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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Are testing companies really "spying" on students if they monitor social media during testing?

Another day of standardized testing, another controversy.  The latest being around the administration of the PARCC Common Core test in New Jersey.  In this case the controversy is not over the usefulness of testing, or current problems with the online test administration, but rather the monitoring of social media by the testing company, Pearson, to detect test cheaters and other irregularities.  The controversy is detailed in this Washington Post blog, with a superintendent being upset by the perceived big brother monitoring of their students.  Why is this at all disturbing?  Haven’t we always monitored students and schools during high stakes testing?  Test administrators and monitors are rigorously trained, certified, and then required to monitor schools and testing, to ensure a fair testing environment for all students.  As much time and money as states and schools spend on this massive undertaking for arguably little return, is it wrong that Pearson monitors publicly posted social media posts?  If a student, teacher, or administrator chooses to publicly post test questions to social media during a test, then they have made a poor choice, violated testing rules, and must face the fall out.  But there are allegations detailed here that the spying was in fact looking at private student social media posts.  If those were somehow monitored or if action was taken on students’ opinions of the test, then shame on those involved.  But come on, to call monitoring public social media posts “spying” shows a lack of understanding of social media that is for all intents is public information.