Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pineapplegate, or The Pineapple That Ate Pearson

Below the Juanita Doyan created button list from Susan Ohanian's site ( is just some of the commentary on this story so far. We used Juanita's Choose the best answer: a)test b) teach button in our film. I used to distribute these buttons at UFT Delegate Assemblies. To Unity Caucus deaf ears of course.

Since "Pineapplegate" erupted not because the NYSED or Pearson voluntarily made public an erroneous test item, but that item became widely known through sheer happenstance (called the internet), the public can have no confidence in the quality of the rest of the ELA exam.

Therefore it should be published in its entirety so the public can make the determination whether these materials are appropriate to form the basis for evaluating children, teachers, and schools.

I see no reason to wait for the SED to do so voluntarily, since Commissioner King's statement about the Hare and the Pineapple already vacates any remaining credibility they have on this issue.

Thousands of people in New York have access to these tests. It would only take a few of them to get them before the public.

As parents whose children are boycotting the state tests, my wife and I in any case reject on principle the idea that any exercise that takes place in our son's elementary-school classroom should be unavailable for our inspection.

Where's Wikkileaks when you need them?

Jeff Nichols
NY State Legislature should include state tests in "truth-in-testing law" that requires disclosure of all test items and answers after the test.
Purpose of law was to be sure questions and answers were reasonable.
Why exclude state tests?
Following on Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo's strong belief in Public's Right to Know about teacher ratings, public has a right to know about the tests that are so consequential for students and teachers.
The public has a right to know.
Release the tests.

Diane Ravitch
That's great! Assuming this turkey (I mean pineapple) of an item was a field test item:

a) the kids wasted time and effort on a worthless item.
b) the publisher, Pearson, should not have submitted it for try-out, because it made no sense on its face.
c) the publisher should have rejected the item based on data in its items bank and the substantive criticism the item received from students and parents who saw it.
d) Pearson should give SED a refund for the cost of a clunker it probably would have rejected any way.
e) the owl

By the way, the time it took to administer the no-count pineapple (a reading passage followed by two multiple-choice items with a hard-to-defend best answer) takes away time and focus from kids that should not be squandered in taking the 90-minute Book 1.

Fred Smith
From Leonie

Just google Pineapple and Hare on google news to see the explosion of news around this issue today.

What’s esp. infuriating is that it was just sheer luck that I found out about this passage and set of questions, since NYS will no longer release any of the tests that will determine the futures of our kids, our teachers and schools.

And yet there were many other confusing and ambiguous and tricky passages on the ELA – see my blog about this, that has gotten 29 comments in the past day.

For example, a reading passage on the 43rd grade test was called “Spring Peepers” and the question was, what season is this passage about, and the answer is “Summer”!!! This is called a distractor, as Fred surely knows. Put in as many tricks as possible to make sure kids get the answers wrong.

The Pineapple story along with its absurd questions had been complained about for at least 7 YEARS by students and teachers in states all over the country, as being ridiculous and stressful and extremely confusing, and NO ONE told Pearson to stop including it in the state’s high-stakes standardized tests until now. I guess it won’t be used again. One tiny step forward for rationality.

Below is the Commissioner’s statement. Of course, the Common Core will cure all. (And King blames the teachers who supposedly reviewed the test -- yes, teachers paid by whom?).

Commissioner King Statement on The Hare and the Pineapple -

NY Times story
Susan Ohanian on vomiting on tests:
The first time I heard of what to do with vomited-on tests was  in  Sacramento Bee interview with Harcourt official,
Sacramento Bee. April 4, 2000
Bob Rayborn, Harcourt Educational Measurement
"I've seen where kids have thrown up on the test. Kids do get sick at school. In those instances, teachers might have thrown the test away. The appropriate way to deal with that would be to put [the test] in a plastic bag. And send it back to Harcourt."

March 14, 2002, accompanying this news item: "Test-related jitters, especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it."
 Test-related jitters strike some pupils -- and parents
By Sandy Louey and Erika Chavez
Sacramento Bee

The urls to articles are dead.

My website, which started with passage of NCLB, has recorded 10 years of these assaults    (resulting in involvement with police, lawyers, courts--but that's another story).

My original intent was "keep a record" of what's happening. Now I have doubts about this. Today we wring our hands over an assault on children and then tomorrow we will wring our hands over a new assault. And so on. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm contributing to the trivialization of this topic. We need ACTION, not more hand-wringing. I've tried every avenue I can think of. So far the big dead ends are unions,  professional organizations, and the media. They have no shame.

That said, I just had op-eds in newspapers across VT, protesting our progressive Democrat's power grab for education. I've heard from a lot of citizens but the politicos (Democrats) went ahead and gave the governor what he wanted.  When I told my husband about the vote,  he said, "People get what they deserve."  I think he's right. If we sit here and take it . . .

Susan O.

1 comment:

  1. If I had wanted to script a scandal about the stupidity of multiple choice questions on reading tests, I couldn't have done better than pineapple-gate. For a bit of rational perspective, may I suggest you all read two things: the excellent op-ed in today's NY Times
    and Daniel Pinkwater's blog, where you will discover that the original text feature an eggplant, not a pineapple, and was far funnier:


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