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Education Giant Pearson Monitors Students' Social Media Accounts While Testing

A superintendent of a New Jersey school district called the practice "disturbing."

Posted on March 14, 2015, at 8:24 p.m. ET

The world's largest education company, Pearson, has been "monitoring" the social media accounts of students while they take their PARCC Common Core tests, journalist Bob Bruan reported on his website on Friday, calling the practice "spying."

The PARCC test is administered in several states, including New Jersey, where one superintendent wrote a letter on March 10 to several others calling the practice "a bit disturbing."

Pearson told the Washington Post that it monitors test-takers social media accounts to make sure no one is cheating.

In the letter, Elizabeth Jewett, Superintendent of Watchung Hills Regional High School District, confirmed that the Department of Education had informed her that Pearson was monitoring the social media of all students during PARCC testing.

She described an instance in which the "district's testing coordinator received a late night call from the state education department," according to Braun. Pearson had contacted the department concerning a student tweeting during a test with a picture of a question, and the education department was calling for disciplinary action.

Jewett looked into the allegation and discovered that the student had posted a tweet about the test but without a picture or a test question – after the exam was over.

She added that the mother of the student being investigated was "highly concerned as to her child's tweets being monitored by the DOE."

Jewett wrote that the monitoring may raise parental concerns about privacy, potentially stopping their children from taking the tests.

Here's Jewett's letter:

Jewett posted a statement to the school district's website on Saturday confirming the authenticity of the original letter.

"The email shown in his article is authentic," Jewell wrote.

"I did not authorize the release of this email nor am I aware of who did release it. I am also not aware of the motives they may have had behind the release. That said, I completely stand behind my comments as they represent not only my views and concerns; they also represent the views and concerns of our Board of Education."

Pearson commented to the Washington Post, stating that monitoring social accounts helps secure the fairness of a test.

The security of a test is critical to ensure fairness for all students and teachers and to ensure that the results of any assessment are trustworthy and valid.

We welcome debate and a variety of opinions. But when test questions or elements are posted publicly to the Internet, we are obligated to alert PARCC states. Any contact with students or decisions about student discipline are handled at the local level.

We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity, integrity of the test results.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.