2016 Teachers competitive examination: too many dark sides and nothing clear so far.

The following article was originally written by Sara Piersantelli, president of CNT, an association of TFA certified teachers.

The CNT is active to fight for the TFA certified teachers rights and to raise awareness of their peculiar situation.

The critical situation of the Italian teachers is notorious abroad. Yet TFA certified teachers are a specific category which is unfortunately little known, even among school staff members.
A TFA certified teacher is a teacher who has a certification called T.F.A., acronym for Active Training Internship, thus he/she is a State certified teacher. In order to access the course he/she had to overcome a three-test selection, the first of which was a national selection that only 10% has been able to pass.
After a year course, University exams included, he/she had to do a training in the school with a dedicated trainee and finally he/she had to face a final exam and produce a dissertation.
Despite the evident selection, TFA certified teachers have been the first certified teachers to be excluded from a recruitment plan. In order to obtain a long-term contract they have been forced to sit for a new selective competitive examination.

We are teachers. We love teaching and we accept the daily struggle that has become part of this job: we are underpaid and have a short-term contract, we have to fill in piles of forms, we are often considered failures by the society, we need to manage crowded classes, we need to provide personally for the school lack of material…
Yet the moment has come for us to stand up and say “No!” “We can’t stand it anymore!”
What has happened? We have been imposed a controversial school reform, then we have been ‘asked’ to sit for a competitive examination to become long term teachers. We have just been through a highly selective one a couple of years ago but they decided that it isn’t enough. Not anymore at least.
Thus we sat for this other selective examination then. We are resilient people after all. The whole organization immediately appeared to be difficult for them. The official announcement has been postponed so many times that has become a popular joke.
Then the day of the first written tests arrived, the Committee of examiners and the evaluation grid was missing in most cases, but the Education Ministry reassured the nation that everything went smoothly.
Suddenly one day something incredible happened: a picture of the computer-based written test appears in some social network. It’s not some example provided by the Ministry, it’s a picture taken during the test. How could it be possible?
Sara Piersantelli made an accurate report of what happened, as we know so far.
(For further info on CNT please visit http://www.coordinamentonazionaletfa.com/, watch on youtube (

) or email to abilitati.tfa@gmail.com)

2016 Teachers competitive examination: too many dark sides and nothing clear so far.

By Sara Piersantelli – translated into English by Barbara Celena
It’s been a few week since the last ‘computer-based` written tests that candidates have been asked to sit for, from 28 April to 31 May.
Six open-ended questions and two excerpts in English with 5 sub-questions each, to be fulfilled in 150 minutes.
A test which puzzled a lot, both for its clear lack of balance between task and time to accomplish it and for the evident weaknesses in the MIUR (Italian Education Ministry) organizational structure.
Several complaints by the teachers represented by CNT (National Association of TFA certified teachers) have followed, yet the Miur has only replied ambiguously with incomplete reassurances.
Despite the information requests regarding the security protocols for the computer based test, there have been many witnesses of unsaved answers, unofficial memory sticks (not provided by the Ministry) used to transfer the tests to the examination board, sudden black-outs, and finally the widespread availability in the social networks of a picture showing a PC, with the examination dedicated programme running in the middle of the test.
The picture could raise doubts about the reliability of the person who decided for this particular procedure for the written test and would represent a huge shadow on the validity of the whole IT procedure the Miur adopted in order to grant the IT security and the legitimacy of the examination.
The examination took place in the several school labs all over Italy, each with its – mostly poor – hardware, software and network equipment. With such heterogeneous conditions it is not possible to grant the minimum security standards.
The designated classrooms are indeed attended every day by hundreds among students, technicians and the same teachers that sat for the examination.
Tests fulfilled for the first time with such modality, marked by several flaws and contradictions. The one we are pointing out would be certainly ratify a technical incompetence well beyond what the teacher can stand.
Let’s go on step by step.
It turns out from the analysis of the picture that it can’t be a software testing screenshot (from its Beta version provided in advance to the lab technicians in order to check its functions). In fact the question clearly showed in the screen is one of the four English questions provided for AD04 subject certification.
Thus it is the real examination test. Now, the event that one of the candidates taking a picture during the examination, working around the vigilance committee, seems to be, after a deep investigation, the best-case scenario, for several reasons, but definitely unlikely.
First of all, for the technical modalities of the test it was impossible to switch the software to another kind of view because the detach of the Cineca application had a secret code (ctrl+ other keys) and thus extremely difficult to improvise, and known to the technical staff only.
Then the text, as stated before, has been recognised as the original one, so were the answers.
A hypothetical forger could have never recollected everything and re-created it. Considering the MIUR has never published the questions of any examination test, it is impossible to think the picture shows a forged text. In addition, having seen the test software screenshot (http://www.professionistiscuola.it/concorsi/2118-concorso-docenti-2016-prova-computer-based-in-esclusiva-su-psn-tutti-i-dettagli-e-le-immagini-dell-applicativo-miur.html ) the hypothesis of a software test must be excluded.
For all the above reasons the photomontage hypothesis appears to be unlikely. Such an editing would only possible to be realized with an interminable work and with material which is virtually impossible to get.
After a deeper analysis of the picture, and paying attention to the top left corner of the active window, it can be noticed that the shell shows the programme name, probably the famous VNC Viewer (https://www.realvnc.com/download/viewer/).
If our hypothesis is to be confirmed the following link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq-mHC9JYwY) could give a clear idea of what the programme is able to do.
VNC Viewer is indeed a software that, properly configured, allows the remote access to one or more computers connected to the internet. You just need to install it in the computer you want to control and, later, on another workstation somewhere else – also outside the lab – it can be used as a controller. Thus whoever works on the second workstation is able to use the first one in total freedom.
It is extremely likely that a candidate, once known the schools hosting the examination, might have installed (or made someone have installed it) VNC on all computers in the labs, being the seat still unknown. We need to remind that all candidate knew the location of their examination in advance.
At the established time, then, an “accomplice” could have easily connected from home to all the computers in the examination classroom (and here there in an endless numbers of possibilities such the chance to manipulate the answers of all the other candidates) and could have waited for an agreed signal – for example typing a key word in the blank for the open-ended questions. From that moment on he could have been in control and answered himself in place of the candidate, or he could have the questions, waited for the candidate to answer and then have corrected them.
It is essentially impossible for a supervisor to realize what is happening, as already said, the remote operator has full control of the computer. He can do whatever he wants.
CNT is aware it is still possible the picture has been counterfeited and the whole story could reveal a fake.
Yet this doesn’t mean the Ministry has not to answer the following question: How did the MIUR grant the impossibility to access the workstations used for the teachers competitive examination?
Once asked the Ministry only replied “it is not possible to use VNC client in the examination workstations (installed in some labs for the ordinary management) because in the examination days the workstations have been disconnected from the net by the Classroom supervisor/Vigilance Committee. Thus, even if installed it cannot be used from a remote connection.”
Such a declaration is openly contradictory – it admits it is installed in the workstations but it is impossible to use it, why? – moreover it doesn’t offer any explanation about it. Once confirmed it would only support the Association concern since it admits the presence of the VNC software in the labs, as a matter of fact, given its wide use in the schools net systems.
The Ministry thus admits it can be already installed in the computers used for the examination. That just makes the dreaded event more plausible.
Furthermore the term Net (capitalized) let us think the workstations have been “presumably” disconnected from Internet (the Net par excellence) – if only the supervisors in charge diligently remembered to do it and if practically possible, due to the variety of net architecture in the hundreds of school labs in Italy – but not from LAN, the single school local network, allowing a connection from a second computer in the same building.
Following the poor reassurances from Miur, last 3rd June CNT has reported the fact to the Public Prosecutor which has started the due investigations.
All things considered then, if the remote access was not real but even only possible, there is a possible par condicio violation that could bring to one or more offences and for all the candidates the right to repudiate their own tests as potentially manipulated during, before or after the examination.
Due to the problems observed we are questioning the Authority requirements for the data protection regarding the lab security used for the examination, we wonder if the Employer has provided, in each classroom all around the nation, for a system/net administrator officially appointed and if the system adopted to control access to the single workstations, offline as well, keeps track of the activities performed, logging them (in an appropriate log file) in a manner which is both certain and unmodifiable.
Indeed if these security standard were not granted, one may underline there is not a protection system for the sensitive data process such as those involved in the selective procedure, essential requirement for the whole competitive examination structure that was not able to ensure the performance of the test as per law requirements.
What concerns most is the silence on the whole situation. No media has spoken about it, except for Il Fatto newspaper, and no politician has never asked the Miur for an explanation. What about the Unions? There hasn’t been any vital sign from them for ages as far as it deals with the school temporary employees.
It seems this competitive examination must go on. For everyone. No matter how.


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