Following concerns about student question sharing online, Pearson, the education company that designed the PARCC assessments, recently began monitoring student social media accounts to ensure there are no security breaches. Their decision was met with public backlash, as many thought it was no less than spying into the lives of students.
“I do feel uncomfortable at the idea of organizations looking at our social media,” said Clarissa Libertelli, a junior at Rockville High School. “I understand it’s to ensure the fairness of the test, but I feel like we should know when we are being watched.”
Pearson called in a test security firm that uses software to search all public social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other web pages. When a security violation is found, the firm tries to find the student’s location and notifies state officials.
Security breaches have not been uncommon since the introduction of PARCC this year. Just this March, two Maryland students posted test questions on Twitter, and Pearson has found more than 70 instances in six states of students posting testing materials on public social media sites, according to spokesman Jesse Comart.
“I don’t think it’s wrong that students are being monitored online,” said Rockville High School junior Anna Weiler. “At this point people should know to make their accounts private, and when students cheat it compromises the test and hurts everyone who helped make it.”
If cheating undermines the testing system, it has an exceptionally high cost. According to PARCC Consortium spokesman David Connerty-Marin, creating just one question on these exams can cost as much as $15000, because of the amount of research and review necessary.
Fear of monitoring by educational companies, however, should not be the only reason students make their accounts private, as employers and college admissions officers both use social media nowadays to judge prospects.
A New York Times article noted that of the 381 college admissions officers who answered a Kaplan Test Prep telephone questionnaire this year, 30 percent of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.
“You don’t want to put anything out there that could be screenshotted or forwarded or shared with others that reveals information that is too personal,” said Rockville High School counselor Wendy Kiang-Spray. “You always want to be cautious about what you put online.”
Experts recommend students not post compromising or inappropriate material, such as nude photos, testing information, references to drinking or smoking, and any private photos they would not want their parents or employers to see. Social media accounts should also be kept private, especially if students still decide to post explicit material online.
There no longer is a clear separation between school and social media. Though the latter is a reflection of students’ personal life, evidence suggests that students must think twice before posting something online.
Article by Lillian Andemicael of Rockville High School