screen time our children have – looks like this boy is living his entire life by/on the computer!

As a parent, what do you think of Pearson’s “Vision for Personalized & Connected Living” for your student(s)?  Are you willing to allow the school district and New York State to provide the data on your child(ren) to make it happen?  Please post your thoughts so we can find out what parents from all around the school district think on this important topic.

 

 

*Statewide Longitudinal Data System – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included Race to the Top monies as part of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.  As a requirement for applying for the Race to the Top money, states had to assure the federal Government that they would establish a Longitudinal Data System.  The Federal Government defined the pieces of data, which would range from PreK through college (P-20) that the states had to include in the LDS as part of the America COMPETES Act.  New York State submitted their application for stabilization funds in April 2009 signed by Governor Patterson and Commissioner Mills.

The EngageNY Portal is the interface teachers, students and families will use to access the SLDS data managed by inBloom.