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Pearson Monitors Social Media Posts for Cheating

The world is ever evolving. We now have technology that we could never have imagined a hundred years ago. Social media is for interactions among people in which they create, share, exchange information and ideas online. It seems easy to take technology for granted as an integrated part of our lives, but what happens when the wrong information is shared publicly online?

Two Watchung Hills Regional 10th graders learnt the hard way when they posted questions on Twitter from a statewide English assessment. But they haven’t been the first ones caught cheating, more than 70 instances in 6 states have occurred where exam material has been posted on social media, according to spokesman Jesse Comart for PARCC.

PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) is a consortium of states that are working to create a standard set of K-12 assessments in English and Mathematics.

According to David Connerty-Marin, Communications director of PARCC, one English question can cost as much as $15,000 due to levels of research and review required. If information is too widely broadcasted then the test company believes it can invalidate a test question.

And it is here the problem begins as Educational publisher Pearson, a multi-billion dollar British corporation that produces and administers the PARCC tests, believes it needs to protect its “intellectual property” rights.

Students in higher education have been using social media to cheat on exams such as SATs and ACTs, however with the roll-out of a more rigorous Common Core changing from pen and paper to computers, younger students are taking up similar actions.

Although the paper versions are available, most schools that have adopted the Common Core assessments are making the transition to giving students the PARCC tests online. Computers are limited so schools are giving students exams over the course of months.

To counteract these new means of cheating, Pearson has been monitoring social media with advanced software that seeking to find key words or phases that might be relevant to students cheating.

The state education department is co-operating with these strategies of disciplining students. At least one school has been asked to discipline students who have made inappropriate comments about the test.

An email was sent out addressing a “security breach” in which a student’s tweet mentioned the recent PARCC test. An unnamed employee at the state education department stated that a photo had been taken and posted online during the exam period. This was simply not true. There was no photo. Nor was the tweet posted during exam time. However the student did reference a PARCC exam question.

Elizabeth Jewett, Watchung Hills Regional High school superintendent, sent out an email confirming the monitoring. Ironically, blogger Bob Braun found out and managed to spread the news along with photos of the email sent by Jewett.


According to Bob Braun, the state department and Pearson’s have refused to answer the New Jersey Assembly Education Committee questions. State Education Commissioner David Hespe didn’t even show up. Patricia Morgan, a young lawyer was sent in his place and read of a script.

The problem is Pearson doesn't own the questions, PARCC does.

 “Pearson is the lead testing contractor for PARCC. We were successful in winning a multi-year bid to develop and administer the PARCC tests to students in a group of states. That group of states sets all policy for PARCC, and owns all aspects of the program – including the actual test questions.“

However, $108 million is being paid to run PARCC testing program in New Jersey per year. A clear incentive for Pearson to try and prevent violations of ‘intellectual property’. Possibly also explains Pearson’s aggressiveness that students take this test.

Obviously parents are concerned but unfortunately being left in the dark.  People have begun tweeting under the hashtag #MonitoredByPearson or others sharing a simple slogan - Pearson: Always Watching. A movement where students protest the new PARCC exams have been administered at Las Cruces Public Schools.


A movement where students protest the new PARCC exams have been administered at Las Cruces Public Schools.

Thankfully, PARCC test does not serve as a graduation test. Pass or fail the test has no consequence for students who take it. Although the test scores are used as a portion of teacher’s jobs evaluation.

As for those two Watchung Hills Regional 10th graders, they have probably learnt a very valuable lesson in social media.

Jessica Smith 

Australian girl, Jessica is loving England but is missing the sunshine! She loves writing, dogs and plays hockey! Follow her @JessicaAtSMF

Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info http://socialmediacambridge.co.uk/.

Pearson Monitors Social Media Posts for Cheating Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Rating: 5

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