New Jersey lawmakers Monday demanded the educational publishing giant Pearson explain why it monitors the social media of students taking its common-core standards test. The computerized Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (Parcc) test has created a backlash across the country with parents demanding their students be excused from the exam.
Assemblyman Patrick Deignan, a Middlesex Democrat, has demanded a representative from Pearson appear before the Assembly Education Committee Thursday, blogger Bob Braun reported. Deignan also has asked Education Commissioner David Hespe to explain the surveillance program before the panel, as well as the relationship between the state agency and Pearson.
Pearson has a $108 million contract with the state.
The Newark Star-Ledger reported Monday officials at Watchung Hills Regional High School District were shocked to hear about the monitoring program. Superintendent Elizabeth C. Jewett told the newspaper she found the idea "a bit disturbing."
Parents already had expressed concern about the tests, given to children in the third through 11th grades, and the information they produce. In a letter to parents posted on the district's website, Jewett acknowledged she expressed concerns about the surveillance program to other superintendents. The program came to light after a student tweeted about the test.
Pearson posted a statement on its website saying it is critical that elements of the test not be broadcast.
”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," the statement said, concluding," We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and upholds the validity and integrity of the test results."
The wisdom of giving the test has been questioned in other school districts. Chicago initially said it would only give the test in select schools because of concerns the district wasn't technologically prepared to test all students. The decision was reversed after the state threatened to withhold school funding from districts that did not participate fully in Parcc testing. But in some Chicago schools as many as 72 percent of students have opted out of the exam.
In Rhode Island, a veteran teacher in Pautucket was put on suspension for talking to students about the test, WPRI, Providence, reported.