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Report: PARCC Test Creator, State DOE Monitoring Social Media For Student Posts (Updated)

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Journalist Bob Braun has broken a story about the company that created the controversial PARCC test monitoring social media for students posts.


(Updates at end of story).

Social media is being monitored by the company that created the PARCC test, in an apparent effort to stop students from posting about the tests, according to a published report.

According to that report, at least three Watchung Hills Regional High School students were found to have posted about the test – known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test – and their names given to the state Department of Education. The state DOE then attempted to have the students suspended, according to the report by Bob Braun, of Bob Braun’s Ledger.

Franklin Board of Education president Ed Potosnak said March 13 that he has not heard anything “that leads me to believe the state is monitoring social media as part of the PARCC assessment, it’d be troubling to learn that was happening.”

Potosnak said he would look into the matter further.

According to Braun’s report, Watchung Regional schools Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett confirmed that the district’s testing coordinator had been contacted by the state DOE and told that three students were found to have posted about the PARCC test.

Jewett sent an email to her colleagues expressing her concern about the monitoring, Braun wrote.

“She said parents are upset and added that she thought Pearson’s behavior would contribute to the growing ‘opt out’ movement,” Braun wrote. “So far, thousands of parents have kept their children away from the tests–and one of the reasons is the fear that Pearson might abuse its access to student data, something it has denied it would do.”

“The school superintendent also expressed concern about ‘the fact that the DOE wanted us to also issue discipline to the student’,” Braun wrote.

“According to sources–and not denied by Jewett–state officials tried to have the students involved suspended,” he wrote.

Bran’s web site was taken down by a “Denial of Service” attack shortly after his story was published.

Pearson is apparently using software supplied by a company called Tracx to conduct its social media monitoring, and is one of the “case studies” featured on the company’s Web site:

“Pearson was seeking a social listening and analytics platform that could be utilized across all its business units and able to scale to support its global businesses,” the Web site reads. “Today, Pearson uses Tracx to arm nearly 40 employees to do their own social research and reporting and continues to add additional users and geographies every month.”

(Update: This page has been taken down by Tracx.)

Those opposed to the PARCC test have urged parents to “opt out” their students, even though state regulations mandate full participation in the testing.

While some school districts have seen a relatively large number of students opt out of the test, fewer than six students have opted out of taking the PARCC test in the district, schools Superintendent Lee Seitz has said.

New Jersey is one of a handful of states comprising the consortium. The cost to the state for the test could be about $108 million, but that final cost won’t be known until after the tests are taken and are dependent upon more than five dozen variables.

Update:

March 16: Interim schools Superintendent Lee Seitz said that the district is “not aware of this situation and will work with the NJ DOE in their investigation if requested.”

March 15: According to a report in the Washington Post, Pearson spokeswoman Stacy Skelly said maintaining 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.”

“We welcome debate and a variety of opinions,” Skelly told the Post. “But when test questions or elements are posted publicly to the Internet, we are obligated to alert PARCC and our state customers. Any contact with students or decisions about student discipline are handled at the local level.”

“We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity, integrity of the test results,” Skelly told the Post.

This is a developing story; check back for more information.

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