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This Week in Cheating: Pearson Social Media Question Leaks

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Kids these days, huh? There is a whole rigmarole over news that students are sharing questions to the multi-state-wide PARCC test on social media. That’s the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers by Pearson. The test has some pretty serious stakes. For example, the teacher’s salary is tied to the performance of the participating students.

So how were these students caught? Well, Pearson outsourced their social media monitoring to another company. This company watched student social media accounts for key words and terms. Then they alerted Pearson, and Pearson alerted the school.

Something that must be reiterated here is that the student was caught for leaking pictures of the questions on Twitter (although, that ended up being questionably accurate). Let’s break that down. First a student had to get that picture, so they either used their smartphone or took a screengrab. Then they went to their social media channel to leak the question. At this point it’s too late to really do anything. These students were caught because they posted from public profiles on Twitter. If the students had sent a SnapChat, posted to a private page or group on Facebook, or texted their friends, they would not have gotten caught.

What do we do differently? Our technology does a few things that could have stopped such a breach. For example, we block and track all copy/pasting during a test session. We do the same thing for screengrabs. In this context, the students wouldn’t have been able to copy the questions and your faculty would be alerted to the attempt.

Secondly, we can detect smartphone usage, on and off camera. If a student did take a picture with their smartphone, it would be detected and you would be automatically alerted.

At the end of the day, this is an age-old problem of students discussing test questions. A teacher used to be able to say, “We are grading on a curve, so if you help your friend you will hurt yourself.” And that does deter a fair bit of discussion. I know first-hand, I used to be a Middle School Teacher.

The only effectual change one can make is instilling the value into students of academic integrity. Honestly, that can be an uphill battle. I speak for the whole team here when I say that ProctorFree would be proud to be your ally in fortifying academic integrity at your school.

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