In response to TPERN’s inquiry, the Texas Education Agency has provided the following information. It is reprinted below, but Pearson is not required to monitor social media by contract, and the TEA does not ask them to do so. The TEA does monitor public social media. The TEA did not disclose whether Pearson engages in social media monitoring of STAAR takers of its own volition. The full reply is below:
March 27, 2015
Dear Mr. Placek,
Thank you for your recent correspondence to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding the monitoring of social media accounts of students who take state assessments. The commissioner has forwarded your letter to the Student Assessment Division for response.
The current contract for the Texas state assessment program does not require any monitoring of social media by Pearson, the vendor for the state assessment program, and TEA makes no requests for the vendor to do so.
As required by 19 TAC §101.3031, the Student Assessment Division oversees the maintenance of test administration procedures and training activities to ensure the validity, reliability, and security of assessments. Requirements for ensuring test security and confidentiality are delineated in test administration materials annually and detailed in the Test Security Supplement (19 TAC §101.3031 (b)(2)).
Monitoring procedures as outlined in the Test Security Supplement require districts and campuses to implement necessary measures to prevent student cheating. This includes monitoring student use of cell phones and electronic devices during test administrations. TEA considers it a serious testing irregularity if a student photographs or duplicates secure test content or disseminates this information using an electronic device.
As obligated by TEC §39.0301, TEA has established procedures to ensure the security of assessment instruments. This includes the monitoring of public social media. In its review of information posted to public social media, it is possible that personally identifiable student information could be observed.
TEA understands its responsibility to protect student confidentiality. As a result, TEA has developed operating procedures that require all staff to adhere to the agency policy that personally identifiable student information collected and maintained by the agency will be protected from unauthorized disclosure to safeguard confidentiality. The agency is subject to the same requirements for controlled accessibility to confidential student information as are school districts, education service centers, and charter schools. Under no circumstances will personally identifiable student information be released except in accordance with FERPA. Therefore, if a posting on public social media is discovered that violates the requirement to maintain test security and confidentiality, TEA will respond in keeping with its obligations under federal and state confidentiality laws and under its own operating procedures.[The response was not signed or sent from an individually identifiable e-mail adress].