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PARCC-Testing Company Caught Spying on Test-Takers

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Confession # 1: I am not now nor have I ever been a member of a conspiracy group.

That said, enthusiastic supporters of more, more, and MORE federal bureaucratic intrusion into the lives of parents, students, and public education via Common Core Standards/PARCC tests/Pearson Publishing just may turn me into one.

Yet another troubling revelation about PARCC testing is coming to light. In the past few hours, parents began to learn that Pearson Publishing, the company that produces Common Core-aligned PARCC tests, is spying on students monitoring the social media of all students during PARCC tests and tattling on potential cheaters to the Department of Education via Priority 1 Alerts which then go to the students’ administrations where discipline is expected to be meted out to the student miscreant.

The incident that is generating outrage took place at Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren, New Jersey. Late Monday night a Watchung Hills testing-coordinator received a call from someone in the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) reporting a testing “breach.”

While monitoring all test-takers’ Twitter accounts, the Pearson-created spy system detected what it thought was an unlawful “tweet” and went into full-blown KGB-mode, alerting the New Jersey Department of Education who then notified the school and recommended the gulag student-discipline. Even more troubling, apparently the Priority I cheater-Alert was incorrect.

Justifiably troubled by the spying and worried about the effect the revelation of spying may have on support for PARCC testing, Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett sent this email to her colleagues:

Good morning all,

Last night at 10PM, my testing coordinator received a call from the NJDOE that Pearson had initiated a Priority 1 Alert for an item breach within our school. The information the NJDOE initially called with was that there was a security breach DURING the test session, and they suggested the student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it. After further investigation on our part, it turned out that the student had posted a tweet (NO PICTURE) at 3:18PM (after school) that referenced a PARCC test question. 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. The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during PARCC testing. 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 (not to mention the fact that the DOE wanted us to also issue discipline to the student). I thought this was worth sharing with the group.

–          Liz

Elizabeth C. Jewett
Superintendent
Watchung Hills Regional High School District
108 Stirling Rd.
Warren, NJ 07059

Confession #2: I am wholly opposed to cheating in any form, from electronic cheating to sly-eyes peaking. Opposition to cheating, however, does not justify spying on students. The ends of curtailing cheating most decidedly do not justify the means of monitoring social media. Add this to the list of reasons to opt your children out of PARCC testing–or better yet, public schools.

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