Pearson Is Everywhere: Spying and Student Data Privacy Edition

PearsonWelcome back to Pearson Is Everywhere!

Last time we looked at Pearson being selected to create the PISA 2018 tests.

Today, we’ll be checking out how Pearson is spying on students using social media and Pearson’s claims about student data privacy in Colorado.



A blogger named Bob Braun obtained a copy of an email indicating that Pearson was monitoring the social media of students in New Jersey taking the Common Core PARCC test. The email was sent by Elizabeth Jewett, Superintendent of Watchung Hills Regional High school district.

Superintendent Jewett’s letter notes the NJ Dept. of Education was aware of the ‘social media monitoring’ by Pearson and  seems to infer the NJ Dept. of Education was also monitoring social media of students.

View the Superintendent’s email courtesy of Missouri Education Watchdog:

Missouri Education Watchdog’s article also has a lengthy Facebook post by Braun and documentation that Braun’s website encountered a Denial of Serve attack right around the time the story on Pearson started to go viral.  Missouri Education Watchdog also has a follow-up statement from Superintendent Jewett.

Diane Ravitch also picked up on the attack on Braun’s site.

As for myself, I noticed an article recommended to me on Facebook. It was about Pearson and Social media apps/software used to track people, companies, trends , etc.  When I clicked the link, the article had been removed:

Yeah, but I’m not an internet newbie. Cached page, baby.

See the Tracx page with graphics
See the Tracx page with text only – note the date of the article, March 14th, 2015.

This Tracx app/software isn’t mentioned in Pearson’s Social Media policy that Diane Ravitch also posted on her blog.

Some of the Pearson policy says that students sharing ‘too much information’ is a form of ‘malpractice’.  There are ‘penalties’ for violating Pearson’s social media policy, of which no parent or student has ever signed:

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

Got that?
Pearson Is Watching INGSOCPearson’s “obligation” is protecting their product and bottom-line by any means necessary, including watching your child on Twitter.

Is it against the law? No.
Is it invasive at a level that is creepy and Orwellian? Yes.

Pearson has the right to track your child via social media and determine if they have violated any portion of their social media policy. Then they can punish your child and from the looks of it, your local department of education is assisting them.

Mercedes Schneider encapsulates this power Pearson has more poetically:

Those calling the testing shots hold all of the power cards. We know as much because any avenue of free choice and open communication on the part of the one with lesser power– the child– has been publicly countered by policy, legislation, litigation, and other consequences.

Their tools are bribery, threats and guilt.

Indeed; those are also the tools of the Common Core  supporters and ‘education reformers’ in general. By the way, the Smarter Balanced Test Is Spying on Children too.


In Colorado, legislators have advanced a bill to protect student data from third-party vendors — like Pearson.  According to the, Senate Bill 15-173 seeks to do four major things:

Selling student information;
Using student information for targeted advertising;
Using student information to create profiles unrelated to school purposes;
Revealing student data unless specific requirements are met.

Money quotes from

“Really you have to question a company’s motives when they’re preying on school-age kids to make money,” said Trevor Timmons, director of technology for the Weld RE-4 School District. “Granted, I think most of them are not in that position, but this (legislation) would ensure that the companies we’re dealing with as a school district have to uphold the same restrictions that we do.”


“We are not in the business of selling personally identifiable student data or permitting its use for targeted advertising,” Pearson said in a statement to the Coloradoan. “Student data privacy is of utmost importance to Pearson. We care deeply about protecting the privacy of students, teachers and customers.”

Yes, Pearson cares so deeply student Pearson’s data privacy.



About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
This entry was posted in A.P. Dillon (LL1885), Common Core, Testing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Pearson Is Everywhere: Spying and Student Data Privacy Edition

  1. Pingback: Pearson Is Everywhere: Defending Spying On Students Edition | Lady Liberty 1885

  2. Ben Foley says:

    Tracx offers a unified, enterprise-scale, social media management platform. We help brands and organizations from around the world listen and learn about issues related to their products and services so that they can provide a better customer experience and reach new audiences. To learn more about Tracx visit #customerexperience #betterservice #bettersupport #betterproducts​ #engagingnewaudiences


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