Wednesday, March 18, 2015


From: Randi Weingarten, AFT President
To:  Press Outlets
Sent: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 10:37:24 AM
Subject: Pearson is spying on students

Big Brother really is watching. Outrageously, testing giant Pearson is spying on what students are saying on social media.1 

Right now, students in 12 states and the District of Columbia are taking the Common Core-aligned PARCC test. And we’ve just learned that Pearson is monitoring what those students say online for “test security.”

We’re demanding that Pearson immediately stop monitoring students on social media and disclose any contract language about test security for full public review. Add your name!

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 order2 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.3

Now we find out that the company is actually spying on students—many of whom are minors. It’s one thing to protect intellectual property, but this raises far too many questions.

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 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.

Even if you don’t live in a PARCC state, we should all be concerned.
As the largest for-profit education, testing and book publisher in the world, Pearson is involved in education in nearly every state, with testing contracts in 21 states, plus Washington, D.C., New York City and Puerto Rico. In total, 39 percent of all standardized tests in the United States are run by Pearson.4

Sadly, all of this 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 back5—all while Pearson rakes in millions to create and score the tests and spy on our students.

Tell Pearson to stop spying on students and commit to full transparency for all matters related to “test security.”

We learned what Pearson is up to from a leaked email that a New Jersey superintendent sent to her peers after one of her students was flagged for a “Priority 1” breach. To make matters worse, the New Jersey Department of Education wanted the local school to discipline the student.

Parents, students and educators all have a right to know what’s happening. I hope you’ll join us in demanding that Pearson immediately stop monitoring our students and commit to full transparency around its “security” practices.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

[1] Valerie Strauss, “Pearson Monitoring Social Media for Security Breaches during PARCC Testing,” Washington Post, March 14, 2015.
[2] Michelle Davis, “AFT Goes to England to Protest ‘Gag Order’ on Test Questions,” Education Week, April 28, 2014.
[3] Stephanie Simon, “No Profit Left Behind,” Politico, February 10, 2015.
[4] Matthew Chingos, Strength in Numbers (Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings, November 2012).
[5] Molly Callister, “Why Los Angeles Sends Failing Students on to the Next Grade,” Hechinger Report, August 14, 2014.