Pearson monitoring social media for security breaches during PARCC testing

Updated with response from superintendent; Pearson revises statement to make clear it is working with PARCC states; more about social media monitoring during testing.

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.

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.”

Students in New Jersey are now taking the PARCC, a Common Core test created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two multi-state consortia given $360 million in federal funds to design new standardized tests that align with the Common Core State Standards. PARCC testing is underway in several other states amid a growing opt-out movement by parents who are refusing to allow their children to take the test. Pearson has a contract of more than $100 million to administer the PARCC in New Jersey.

News of the monitoring of social media was revealed in a message that Superintendent Elizabeth C. Jewett of Watchung Hills Regional High School District in New Jersey sent to colleagues about a disturbing episode that she was made aware of by her district’s testing coordinator. It was posted on the Web site of Bob Braun, a former reporter, education editor and senior columnist at the Star-Ledger, who called the monitoring of social media nothing less than “spying.”

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.

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