Is the Peering Eye of Pearson Looking at Your Child’s Social Media Page?

Is your child’s social media page being monitored online by members of the Common Core corporate syndicate?  This is a possibility, as some parents and administrators are now finding out.  While the practice of monitoring children online has been happening for some time, I’ll show you how to make sure that your child does not get noticed by the peering eyes of corporations like Pearson.

The development came as news in the small town of Oxford, Connecticut, where some school officials were caught unaware of this possibility. FoxCT.com took a closer look at the story this week:

OXFORD–As Connecticut students are taking Smarter Balanced testing this May for the Common Core, social media sites are being monitored for test security breaches, largely unbeknownst to students, parents or school administrators.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is one of two nationwide tests administered to assess the Common Core standards. Connecticut and 20 other states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and The Bureau of Indian Affairs, use Smarter Balanced testing. Other states use the PARCC test, developed by Pearson Publishing.

The Smarter Balanced test was first introduced in Connecticut last year as a field test, but was fully rolled out across all districts this school year. It is administered in grades 3-8 and 11.

Smarter Balanced employees at UCLA monitor social media sites during testing for any security breaches, such as posting pictures of test questions online.

The added security measure came as a surprise to Southington Superintendent Tim Connellan. In 2014, Connellan, then the superintendent of the Oxford Public Schools, received a call from the Connecticut State Department of Education alerting him to a test breach. The DOE received a call from Smarter Balanced only minutes after a student tweeted a picture of the test.

“He typed something into a text box, snapped it with his smart phone — which he shouldn’t have had, granted — and then tweeted it out,” explained Connellan. “And then apparently, it was retweeted.”

Connellan explained that he had been in charge of administering the Smarter Balanced field test in Oxford, which included understanding test security, but was unaware of the monitoring.

“It certainly would have been appropriate for the information to come from the Smarter Balanced Assessment; to say ‘Oh, by the way, we do have an additional level of security, we are going to be monitoring social media accounts,’” said Connellan.

In March, a New Jersey school district faced a similar situation. In an internal email leaked to a reporter, Watchung Hills Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett called the monitoring “a bit disturbing.” Her email made national headlines and put test-maker Pearson Publishing in the spotlight.

Smarter Balanced said the monitoring is done so the test questions do not end up online.

In a statement to Fox CT, Smarter Balanced Deputy Executive Director Luci Willits said:

Test security and copyright protection are not new issues in testing; what’s new is the social media landscape. No one would approve of a student making photocopies of the test and handing them out to their friends or posting the test on their locker. Posting test questions on the internet is no different. Every student deserves to have an authentic testing experience where they don’t see questions ahead of time.

Here in Florida, teachers are required to tell the students during the introduction to the rules of the FSA that any sharing of test questions through social media will result in the invalidation of their exam.  While they aren’t exactly forthcoming about how they are going to find out, one can pretty much guess that, based on that sentence, they will be looking for examples of shared questions on social media outlets.

Although Pearson’s trolling of students pages can be considered “a bit disturbing” or even slightly creepy, there is another phrase that describes it as well… “completely legal.”  You see, it is within Pearson, or any other company’s right to go looking online for examples of others spreading the questions of the test.  Because the test is their own creation, copyright issues can come into play.  Legally, there is nothing wrong with Pearson monitoring any child’s social media page to look for examples of students sharing their materials online.  That’s because there it is completely legal for anyone to examine your child’s (or your) social media page if you have not adjusted your privacy settings.  If your child’s social media page is not set to private, there is no stopping anyone from legally peering in on their life without their knowledge or consent.  The quickest fix for this is something that everyone who uses social media platforms should be doing anyway… Adjust your account’s privacy settings to where only you and your ‘friends’ can look through your page.  It will keep the prying eyes of Pearson (and most anyone else) from your child’s social media page.

-Gabriel Diaz

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