The Furor Over the NYSED Testing Link

I tend to be a pretty level-headed person and I tend to permit people to make mistakes and learn from them. I’ve been helping educators, students, and parents learn to use technology effectively and appropriately for nearly 20 years. Here’s my take on the current NYSED “bad link” scandal rocking social media today (see a complete roundup here).

I think the NYSED link to inappropriate content is a very unfortunate mistake. Most likely no one in NYSED has reviewed all the posted resource sites since first posting. But, they are today I’m sure. I seriously doubt this has anything to do with a hack, and it has NOTHING to do with inBloom. This was human error or someone’s attempt at a joke. One is excusable and one is not.

The quiz site NYSED linked to (http://www.allthetests.com/) is a Web 2.0 tool that can change at a moments notice. I can go make a quiz there right now about anything.  Anyone can see that. This is a site where you can both find AND create tests. Anyone at any time. That’s always the downside of pointing educators to links and online resources. They have to be carefully vetted to see if there is a publicly displayed “gallery” of some kind. When I used to vet sites for K-12, those would be ones I would not have used. Like Wikipedia…you visit a page today and it can change tomorrow.

As far as the ads on the quiz site, I have several web sites and if I suddenly decided to run ads on them, I can do so and add that “feature” to my site literally overnight. I might also not be able to control content in those ads depending on which ad service I use.  Their site has been using the same ad serving service for a number of years now so that doesn’t explain the “quality of the ads” we see today. Did the ad agency change the nature of the ads? Perhaps.

Additionally, I’ll add, NYSED should have a posted disclaimer somewhere that reads something like: “We are linking you to third party sites outside the control of NYSED officials. Please be aware that content can change and sites can be removed without notice. Please proceed with caution.” That’s what I had posted on pages when I setup “web resource” pages of links for educators. That disclaimer should be clearly visible on any page of NYSED that has many links that link outside the NYSED domain. Doesn’t excuse what happened, just adding some clarification.

Find the day/time NYSED added the link to their page, find the day/time those “sexy” quizzes et. al were added to the quiz site and I would speculate that the quizzes were not there when NYSED added the link for their page. If they were, they someone simply did a terrible job at vetting the site for educator/student use. That’s the root of the issue:  what did the allthetests.com site look like at the time the NYSED official added the link to the resource section?

I don’t think this goes to the top to King, nor do I think it is the Commissioner’s responsibility to be checking links. I dislike King’s handling of education in NY as much as anyone else, but I don’t think this is something worth using to try and bring him down. I honestly think this was just a really bad decision and not something malicious, or that the NYSED site was hacked, or event that King “did it” or should know about it. Whoever added the site is in trouble and whoever is in charge of periodically reviewing links is in trouble. I am probably going to take flack for this post and my explanation for the issue. So be it. Are we not allowed to make mistakes? In my opinion, this is really a non issue and certainly doesn’t warrant media attention. I’d be fine with NYSED officials just issuing an apology and saying they have removed the links and checked all links to outside sites found within the nysed.gov domain.

Here’s my challenge to all parents and educators: I can almost guarantee everyone that if you scour your own district, school, and classroom “web resource” pages where someone has posted lots of links for parents, etc. you will find at least one site linking to inappropriate content. I’d bet my next paycheck on it. No not really, but if I could afford it I would.

__________________

Followup: As I suspected, I really don’t think this testing site was “bad” at the time of posting to the NYSED resource page. Visit the Internet Archive and look for yourself using their Way Back Machine.   The first instance of this site containing the inappropriate links an categories, according to the archive is April 8, 2013. If the NYSED official added that link to the NYSED site before then, those nasty categories and tests did not exist. Again, this is the nature of trying to provide web resources for educators and parents and students; links change and need to be reviewed frequently.

Here is the site as of April 8, 2013 https://web.archive.org/web/20130408032437/http://www.allthetests.com/fun-tests-humor-quizzes.php

Here is the site as of March 2, 2013 https://web.archive.org/web/20130302232300/http://www.allthetests.com/fun-tests-humor-quizzes.php

The NYSED cached page that still has the direct link was last updated May 14, 2013. Any of the links on that page or the wording could have been changed that date and I am not sure how easy it is to remove a link from the cached version. I am sure that it is possible though. I can’t be bothered checking the archive for the page revisions to see exactly when the test link was added. For me, it’s been enough on this already.

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8 Comments

  1. I think what you’ve said here is spot on. It’s just a mistake. There are far more egregious things to put our energies into. This is hardly worth anyone’s time. They dealt with it when they discovered it, as they should have. If only they’d do take the same actions with some of the other things going on. Thanks for writing what you wrote.

    Reply
  2. One more point, 999ers:

    I appreciate your tireless efforts to advocate and respect you as a team member, but I have to disagree with you on this one.

    Let me preface this by admitting, this area is not my expertise. But, Im going to look into it a little more closely.

    With regard to the fact that Commissioner King endorsed “Sexy Bitch” Quizzes and offensive material as fun test prep for NY Students on its official student support services website page, isnt that a breach of some sort of duty of care or law that exists to protect minors from inappropriate explicit content online?

    Although this article relates to schools, I think we can all agree that NYSED is an institution at the top of the educators/administrators food chain.
    In the weblink below, the American Association of School Administrators states that “we, as educators, are required to protect students from inappropriate material whenever we can”. That includes blocking most social networking sites and inappropriate content.

    The Children’s Internet Protection Act, or CIPA is in place to protect children from being exposed to harmful material via internt. However, CIPA is much broader than just social networking, and schools and districts must constantly improve their protection strategies to keep students safe from inappropriate materials.
    The article states that “as school leaders, we also must be mindful of our legal responsibilities in CIPA and the concept of in loco parentis.”

    At the end of the instructional day, the appropriate versus inappropriate dimension relies heavily on the educational leadership and school culture. The concepts surrounding finding the right online resources is one that may involve the entire school community, because parents, staff members and even students want the right resources in their hands for solid education. I would imagine that NYSED, the cream of the educational crop, would be held to the same standard. no? Why would their materials be exempt?

    Im not sure about application of the CIPA law as I am not familiar with it offhand, but I have to imagine that if not CIPA, then some law or policy must exist to hold them accountable to assure sound educational policy and resources are made avaialble particularly to children/students. The resource page was titled “Make Test Prep Fun” and was directed to students, many of them under age. NYSED knew or should have known.

    In any event, any effort we can to undermine and expose NYSEDs poor practices and lack of credibility should be explored, imo, because those deficits will in turn undermine King help us to challenge common core, APPR and student privacy concerns. NYSED has earned a vote of no confidence from me. So, with all due respect, I have to reject your explanation.

    http://aasa.org/content.aspx?id=14368

    Reply
    • I stand by what I have wrote. At the time the link was posted, and for probably many months and even years, the content found on the test web site was probably ok. The content changed. That happens. Yes, NYSED should be held to a higher standard but there is literally nothing else they can do except check links daily, in fact they’d have to do it hourly. That’s not feasibly possible. As long as it was not intentionally placed on the NYSED page AFTER the inappropriate quizzes were found on the test web site, I think this is just an unfortunate change of web site content. Again, I challenge every parent to scour their own school or district sites. When you link to any other web sites that are not your own you runt he risk of one day having a link compromised. Heck, as a blogger you should know that as well. You may include a link to a site in a post that a year from now is not the same content as originally intended.

      Reply
  3. Diane

     /  January 11, 2014

    Okay maybe it was a mistake… But no where in NYSED’s acknowledgement of the error, were the words “apologize” or “sorry”. They owe us at least that much.

    Reply
  4. NYSED had a duty to students using the student support resource page located on the official NYSED website and they breached it. NYSED is negligent and frankly, I would hope that criminal charges should br brought.

    A direct click from NYSED leads CHILDREN to Bitch tests and “weatherman wakes up to dead man in dog collar” animated ads.

    A screen shot of what is located at the bottom of one of the quizzes that was featured and endorsed by NYSED: Porn ads. I perused the link some more. There are disgusting ads – an are you a cannibal advertisement, are you a killer ad and ads for porn.

    A NYSED endorsed quiz asks children, how will you die?

    Another NYSED endorsed quiz asks children, are you still a virgin?

    Another NYSED endorsed quiz asks children, how many lovers have you had?

    Yet another NYSED endorsed quiz asks children, are you the sluttiest slut?

    Lets not forget the NYSED endorsed, are you a sexy bitch quiz?

    Another NYSED endorsed quiz asks chldren, are you a retard?

    A NYSED endorsed quiz tells children that the Department of Homeland Insecurity of the United Paranoid State of America would like to know if you are a terrorist. If you fail this quiz, you must turn yourself in.

    There are ads for porn all over the site.

    There are ads describing cannibalism, fetishes, an an anime stripper takes off a bikini and grinds in an ad that plays over and over for an adult themed animated game during one of the quizzes our children take because it is located directly off NYSEDs official page.

    Ive read what you wrote above. I respect you immensely 999ers as a fellow advocate, but Im going to be straight with you here. Your argument lacks conviction and to be honest, I am offended that you are asking what all “the furor” is over the NYSED mistake.

    With all due respect, this was not a mistake. This was just one example in a long and tiring list of many examples of NYSEDs incompetence, neglect of duty and plain ignorance at that.

    Allthetestscom was linked up to NYSEDs student support resource page so that NYSED knew or should have known that the primary audience for those links and resources were going to be used for kids (under age kids).

    NYSED has an affirmative duty to assure that the links provided to students in the student resource page are age and material appropriate at all times particularly since students would be exposed to them. While 1 year time may not be long in the busines world for a business demographic, this was not the case here as you can see, if what you say is true, then the link changed considerably but NYSED should have known that could happen. They chose to link it, right? If they werent planning to supervise links being endorsed off their official page to our children, then dont post them unless they are from strictly reputable sources. I hardly think alltheststs.com then or now, qualifies as a reputable source. From what you’re telling me about the ads, NYSED made a very poor choice in providing a link of that nature at the outset. Shame on NYSED for that.

    Your argument presupposes that NYSED is a business and while that standard of care that you advance may apply to businesses, NYSED is NOT a business and in fact, it’s primary obligation is to educate students and part of that involves not only academics, but assuring that that their material rises to the a sound level in so far as ethics and morality are concerned. NYSED has an affirmative obligation to assure to parents and educators that material that they endorse and provide as a resource on their pages are appropriate for children at all times. If they are too damn busy to keep tabs on their links, then they should not offer these resources at the outset.

    NYSEDs argument lacks conviction. In the news piece below, they claim that it is impossible for them to keep up with the volume of links on their website. Thats no comfort to me. NYSED just built EngageNY – a portal with resources designed to be used by parents and students. If they are arguing that they cannot be held responsible for the content and material contained in the links that they endorse on the official NYSED pages, then I would strongly urge parents and educators to immediately stop using these resources because by NYSEds own admission, they simply cannot guarantee that the material will meet sound and good educational and/or moral standards for our students.

    NBC Manhattan’s Pei-Sze Cheng I-Team report on the NYSED scandal aired this evening at 6pm with anchor Chuck Scarborough, NBC news Manhattan. Perhaps readers of your blog should watch the piece for more context.

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/video/#!/on-air/as-seen-on/I-Team–Quizzes-on-State-Education-Website-Outrage-NY-Parents/239692261

    Reply
    • I am not sure why you posted such a detailed description of the incident in the comment section here. I linked directly to your extensive blog post about it. I think people are pretty aware of what happened. Unfortunately, the NBC report did not look at it from a technology perspective, which is what we need to do. Look, I’ve been in the position of vetting links for students, teachers, and parents. Many, many times I’ve had links that I placed on a web site “go bad.” There is literally nothing I can do about that except remove them when discovered. Don’t believe me, use the Internet Archive to look at one of my very first teacher resource sites https://web.archive.org/web/20000610054235/http://www.teachersites.com/ It is easy to use tech tools to check for dead links, but not as easy to search for content change. I am standing by my conclusion that this was simply a lack of due diligence in checking links.

      Reply

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