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Test Security Clashes with

Social Media

When does the monitoring of social media in the interests of test security clash with student privacy rights? Or does it?  That was the question trending among educational and general media in March.  The furor began when a New Jersey School Superintendent expressed concern over the monitoring of social media during the administration of a common core test. This concern was raised at a time when the practice of monitoring social media during high stakes testing has become standard in the test security/test publishing industry. The American Federation of Teachers ignited further public debate by launching a petition challenging the practice. Caught in the cross-fire were several ATP members.

ATP member Steve Addicott, Vice-President of Caveon, clarified the role of the test security firm, telling Education Week that Caveon does not receive a list of test-takers, but rather searches the Web for any posting that might threaten the validity of test results such as publishing a question. Pearson issued a statement emphasizing that any information gleaned from monitoring is already in the public domain and therefore "available to any person browsing the web."

ATP CEO Dr. William G. Harris defended ATP members, pointing Education Week to the 2013 edition of the Operational Best Practices for State-wide Large Scale Assessment Programs, which recommends the use of social-media monitoring to protect the integrity of state assessments. "When assessments are administered over a wide geography and many weeks, instead of days, there needs to be a way to ensure the integrity of the items, the administration of the test, and also the results," Harris stated.

ATP Security Committee member Marc Weinstein of Dillworth Paxson told Philly.Com, an online publication following the debate, "It is a complete distortion of the issue to cast Web monitoring as a student privacy issue. The phrase spying on kids may have emotional appeal, but it improperly suggests that those posting exam content online deserve privacy protection. To the contrary, kids post on social media to instantaneously share their thoughts and content with the entire world. Therefore, no student's privacy is at risk as a result of monitoring of social media. 'Student privacy' is a smokescreen for improper conduct that not only invalidates test results, but also violates copyright law.

ATP member Rachel Schoenig, head of test security at ACT, agreed in her statement to the Washington Post:  “People just look at it as a matter of good testing hygiene,” she said. “You certainly don’t want somebody who’s been able to buy their way into a score to get a leg up on someone who’s worked really hard and done it a fair way.”

ATP is currently working with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to formulate a definitive, concerted statement on this issue.  

To read the full article in Education Week, click here:

To read the full article in the Washington Post, click here:

To read the full article in the Philly Times, click here:

To obtain a copy of the Operational Best Practice for State-wide Large Scale Assessment Programs 2013, go to the ATP Bookstore.