Student Privacy Debate Dominates Assembly Panel’s Meeting On PARCC Tests

Lawmakers, education officials at loggerheads over monitoring of student postings on social media

By John Mooney

Student privacy issues have suddenly moved to the forefront of the debate over the state’s controversial new PARCC tests, as state legislators yesterday grappled with how to protect students and their personal information.

The Assembly education committee meeting wasn’t expected to be an extraordinary one. The committee’s agenda included two PARCC-related bills that were expected to pass easily — one setting a statewide policy for families refusing to have their children take the tests, and the second creating a task force to study the effectiveness of PARCC. Both passed unanimously and move next to the full Assembly, where passage is also likely before more-uncertain prospects in the Senate.

But the meeting took an unexpected turn when two typically low-profile officials in the state Department of Education testified, at the committee’s request, about the roiling controversy over the test security practices by Pearson, the testing giant administering the PARCC test in New Jersey and 10 other states.