While Pearson doesn't publish George Orwell's "1984," it sure seems like the education publishing and testing giant is using the classic novel as a blueprint for running its testing programs these days. Ostensibly to prevent cheating, Pearson has been spying on the social media accounts of students and reporting activity they find as questionable to local school administrators, according to recent news stories. The story broke when the superintendent of a New Jersey school emailed her colleagues after discovering the monitoring.
The AFT has since reacted with shock and is calling upon Pearson to end the practice. AFT and Daily Kos are sponsoring a petition that calls on Pearson to end the process and be more open and accountable to parents, students and educators.
AFT President Randi Weingarten expressed outrage in an email:
How is Pearson monitoring students? What information about students does Pearson have, where did it get it and what will it keep? Is Pearson reviewing everything on students post? What protections are there for student privacy? What basis does Pearson use for its searches? Is the monitoring based on general search terms or is Pearson actively following specific individuals? Who else is Pearson secretly monitoring?...Pearson must stop monitoring our children and open the books to show us who the company is watching and why.
Weingarten also noted that the spying was part of a pattern at Pearson:
This isn’t the first time Pearson has been caught engaging in unscrupulous behavior. Last year, we spoke up when we learned that Pearson’s contract in New York put a gag order on educators who proctored the tests, and earlier this year Politico exposed how Pearson has squeezed profits out of our schools, from Florida to Texas to California....
The allegations against Pearson, said Weingarten, "comes back to the obsession with high-stakes tests. The results from these tests will be used to punish teachers and schools—and may even be used to hold kids back—all while Pearson rakes in millions to create and score the tests and spy on our students."