Blogger Bob Braun rips testing giant Pearson’s privacy invasion practices wide open

Creepy Parson spying on meWith amplification from Diane Ravitch (where you can also read the text of Bob’s original post if his website is still inaccessible), Washington Post, Daily Kos, a growing number of local news portals and now The War Report radio show, Bob Braun has busted wide open the practice of standardized testing giant Pearson Education to spy on and oppress students using Pearson Streamlines Social Media Listening and Monitoring With Tracx. It’s more than shocking.

Bob Braun’s Ledger reported the exclusive story that Pearson is monitoring students’ social media accounts during PARCC testing … and that both Pearson and the NJDOE called for the punishment of a student who had tweeted after taking the test, although school authorities knew – and had reported – that the student did not share any sensitive information. This Watchung Regional High School District Superintendent’s letter was leaked to Braun and started the snowball rolling.

Superintendent Jewett's letter about Pearson

What incensed Diane Ravitch and motivated her to immediately publicize Braun’s March 13 scoop was the Denial of Service (DOS) attack that was launched to disable Braun’s blog while server administrators scrambled to engage protocols to shut the attack down and make the site accessible again. How do we know that the problem was a DOS attack and not simply a lot of interest in reading Braun’s post? Because Braun’s web host contacted him and said so. Braun explains:

Bob Braun’s Ledger is back up but is still very slow. It’s probably easier to get to it through something other than Facebook. Initially, I thought–vainly– the site was acting up because of the number of people reading it. Then I got an email from my webhost saying the site was under a “denial of service” attack.

The webhost itself then suspended the site to stop the attacks and to give it time to repair the problem and install fixes to prevent future attacks. It seems to have come back up–for now–but clearly someone wanted it down. I’m flattered. And I am so grateful to all of those I know and do not know who sent messages of support and got around the siege by posting PDFs of the original blog. Ironically, I have not been a vocal anti-PARCC or anti-Common Core voice. But the idea that a global corporation and a state agency would cooperate to entrap children in their schemes chills me to my very old bones. What makes it worse is the indifference of the mainstream media and, of course, the thuggery represented by trying to destroy what was a very straight news story. I know distinctly what side I’m on now. Stop the corporate spies and their collaboration with government. Refuse the test. I do not believe in conspiracy theories but I do believe in conspiracies and this is one helluva big one.

Discontent with Pearson is growing and hard questions are increasingly being directed at state governments that support and fund them. On 04 March 2015, Eric Kiefer of the Patch reported a protest by

…a coalition of education, labor and community advocates (protested) the $83 million tax break the corporate giant received from the NJ Economic Development Authority (NJ EDA) for moving 628 employees from Bergen County to Hudson County.

NJ Working Families points out that those $83M dollars were spent for nothing, as after the move Pearson took 600 jobs to New York City.

This afternoon at 5pm EST on Sun 15 March 2015, you can catch Braun on air with Dr. James Miller of the War Report discussing the dawning revelation of Pearson as the Orwellian Big Brother in American public education.

What can we do to fight back?

  • Tweet with the hashtag #PeepingPearson
  • Contact Pearson directly; and State and Federal Departments of Education – because (as Daily Kos points out) this is being done WITH THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND APPROVAL
  • Contact local news outlets
  • Talk about it!
  • Share the reports

Bob Braun is a former Star Ledger reporter who blogs about Social Justice and Education. Find Bob Braun on Facebook or – when Pearson stops attacking it – on his blog.

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