Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Would A Wise Forest Animal Eat A Talking Pineapple?

Or why I don't want any part of my pay based on a standardized test.

The New York Daily News covers a New York State test developed by Pearson PLC.  Students were asked to respond to questions from a story about a race between a talking pineapple and a hare.
In the story, an apparent take-off on Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, a talking pineapple challenges a hare to a race.  The other animals wager on the immobile pineapple winning — and ponder whether it’s tricking them.
When the pineapple fails to move at all and the rabbit wins, the animals dine on the pineapple.
Students were asked two perplexing questions: why did the animals eat the talking fruit, and which animal was wisest?
Let's be clear, none of the animals were named Socrates and none claimed to be the wisest animal because it knew nothing.  Apparently the unanswerable questions had been tested elsewhere.
The new exams have higher stakes for principals and teachers statewide, whose evaluations will be based in part on student scores beginning as soon as this year.
Scarsdale Middle School Principal Michael McDermott said the question has been used before and “confused students in six or seven different states.”
If Governor Daugaard or Education Secretary Schopp want read the story and take a stab at answering the questions, they can do so here.  I'm sure that they will claim that South Dakota checks its tests more carefully.  That claim may be true, but the difference between South Dakota's inane questions and New York's inane questions is difference of degree not of kind.  South Dakota's tests have their fair share of inane questions.

I have my own slightly less inane multiple guess question:

After hearing about the pineapple and the hare, Governor Daugaard and Secretary Schopp will
a. stubbornly insist that standardized testing is a great way to evaluate teachers.
b. claim that paying math and science teachers more than English, history, art or music teachers will help students answer the question about why the animals ate the pineapple.
c. offer Pearson a 10 year contract to write Dakota STEP tests.
d. all of the above.

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