WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of six senators in pressing three of the largest virtual testing companies used by schools and testing administrators amid the COVID-19 pandemic– ExamSoft, Proctorio, and ProctorU—to address alarming equity, accessibility, and privacy issues faced by students using the platforms.
Recent reports indicate students, particularly students of color and those with disabilities, have had severe issues using the software, been locked out of tests, or wrongly accused of cheating. For example, students of color and students wearing religious clothing like headscarves reported the software failed to recognize their facial features and they were temporarily barred from access.
“Students have run head on into the shortcomings of these technologies—shortcomings that fall heavily on vulnerable communities and perpetuate discriminatory biases,” wrote the senators in the letter to ExamSoft. Similar letters were sent to Proctorio and ProctorU. “It is critical that bias, including racial and gender disparities, be addressed expeditiously to ensure that our students of color are not facing additional barriers in their fields.”
The senators raised major concerns about the companies’ accommodations for students with disabilities, for example those with facial tic disorders or muscle reflexes, who may be flagged by the software as suspicious or cheating, and virtual proctors unprepared to accommodate students with disabilities.
“We are concerned that the software has not been designed to be inclusive and mindful of all students’ needs and proctors are not getting the training or information they need to adequately work with and oversee students taking the exams,” the senators continued.
The senators also expressed alarm over the safety and privacy of students who are being recorded and observed by virtual proctors, are required to install intrusive software on their personal computers, and provide extensive personal information about their homes and health to the companies, writing: “Students relying on your software to further their education have put a great deal of trust in you to reserve their privacy. You must be able to demonstrate that you are respecting students’ privacy.”
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
A copy of the full letter to ExamSoft is available here
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