Archives for category: Pearson

I recently posted testing expert Fred Smith’s discovery that several test questions on New York’s Common Core exam had “disappeared.”

Susan Edelman of the Néw York Post read Fred Smith’s article and went searching for the answer. She found it.

“These tests were rotten to the Common Core.

“Student performance on four questions on the much-ballyhooed state English Language Arts exams was secretly scrubbed by state ­education officials because too many students didn’t answer them or were confused by them.

“After the tests were given last April 1-3, the state decided to eliminate the results of one multiple-choice question on the seventh-grade ELA exam, two on the third-grade ELA exam, and a four-point essay on the third-grade test.
Six of 55 points were whacked from the third-grade test.

“The axed essay question, called a “constructive response,” aimed to gauge a prime goal of the Common Core standards — whether students think critically and write cohesively, citing evidence from a text to support their ideas.

“They produced a defective product, and don’t want you to know about it,” said Fred Smith, a former city test analyst who discovered the missing items.

“In touting an uptick in scores last August, the state didn’t mention the erased results. The number of city kids rated “proficient” increased 2.9 percent from 2013 on the third-grade ELA test and 3.9 percent on the seventh-grade test.”

In short, by removing these four questions, the State Education Department produced a slight increase in scores, which enabled then-State Commissioner John King to assert that the state was making progress.

Ever wonder who does the fun job of reading your children’s tweets, Facebook pages, and Instagrams? Stephanie Simon has done the investigative work, on behalf of, but really on behalf of parents and children across America.

In the new age of Common Core and online testing, student privacy is dead.

Simon visits companies that do the “monitoring.” She calls them “Common Core’s cyber-spies.”

She writes:

“Pearson is hardly the only company keeping a watchful eye on students.

“School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags.

“A dozen states have tried to limit cyber snooping by banning either colleges or K-12 schools, or both, from requesting student user names and passwords, which could be used to pry open social media accounts protected by privacy settings. Among those taking action: California, Illinois, Michigan and Utah.

“At least five other states, among them New York and Maryland, are considering similar laws this session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“But such laws protect only accounts marked as private. Many kids post publicly to build up their online followings.

“And when they do, companies with names like Social Sentinel, Geo Listening, Varsity Monitor and UDiligence are there to read them.
The rise of online student monitoring comes at a time of rising parent protests against other forms of digital surveillance — namely, the vast quantities of data that technology companies collect on kids as they click through online textbooks, games and homework. Companies providing those online resources can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day. Much of that information is not protected by federal privacy law.”

Think of it: these companies “can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day.”

And that’s not all:

“Some of the monitoring software on the market can track and log every keystroke a student makes while using a school computer in any location, including at home…..

“Sometimes the monitoring is covert: One company advertises that its surveillance software, known as CompuGuardian, can run on “stealth mode.” At the other extreme, some high schools and colleges explicitly warn students that they are being watched and advise them not to cling to “a false sense of security about your rights to freedom of speech.”

Privacy is dead. Privacy is dead. Yes, your children are being watched. Companies you never heard of have collected vast amounts of information about them.

As the CEO of Sun Microsystems famously said in 1999, “you have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

Read more:

The BadAss Teachers Association wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Pearson.

“This week’s scandal about Pearson spying on children and their social media activity to determine if testing security was breached shows us that Pearson has no qualms in stealing the sanctity of childhood. Gone are the days in which a child’s life can be that of a private citizen. The idea that Pearson feels it must corral and control what our children put on social media is a corruption, greed, and injustice sandwich. Sorry Pearson we are not eating it.

“Here is a strong and direct warning from the teachers and parents of the Badass Teachers Association – You messed up and you messed up BIG. Due to your attempt to continue to buy up and control American education you have committed perhaps the most disgusting act any one could commit – you have used our children to further your agenda in a light that is so transparent. America values its children’s privacy and respects their ability to be private citizens.”

Write Michael Barber, who directs Pearson:


We learned in the past few days that Pearson is monitoring the Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts and other social media used by America’s children. Some call it spying. Pearson expects America’s teachers and principals to help them police the children to make sure that they don’t write about or even discuss the PARCC test. (The corporation administering the Smarter Balanced Assessments is trying to exercise the same control to protect its tests.)


Mercedes Schneider here describes Pearson’s intrusive policy for non-native speakers of English who take the “Pearson Test of English Academic.”


Part of the agreement signed by the test-taker states:


I confirm that I have carefully reviewed the PTE Academic Test Taker Handbook, including, but not limited to, those provisions relating to testing, score cancellations, privacy policies, and the collection, processing, use and transmission to the United States of the PTE Academic test taker’s personally identifiable data (including the digital photograph, fingerprint, signature, palm-vein scan, and audio/video recording collected at the test centre) and disclosure of such data to Pearson Language Tests, its service providers, any score recipients the PTE Academic test taker selects, and others as necessary to prevent unlawful activity or as required by law.


Excuse me, but what is a “palm-vein scan?” Does everyone know this except me?


Now, there is no point just baying at the moon. If you don’t like Pearson’s policies, why not write to the man in charge, Michael Barber? In Great Britain, he is called “Sir Michael,” but in the United States we don’t recognize titles, so you may address him in the democratic style as Michael Barber, or Mr. Barber, or Mike. He is best known for his ardent faith in targets, goals, or what he calls “deliverology.”


Write him here:



Be candid. Tell him what you think.



Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters is a leading advocate for student privacy rights. She explains how Pearson is actually encouraging the growth of the Opt Out movement (unintentionally, of course) by monitoring students’ social media. Even though tweets and Facebook postings are public, it is kind of creepy to know that a big corporation is reading your child’s comments.

Add this to the flap over the silly story of “The Pineapple and the Hare,” known as #pineapplegate, and parents have ample reason to doubt the value of standardized tests to rank and rate their child.

Add to that the ubiquitous data mining that is embedded in the online testing, and parents should truly be alarmed.

It is crucial that the public understand the concerns that are frequently shared on this blog among readers about the corporate takeover of public schooling, in its many forms.


One version of this takeover is the close collaboration between the White House and the mega-corporations that sell software and hardware and testing to the schools, that is, the needs created by the politicians are satisfied by the marketplace. In education, the marketplace is dominated by one giant, referred to in this article as Goliath: Pearson. Parents are beginning to understand that Pearson owns the tests, the textbooks, and the curriculum, and it is all aligned with the Common Core. They also own the GED, in case students can’t finish high school (having failed the Pearson tests). Probably they will also fail the GED, because Pearson has aligned the GED with the Common Core and passing rates plummeted by 90%. Maybe Pearson will create a new service for young people and adults who failed high school and failed the GED. But will it too be aligned with the Common Core? Or will we have a permanent army of the unemployed and unemployable who can’t pass Pearson tests?

The connections between Pearson and the Néw Jersey State Department of Education are close, reports Bob Braun:

“Bari Anhalt Erlichson, an assistant New Jersey education commissioner and chief testing officer who supervises PARCC testing throughout the state, has a personal connection of sorts to PARCC’s developer, the British publishing giant Pearson. Anhalt Erlichson is married to Andrew Erlichson, a vice president of a company named MongoDB. MongoDB (the name comes from humongous database) is a subcontractor to Pearson, developing its national student database that provides the larger company with access to student records in New Jersey and the nation.

“Anhalt Erlichson wrote a memorandum to New Jersey educators March 17 defending the actions of her department and Pearson in monitoring the social media of New Jersey students while they took the PARCC tests. She blamed the uproar caused by the revelation of the cyber-spying on the failure of parents and educators to understand social media.

“She did not mention her personal ties to a company that profits from the business relationship to Pearson–and the state education department….

“State education department spokesmen declined to answer inquiries about Erlichson’s connections to MongoDB.”

A suggestion from a very creative and imaginative reader:


Someone suggested attaching hashtags #PARCC and #Pearson, or just using those words, in all tweets. Sharing your Aunt Celia’s mac and cheese recipe? #Pearson. Tweeting about the next big storm coming? #PARCC Congratulating your cousin on his promotion? “Great job, Cousin Joe! You worked hard for this. PARCC!”


Their monitoring system would be overloaded with hits.


Why not add #SBAC and other hashtags that will draw attention from the overseers??

Bob Braun’s controversial article about Pearson spying on students’ social media accounts is online again, after having disappeared last night for some hours in a “denial of service.”


I hope Bob Braun is able to get to the bottom of the matter and tell us why his website was “suspended” last night. Was he hacked? Did the site crash because of the number of users trying to access it at the same time? I hope we find out.

I just read a comment posted by a reader, who pointed out that Pearson has an official policy about the use of social media.


Here is a portion:


How we use social media
Here you’ll find details of how we use social media such as Facebook and Twitter and the kind of response you can expect from us.
We have an active presence on social media and encourage students to use it too. It’s a great way to find information and share ideas, particularly when you’re revising for exams……


We also:
review Tweets about our brands (e.g. ‘Edexcel’ and ‘BTEC’) that don’t directly tag our profiles
monitor social media platforms such as Google+ and other online forums
We may not reply directly to these types of posts, but we monitor them to make sure that any of you with questions are getting the answers you need.
Monitoring activity on social media allows us to continuously improve the service we offer by keeping us up-to-date with what you’re saying about us online. In the past, this has helped us to identify problems with our website, driving improvements to our student pages.
Discussing us or our assessments online
Sharing ideas with others online can be really beneficial when you’re studying or revising. However, there are limits to the amount of information you can share, and you need to be careful not to break the rules. If you’re in doubt about what you can and can’t discuss, it’s always best to check with your teacher.
Sharing too much information with others is an example of ‘malpractice’. Other examples include:
copying someone else’s work or allowing your work to be copied
allowing others to help produce your work or helping others with theirs
being in possession of confidential material in advance of an exam
taking unauthorised items into an exam, such as a mobile phone or extra notes
passing on rumours of exam content
discussing the content of an exam before the paper has been completed in other parts of the world
threatening or harassing staff at an awarding organisation.
We have an obligation to investigate any case where there is the suggestion that you’ve acted improperly. If you are found to have broken the rules, you could face one of the following penalties:
a warning
the loss of marks for a section, component or unit
disqualification from a unit, all units or qualifications
a ban from sitting exams for a set period of time.
We understand that sometimes you are going to talk about us and our assessments with your friends. During stressful periods, some comments may not be very flattering. However, we’d like to ask you to act responsibly when discussing us or your exams and coursework online.




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