ORWELLIAN NIGHTMARE UNLEASHED ON SCHOOLKIDS
by Leo Hohmann, WND Parents and students have been “opting out” of high-stakes testing in record numbers over the past year, saying the standardized tests waste valuable instruction time, cause undue stress and often measure “skills” that have nothing to do with academic knowledge. Rather than merely asking for a right or wrong answer to a math, history or science question, the new assessment industry is capable of boring into a child’s attitudes, values, opinions and beliefs, all of which parents and privacy advocates say is no business of the government’s. The pushback has led some state education systems to recommend a reduction in the amount of high-stakes testing in public schools. But, parents beware, the sudden realization that maybe too much testing is going on is not going to lead to less data being collected. Quite the opposite. In fact, traditional testing may no longer be needed. Schools have found they have better, more efficient ways to collect even more data on your child, without resorting to paper and sharpened No. 2 pencils. Oregon’s Gov. John Kitzhaber, for instance, assigned a task force to this problem recently and after a year of private meetings, the group is ready to unveil its recommendations which are expected to include replacing standardized tests with high-tech “observation” tools. Fewer tests might sound like a relief to stressed-out students and wary parents. But what if your child’s teacher could have access to a software application that allows her to collect data on your child in real time, without ever rolling out a test? Enter the BOSS app. It is just one of countless new data-collection products available to school systems looking to collect data on the sneak. BOSS stands for Behavioral Observation of Students in Schools. The app was designed to “enable psychologists to observe” patients but is now being marketed to schools interesting in tracking students’ behavioral patterns. Created by the British-based textbook giant Pearson, the BOSS app can be loaded onto a smartphone and used to secretly monitor every move of targeted students in the classroom. Does little Johnny fidget in his seat a bit too much? Does he socialize with the students around him in an appropriate manner? Does he tend to stare aimlessly out the window when he should be paying attention to the teacher? All of this information can be pulled in and stored in an individual dossier for later analyzing and assigned an intervention and remediation that will deal with Johnny’s shortcomings, whether they be laziness, lack of assertiveness, over-aggressiveness or whatever psychological problem the app may discover. BOSS app can be downloaded from iTunes for $29.99 and comes in age-appropriate versions from pre-K through 12th grade. The product description boasts that BOSS is able to “record students’ behaviors in real time. The BOSS software uses interactive buttons labeled to a particular behavior for the observer to press while observing a student during a given duration. The software keeps track of the amount of times a behavioral button is depressed during an observation.” The app tracks “a student’s active or passive engagement in activities” and will collect data and email it to the teacher “for future use to help support a disability diagnosis,” the Pearson promotional material states. The BOSS app is not the only new technology percolating in the education industry that has the ability to invisibly assess students in real time without their knowledge, or the knowledge of their parents.