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Education Publisher Monitoring Students’ Social Media Activity

Education Publisher Monitoring Students’ Social Media Activity
Suada Kolovic

The average high school student can easily spend the better part of his or her day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram...where one more post quickly turns into another sleepless night. Hey, we've all been in stuck in that inescapable web before (no one's judging!) but what if your private thoughts turned out to be not so private?

Pearson, the world's largest education company which recently crafted the standardized tests for the Common Core curriculum, has been monitoring social media accounts to detect any security breaches during exams. News of this monitoring 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 incident: An unnamed student posted a tweet referring to the PARCC exam after school hours, Pearson officials then contacted the school district to discipline the student for having said something inappropriate about the tests. She also said the child’s parents were concerned about the monitoring and confirmed that the publisher was monitoring student activity on the web. (The incident was first reported on the blog of former Star-Ledger reporter, education editor and senior columnist Bob Braun, who called the monitoring nothing less than “spying.”)

In response, officials at Pearson did not explain how they are monitoring student activity but it is believed that they are conducting keyword searches for any mention of the PARCC tests on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The company has acknowledged the monitoring, saying, "We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity and integrity of the test results." (For more on this story, head over to The Washington Post.)

What do you think of the latest breach of student privacy? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

Comments (28)
Kelsey R. 3/31/2015
I think everyone has the right to their own opinion, but some things do not need to be posted on the internet. A lot of the times, people say things out of anger and they don't really mean it. Later on that won't matter because anyone can still find it because you put it out there to the public.
Dakota H 3/26/2015
I think the officials have every right to look. Posting negative comments on any social media site is ridiculous, and I'm not saying I haven't. This test has a reputation to uphold, if someone posted a negative comment about something you'd done or are a part of wouldn't you want to see something done to fix it? And about the whole privacy issue, social media is anything but private. Posting anything can be spread and negative comments spread like wildfire!Even if you had a privacy setting, friends of friends can see what you post. You ever here the expression, get it in writing, well sometimes putting it in writing is detrimental.
Chris. O 3/25/2015
Anything on social media stays on social media, even if you think it is private. It uploads to google, and if jobs or colleges research you they could find your pictures on google. Other personal messages, and video chats are also monitored by a majority of the companies that use these communication apps.
Ibella81 3/23/2015
Everyone's saying Pearson is out of line and why would they "spy" . Why not look into both perspective ? Everyone should know not everything you post online is private . Someone ,somewhere will see it and of course it was gonna get to Pearson .
Carol B. 3/20/2015
Pearson is way out of line. Pearson has no business monitoring individual students who have no relationship with the company. These families did not consent to monitoring. I hope the opt out movement grows. The tests are garbage- they are not tied to curriculum, they require ridiculous physical manipulations (dragging an answer to a box) that undoubtedly affects some students' results, they take way too much time, and even the teachers say they are terrible, that they themselves cannot pass them. Everyone taking these tests should make sure their social media settings exclude Pearson. Or they should flood Pearson with so many absurd references to the test that Pearson gives up its mass invasion of privacy.
Joan C 3/19/2015
What does "inappropriate" mean? That Pearson is spying is appalling. That they seem to believe it is appropriate is scary. The Pearson justification reeks of entitlement. The ability to do whatever they feel they can with no consequences. That they informed the school to discipline the child is so wrong on many levels. My son goes to a school where 40% of the parents opted their kids out of the PARCC test. I was conflicted as to doing this. Now I feel vindicated. It's just one more test that means nothing and makes a lot of money for the company. What a racket!
Nicholas C 3/19/2015
I think using the word, "spy" is a bit harsh. While we all like to have privacy, it is important that we monitor these things. For example, if there is cyber bullying or something malicious going on, then the authorities could use that to prevent it. The oversight it there for our own good.
Megan S 3/19/2015
I don't think they had a right to "spy" on her at all. What happens at school and what happens at home should be two separate matters. As long as she wasn't giving out answers to the test, then she has a right to tweet whatever she chooses.
Sandra C 3/18/2015
I agree that cheating is wrong, and there should be consequences when it happens. But to go searching on students' private, afterschool pages is just wrong. People should have privacy. Its not like students are terrorists, in which case "spying" would be acceptable. And yes, unless an honor code has in fact been signed, I don't believe what goes on in students' private pages are any of the schools business unless the school wants to send a friend request to the student. ??
Tiara S. 3/18/2015
If there was a waver that was to be signed before taking the tests that cleary states that Pearson is going to stalk your social media posts about anything affiliated with them then fine. But since there most likely is not then this is unreasonable because as long as no immediate answers are being shared then they have absolutely no right to control such a thing.
Deandra B 3/18/2015
While I agree that there is great value in ensuring that the integrity of the test-taking process is maintained, it is a violation of these same principles of fairness/ equality if the privacy of innocent students is being compromised. Keyword searches are not a violation, however, as when one is fully every bit of information he/ she makes available in posts or on their page. But if Pearson has direct access to their accounts, that is simply unacceptable.
Preston W 3/18/2015
I think that Pearson went TOO far. what gives them the right to spy on people's social media.
Sheri 3/18/2015
Kids need to understand that NOTHING is private in cyber space. BUT, having said that... A kid complaining about a test is nothing new. This has been going on since the beginning of time and will until the end of time. As long as there wasn't a issue with cheating or revealing the Q & A's then the student didn't do anything wrong. I can't believe Pearson's is making an issue of it and spying/stalking kids comment's on the internet. They need to put on their big girl/boy pants and realize kids are going to complain about tests! So what!!
Ricardo F 3/18/2015
Wow! Shock I learn something new, but i'm a little worried that Pearson did not explain how they are monitoring student activity. Nothing is really private.
StaCee W. 3/18/2015
As an adult student and the mom of a high school student, I find this kind of behavior reprehensible.. Was the student giving out answers to the test? Offering to take the test for someone else? Or was the student simply voicing his or her opinion? Last I heard, free speech was in still wide use, unless I missed the vote that took that right away, too?
Amanda 3/18/2015
I mean do not get me wrong if a student is not suppose to take it during the class then yes there is a problem. BUT, since the student is done and is in the comforts of her own home then that is a little silly on Pearson's part. Personally, Common Core is a total waste of tax dollars anyway. I mean if they are so finicky about this then they will need to do more than just freak out about a tweet. I mean come on its the 21 century, the World Wide Web is a little bit bigger than Twitter.
Tonya G. 3/17/2015
I was always apprehensive about talking about standardized tests even vaguely after they happened and I (and my friends!) thought I was being paranoid. Now I don't think I was at all. This is horrifying.
Mommacita K 3/17/2015
The fact that Pearson CAN spy on these children should be sounding all the alarms. Since when does taking a test negate a students right to privacy. For too long the public schools and the officials at those schools have violated a students rights. Once that students step off the campus what that student does, says, with whom they spend time, etc. is NONE of the schools business. Period!
Elijah G. 3/17/2015
The event discussed above obviously reflects upon Pearson's and the Watchung Hills Regional High School District's attitude remaining an entitlement to violating students' privacy and lurking behind each child's moves. The situation defines the disgusting mentality of school districts and educational companies across the board regarding a neglect of decency towards their forced clients. Obviously, the educational community should view this incident as a mar on the face of their mission and SINCERELY review the purpose of the Common Core - not one vested in educational interests, but in the extension of Big Brother teachings.
Elijah G. 3/17/2015
The event discussed above obviously reflects upon Pearson's and the Watchung Hills Regional High School District's attitude remaining an entitlement to violating students' privacy and lurking behind each child's moves. The situation defines the disgusting mentality of school districts and educational companies across the board regarding a neglect of decency towards their forced clients. Obviously, the educational community should view this incident as a mar on the face of their mission and SINCERELY review the purpose of the Common Core - not one vested in educational interests, but in the extension of Big Brother teachings.
Jennifer Pokrzywka 3/17/2015
I understand the concerns with the tests. If tests are given at the time each state allots, there should be no problem with students expressing their feelings on social media. Cell phones are not allowed in the exams so cheating via social media is almost impossible, if the test administrators are doing their jobs.
Esther G. 3/17/2015
I think the breach of student privacy is extremely inappropriate. The fact that Pearson actually wanted the student disciplined for saying something they felt was inappropriate about an object is so disgusting and a violation of the students right to free speech.
Ian P. 3/17/2015
In short, I think it is wrong that Pearson is contacting schools and monitoring student activity. I understand the fact the test breaching is a serious issue, but Pearson, nor any company should contact a school because a student made a tweet or a post about some exam. As long as it was after the exam happened, it should not matter, nor should the student be disciplined for exorcising their right of free speech.
Brandy Jemmott 3/17/2015
This is clearly a breach of privacy. Students have a right to their opinion regarding the testing and calling a school to have the child penalized is just wrong.
Michele W. 3/17/2015
If you put it out on the social media be prepared because you cannot erase what you say or what you are seen doing. I think that Pearson is going a little overboard with their quest to secure their test. The test should be secure in the first place to reduce the possibility of cheating.
Melissa R. 3/17/2015
I think "unreasonable search," one of our foundational Amendment rights as American citizens, is a valid point to be argued & analyzed here. Does Pearson as a corporation, have the right to police student's opinion of their tests? Sure, integrity of their product is important as it should be to any company; however, students who are essentially the next generation of American citizens, are entitled to their opinions. It is part of freedom of speech; so long that it is not slanderous they should not be bothered. Even if the speech is slanderous, adults and other political figures strongly state their own opinions and nobody calls the principal on them. The last thing I want for my generation is to be shamed into submission for having opinions. If we as a society allow corporations to stifle the opinions of the consumers/those affected by their product, what will happen to consumer's say? Furthermore, what will happen regarding prevention of other ethical issues like fair trade?
Bruce E 3/17/2015
As the owner of an educational media company I am saddened at the prospect of corporate spying on our clients--our children. The students of this country need to know that they can operate with some element of privacy in their lives. I would never permit this to occur, and would under no circumstances tell an administrator to discipline their student. "You have got to take this test! It is fantastic!" said no student, ever.
Elenor B. 3/17/2015
It is hard to determine what, if any, kind of discipline should have been initiated if I am unaware of the posting's exact words. If the student revealed information on the web that was strictly prohibited and otherwise unnecessary, then action should be taken, whether or not it is deemed unconstitutional out of the 4th Amendment. Students are bound to say inappropriate things on social media sites, it just depends on how far they went, and in what direction for that matter, that ultimately decides if a legitimate punishment is in order.
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