An interesting article in the NY Times today concerning a particularly confusing and disquieting reading passage on a standardized test for eighth graders in New York that asked questions that left students scratching their heads in utter confusion.
If you’ve looked at my blog recently than you probably already saw my little rant on my distaste for standardized testing. This certainly helps me feel reinforced with what has been a growing wariness on my part of the testing industry. This particular article spotlighted a passage that was extracted from a Daniel Pinkwater, a fairly well-known children’s author, story that was a parody of the Aesop fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” except in this case the tortoise is a pineapple. Yep, a pineapple. (Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this concept; it actually sounds like an interesting read.) The problem isn’t even really the story; it’s the absurd questions the test creators, Pearson, generated for the passage and the fact that out of context the story makes little sense. You’ll need to read the article to really get a feel for how bad it is (and to understand my title), but here is a small passage from the article by Anemona Hartocollis:
“The crux of the passage is that the pineapple challenges the hare to a race, and the other animals are convinced the pineapple must have a trick up its sleeve and will win. When the pineapple stands still, the animals eat it. The moral of the story: “Pineapples don’t have sleeves.”
One of the disputed questions asked, essentially, which was the wisest animal. Some students said that none of the animals seemed very bright, but that a likely answer was the owl, because it was the one that uttered the moral.
Others worried that the owl was a distraction, because owls are supposed to be wise, so it would be the wrong answer.”
Tell me again. How does this prove a child’s knowledge or analysis of reading?
Another very interesting blog post from a local education journalist in our local paper brought up points by another edublogger, Will Richardson. Richardson was pointing out that a series of tweets by Chris Lehmann say all too well how multi-billion dollar business groups–like The Gates Foundation–are using technology to invade public schools and undermine educators. I found this particularly interesting considering that I am certainly of the mindset that groups with all the money and power have consistently villified teachers. I ask again why we are not questioning these groups and their connections to those who perpetuate testing as the only avenue of achieving results from student learning? I agree with Richardson that we need to start generating on-going and meaningful discussions about these groups having their hands in the molding of policy.
(To be clear, Richardson concentrates on technology being the “trojan horse” that these groups are using to get into public schools, which is at least partially true, but I personally don’t have a problem with continuing to acquaint students with technologies that will be integral in their adult world. )