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View Diary: Testing-driven education means giant corporate profits and 'pineapples don't have sleeves' (163 comments)

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  •  It's actually not Daniel Pinkwater. (12+ / 0-)

    They took a piece by him, changed it drastically, and appended questions he didn't write. He's said basically that he doesn't get why they changed it the ways they did and that the tests are stupid.

    •  Right (0+ / 0-)

      The took his story, edited it, and created questions to test comprehension.  That's what they virtually always do on standardized tests.

      Wholly-owned subsidiaries are people, too, my friend.

      by deminva on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:19:48 PM PDT

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      •  Where "edited" means "changed so much (7+ / 0-)

        he said he doesn't think they'd have had legal trouble billing it as something new, and "created questions to test comprehension" leaves huge ambiguity.

        But, you know, if you want to be one of five people out there defending this set of questions, including the people who paid for it, go for it. I'm sure Pearson will...actually not care at all.

        •  You seem angry with me, and I don't know why (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rumaikiya, NYmama

          Is it because I'm disagreeing with you?

          My wife and I were just this evening shaking our heads about the fact that my sixth-grade daughter has a classmate who's taking an SAT prep class.  And here in Northern Virginia, the schools are great but they still have to teach to the SOLs, which I consider a horrible waste of time.

          But I think the pineapple story is an easy but faulty target for criticism.  It's easy to take the moral out of context and make it sound ridiculous, but what if they used "Jabberwocky" and asked comprehension questions about the phrase Oh frabjous day, calloo callay?  That line, out of context, makes Pineapples don't have sleeves sound downright sage.

          I'm serious: Which questions do people here think are ambiguous?
          The owl is obviously the wisest of the animals.
          They ate the pineapple because they were annoyed.
          The animals were clearly suspicious of the pineapple when he first challenged the hare.  (It actually says they "thought it was very strange.")
          The story also says the animals wanted to back a winner, so they would have been pleased if they had instead chosen to cheer for the hare.

          Wholly-owned subsidiaries are people, too, my friend.

          by deminva on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:33:23 PM PDT

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          •  Arguments that these tests are too hard... (2+ / 0-)
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            The Angry Architect, NYmama

            make me understand why the progressive movement has been losing this fight. I'm horrified that Laura Clawson linked to the article about the guy who couldn't handle the FL math test when the sample questions revealed a test that was, if anything, too easy.

            There are many, many issues with high stakes testing (that to be fair, are mostly what the above diary is about). I've worked as a scorer, so I have no delusions about what these tests are testing. But like you, I am baffled that anyone is seriously arguing the pineapple passage and questions were too hard for 8th graders. I just don't see how we're supposed to have any credibility, and it sucks because even if the tests themselves are fine, how they're being used are not. But who's going to take an anti-testing argument seriously from someone who claims the pineapple passage is too hard?

            •  I think that the horrible application of NCLB has (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              The Angry Architect, Tamar

              led to a knee-jerk reaction - because so many bad tests have come out of the process, and arguably a lot of needless ones too, it's an understandable one.  The story isn't really the problem, but my issue with the questions is that, for 8th graders, it's really not all that clear what skills are being assessed here.  I can see why they were pulled - the story is fine, but the questions don't seem to be directly at particularly skills and you could argue that a couple of them are somewhat subjective.  Not sure what kind of timeframe these kids had to go through it.

              But this is what happens when education gets politicized, and the GOP has no-one to blame for that but themselves.You don't fix a failing school by defunding it, and you don't improve instruction by testing kids to death; tests are tools, they can't stand in place of instruction.

              "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

              by auron renouille on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:23:20 PM PDT

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              •  Unclear what skills are being tested? (2+ / 0-)
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                deminva, NYmama

                I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I'm honestly kerfluffled by that assertion. This is a reading comprehension test. It's testing a student's ability to read and understand a text. I think it's a good mix of literal, all the student needs to do is read the words to find the desired answer and questions that require a tad more ability to infer.

                I don't really understand what type of questions people are expecting a reading comprehension question to ask instead of the ones this test asks. Have you all really never taken or seen a reading comprehension test before? I'm way older than high-stakes testing, but this type of test was still pretty standard in my public education--both as authored by English teachers and as authored by state standardized test makers (although the latter were not high stakes at the time--I don't know what they were used for actually).

                •  If it's a basic reading comprehension test, (1+ / 0-)
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                  it's at a low level for 8th graders, particularly if it's solely "read the story and report back the exact words in the story," which would make the questions even worse.  If it's asking for synthesis, that's where the questions get ugly because of the vagaries of it.

                  So, yes, I remain unclear which skills they're testing.

                  "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

                  by auron renouille on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 10:22:17 PM PDT

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                •  I totally agree with you (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  And I think the criticism about the passage's "subjective" questions actually signals widespread problems with reading comprehension.

                  I've taught close reading skills to high school, college, and grad students, and unless kids have done a lot of reading on their own, they really struggle to pick up tone and irony.

                  Take that one question about why the animals ate the pineapple.  It feels obvious to me, because the final statement, They ate the pineapple, is delivered with the eclat of a punchline.  But kids (and adults) who are reading to find out only what happened aren't going to see that.

                  Similarly, about the wise animal:  Only four animals are named.  The moose and raven offer weird and incorrect speculation, and the hare incredulously declares that the pineapple is a pineapple.  It's the owl who demonstrates clear thinking in the whimsical logic of this story:  The pineapple can't have anything up its sleeves, because it doesn't have sleeves.  His words become the moral of the story.  

                  Yet even around here, that question is generating disagreement.  

                  Some eighth-graders could do very well on this passage, and others would I think be completely flummoxed.  But if you want to measure something, it helps if your ruler is longer than the thing you're measuring.

                  Wholly-owned subsidiaries are people, too, my friend.

                  by deminva on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 03:33:19 AM PDT

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                  •  Is the owl actually wise? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Tamar, elfling

                    At first and second glance, I would have chosen the owl as the most wise, with the hare as a second choice. But now I question whether the owl is wise or is perhaps is taking the expression "has a trick up its sleeve" literally.
                    In this interpretation, the owl's statement is literally correct but not insightful.
                    This then adds extra impact, perhaps ironic, and hopefully humorous, when the line is repeated as the moral of the story.
                    Ambiguity is a wonderful thing and this is a fun story, but clearly not suitable for a multiple choice test with only one correct answer per question.

                    •  thank you for putting this better than I did (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      elfling, norbalish, MPociask

                      It's not the complexity of the questions, it's the simplistic right/wrong nature of them as compared to the irony & humor of the story. Essentially, the story is a page long way of saying that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (Freud?).
                      From the test-makers point of view (represented by a fair number of commenters here), the answer is obvious -- this is a test of reading comprehension so you look for that final meaning of the story and the animal that stated that is the wise one.
                      But from test-taker's point of view, from a smart kid's point of view, looking for hidden meaning might be a wiser response than a simplistic assertion that because the pineapple has no sleeves it can't have a hidden agenda; unless that child has had huge amount of preparation in taking such tests -- which is exactly what the schools are now doing. My youngest daughter has been trained and overtrained to come up with the simplest, most straightforward answers to reading comprehension paragraphs. She does just fine on these tests. But the amount of time they've spent on that has taken away from time spent on deeper level analyses and now that she's in a special advanced program, she's struggling with learning to synthesize lots of facts and ideas into an abstraction or hypothesis. She's actually had her abstract thinking reined in by the "BCRs" (Brief Constructed Response).
                      When my oldest daughter had a seizure, one of the tests the neurologist used to assess her was to see if she could get the underlying meaning of a cliche. Responding with the most concrete answer (e.g., people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones interpreted as "they shouldn't throw stones because it will break their glass") apparently could be a symptom of neurological problems. Something to think about....

                      We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

                      by Tamar on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 10:12:41 AM PDT

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                    •  The hare is wisest, I'm 99% certain. (2+ / 0-)
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                      elfling, norbalish

                      Just because it's an owl doesn't mean it is wise. It's actually kind of an interesting trick question.

                      "I wish you luck on not hating your parents for mixing up such an unthinkable person." --The frickin´ HP--

                      by McWaffle on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:02:24 AM PDT

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                  •  "It doesn't have sleeves" actually (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    norbalish, MPociask

                    isn't true the way you said it:

                    It's the owl who demonstrates clear thinking in the whimsical logic of this story:  The pineapple can't have anything up its sleeves, because it doesn't have sleeves.
                    For example, can a person wearing a tank top - or someone without arms - be said to have "something up his sleeve"? Do people (or animals) lose their ability for trickery without sleeves? Might you say (without much thought about the literal meaning) "my dog has something up his sleeve" when you suspect him of plotting to remove food from the kitchen table?

                    Myself, I'm a bit hard pressed to assess the mental capacity of a talking pineapple. Presumably it moved enough to get to the starting line in the first place... which is also outside my experience of pineapples. :-)

                    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                    by elfling on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:01:04 AM PDT

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            •  I don't think they're too hard, I think they're (3+ / 0-)

              too simplistic. They assume one right answer when a bright kid could argue that another answer was just as good.
              For example -- you assume the owl gave the wisest answer (because it matches the moral) but I think the owl was far too literal in his/her thinking. It might be considered wise to think that if a creature obviously unsuited to a contest challenges another creature eminently suited to the contest, then maybe the challenger has some secret he/she hasn't revealed especially in light of the original hare and tortoise fable. Just because a funny story meant to have a twist ends up with the overly concrete answer being the right one, doesn't mean that the overly concrete answer is the wisest one.
              In my youngest daughter's class in 6th grade (when I sat it on it), the teacher asked questions about civilization, economies, and political structures. Some kids give very concrete answers -- they're often correct, but they don't delve into the underpinnings (my own daughter is one of those). Other, more advanced kids, give answers that have more abstraction involved. Sometimes they're off-base, but you can see their minds are clicking into alternative views and interpretations that indicate a talent for complexity. Who's wiser? well, according to this, the kid who gives a very concrete answer, but in my book it would be the kids who jump into the ideas and start extrapolating and generalizing.

              We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

              by Tamar on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:29:03 PM PDT

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              •  YES!!!!!!!!!!! (3+ / 0-)

                "I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are?" Barry Goldwater

                by ranton on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:52:42 PM PDT

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              •  It does in a test of reading comprehension (2+ / 0-)
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                deminva, NYmama

                It baffles me that anyone is trying to debate this. The text is the reality for a reading comprehension test.

                In this story, the owl is proven right by the events of the story. That means in a question about who has the wisest words in this particular story, yes, the overly concrete answer is the wisest one. If a student doesn't understand this, the student needs to learn how to take a reading comprehension test. It's not about trying to find the answer in some objective reality--it's about understanding the answer as demonstrated in the text.

                Now is learning how to take a multiple-choice reading comprehension test the best use of a student's time? I don't think so--I'm not a huge fan of multiple choice tests, so I'd rather see reading comprehension demonstrated by open-ended essay answers. At the same time, I don't think it's an unreasonable expectation for 8th graders to be understand how to take a reading comprehension test, and I really doubt any 8th graders with strong reading comprehension skills were tripped up by it,

                •  please see my comment above: (0+ / 0-)


                  I'm not anti all standardized tests but I'm against the over-testing going on now and very suspicious of the tests promulgated by these new profit-making "educational" corporations.
                  I have a sister whose career was writing test questions for the Graduate Record Exam and I know that their test questions were (and I assume still are) put through rigorous review. I don't remember the percentage, but I know that it was much less than half of the questions written survived the reviews to then actually be used in tests. (My sister was known for writing fewer questions but having a greater percentage survive the reviews).
                  The testing I'm seeing in my youngest daughter's education is far more frequent (far far more) than it was for my older daughters and with tests that are created with less rigor by people with less training than the tests that used to be the standard. My older daughters had standardized tests every couple of years. My younger daughter has "standardized" tests several times per year!

                  We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

                  by Tamar on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 10:20:17 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm no fan of the testing either (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    I've said that over and over in my comments.

                    But I'm also not a fan of the intellectual dishonesty in saying these test questions are unfair or impossible to answer (not meaning you specifically, but throughout the comments here and on the links, there are people going to contortions to try and justify other answers when they clearly can tell what the desired answers are). I

                    More importantly, I think critiquing a perfectly fine test ultimately hurts the anti-testing position. We're already up against a huge industry. We need to pick our arguments carefully and persuasively. It's easier to say the tests are the problem because they're poorly written, but then we need to have examples of genuinely confusing or arbitrary questions. And even then, how well or poorly the tests are written is not the point. If the tests were perfect, it wouldn't matter. That's not the problem. The problem is the diversion of money and classroom time with nothing to show for it.

                    •  I partly agree with you, but I'm not happy with (0+ / 0-)

                      the pineapple story and questions either.
                      I'm going to send it to my sister and ask her for comments. I'm a survey researcher in background and know a good opinion question (or bad one) when I see it, but I'm no expert on questions written to test knowledge or ability.
                      She is. I'll ask her.

                      We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

                      by Tamar on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 03:10:51 PM PDT

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          •  Sorry but I have no idea (5+ / 0-)

            what the correct answers should be. There's too much in the story that is too wacky and absurdist to point to a "correct" answer — and there are too many things between the lines that point to several "correct" answers — or something  else entirely. I don't think most of your answers are right.

            I have a master's degree, and I would have failed this.

            Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

            by anastasia p on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:10:12 PM PDT

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          •  The Owl Was Being Pedantic to a Fault (3+ / 0-)

            Actually, the owl was being pedantic to a moose. Hardly a fount of wisdom, eh?

            As for wise words, where did hare fall short? Had the hare verbally agreed to race the pineapple, then the hare would have spoken foolishly. But the act of racing itself did not involve words being spoken by the hare. Therefore, a strong case can be made for 8-A.



            Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

            by jabney on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:16:59 PM PDT

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