By March 13, 2015 Uncategorized 38 Comments

I honestly feel ill after reading a story shared earlier on Diane Ravitch’s national blog. Check that, it’s not a sour stomach I am experiencing, it is a strong sense of anger. I am incensed, furious, and seriously po’d!

According to the Diane’s summary, Bob Braun, an investigative reporter in New Jersey for the past 50 years, has learned that Pearson is spying on the social media accounts of students taking the PARCC tests.

I had a hard time believing it too. Read it for yourself on Mr. Braun’s Ledger HERE. (update: according to Braun, he was forced to shut down his blog due to numerous electronic attacks on the site—you don’t mess with big brother!)

Not only is Pearson spying on New Jersey students taking the PARCC assessments (the new common core tests developed and promoted using about 300 million dollars of federal Race to the Top funds), they ostensibly are doing so with the explicit knowledge and consent of the New Jersey Department of Education.

The information came to light after a New Jersey district superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett, reported being notified by the state DOE of a potential item breach after Pearson intercepted a tweet from a student at the school. In the student’s tweet, sent after the end of the school day, the child apparently referenced a PARCC test question. And, that’s a big no-no. Fortunately, some data troll from Pearson was right on it.

As you can see, Pearson and the New Jersey DOE made no attempt to deny the allegation. In fact, the DOE informed the school district that Pearson was monitoring ALL social media during the PARCC testing. Moreover, they wanted the district to “issue discipline” to the student for whatever he or she tweeted on their personal time.

I realize we do not live in New Jersey and that students in our state are not participating in PARCC testing. However, it does bother me that a multinational corporation is trolling the social media of millions of minor age children with absolutely no parent knowledge or consent.

Don’t misunderstand me—anyone who posts on the world wide web should be well aware that their words and visual materials can and will be shared, copied, or saved by anyone else who sees it. As educators and parents, it is critically important that we teach our children of the inherent dangers of the internet. This is not the point.

This situation is different. This represents intentional data mining of our children by a billion dollar testing company and a state department of education. To me this crosses a line that should cause millions of American parents to scream, “You’ve gone too damn far.

If Pearson (or any other testing company) can access information about a possible test question being referenced by a student from literally millions of Tweets, Facebook, and Instagram posts posted on a daily basis, what other information can they gather, and where does it all stop?

Does Pearson also have access to student email accounts and text messages? Are they also monitoring the social media of teachers and administrators in those schools where PARCC is being administered? Is someone at Pearson reading this blog because I included their name in the title? (If yes, and you are that Pearson troll, get the hell out of here!)

And WHAT IF a twelve-year-old student sends a tweet to a friend on their own time saying: “The answer to question #2 on the reading test is C.”

I am not saying this is an ethical thing for any student to do. Yet at the same time, are we comfortable with the idea of a Pearson employee sitting behind a keyboard somewhere in England, spying on our children’s social media posts, then sending a message to a state department employee thousands of miles away, who then contacts a school and directs them to punish a child for something they posted about a test item the student couldn’t care less about?

I suppose the answer I am really looking for tonight is this: IF is a practice of ONE state department and ONE testing company, can it also happen here? In short, will the children of Oklahoma possibly be subjected to the same level of “monitoring” of social media by our testing company, Measured Progress, and/or our state department?

I hope (and believe) the answer to this question is an unequivocal “NO.” However, I want to hear it. I need to have this assurance.

At the same time, if I had a child in a state like New Jersey where Pearson is administering the statewide assessments, and had been previously wavering on the decision of whether or not to opt my child out of testing, my decision would have just become obvious.

Maybe we should encourage every kid who takes a Pearson administered assessment this spring, to include the two big test consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, to tweet or post something like THIS everyday during the testing cycle:

“Just took stupid #PARCC (#Smarterbalanced) test. Questions. Answers. Answer is A. Answer is B. Answer is C. Answer is D. Correct answer. Wrong answer. Want to see a pic? #Pearsonsucks #Pearson=$$$ #I’mMoreThanATest”

This would certainly keep the Pearson data trolls busy for awhile!

Finally, this episode illustrates what happens when our policy makers continue to worship at the alter of the almighty testing Gods. They are selling our children out for a few pieces of silver. This cannot continue. We must stop this insanity!

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