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In the past week, an unbelievably stupid set of questions on a New York standardized test has made headlines. As a result, the state education commissioner has announced that the questions won't be counted toward students' official scores, but if you care about education, the concerns raised by these test questions can't end with "they don't count in New York." For one thing, these questions have been in use for years, in multiple states. While they won't count in New York, they have counted for many other students—and the teachers whose performance is judged by those students' test scores.

The questions at issue (PDF) were attached to a reading passage parodying the tortoise and the hare. In this one, a pineapple challenges a hare to a race, leaving other animals confused about who they should root for and whether the pineapple has a victory plan—a moose suggests that "The pineapple has some trick up its sleeve." When the race begins, the pineapple just sits there and is ultimately eaten by the animals, leading to the "MORAL: Pineapples don't have sleeves." The students then had to answer ambiguous questions such as why the animals ate the pineapple and which animal was the wisest.

"Pineapples don't have sleeves" is eminently quotable; the silliness of the passage and questions doubtless helped publicize it and get it looked at with a critical eye, but we can't let that same silliness obscure at least three major issues this episode highlights: Testing is big business bringing some corporations enormous profits, the tests that are so much a focus of education policy today are fallible, and the tests themselves are just the leading edge of how testing companies are making their way into the schools and defining the education kids get.

Testing is big business

The education commissioner of Texas, a Republican, recently said that:

“The assessment and accountability regime has become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex. And the reason that you’re seeing this move toward the “common core” is there’s a big business sentiment out there that if you’re going to spend $600-$700 billion a year in public education, why shouldn’t be one big Boeing, or Lockheed-Grumman contract where one company can get it all and provide all these services to schools across the country.”
Texas has been at the forefront of the testing craze; in fact, testing was one of the things George W. Bush brought with him from Texas and pushed to a national level, through No Child Left Behind. In 2000, Pearson Education, the company that produces tests for Texas, "signed a $233 million contract to provide tests for Texas schools, and in 2005 they got another $279 million." In 2011, as Texas was slashing its education budget to the bone, Gov. Rick Perry's administration gave Pearson a $470 million contract "to come up with a new test that will hold Texas schoolchildren to a higher standard at the same time that budget cuts are forcing them into increasingly crowded classrooms."

But Texas isn't alone. Pearson is the company responsible for "pineapples don't have sleeves," and the size of those Texas contracts combined with the fact that the pineapples passage has appeared on tests in New York, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, and Illinois at a minimum should give you some idea just how lucrative the testing business is for Pearson and other testing firms. In fact, combined state spending on standardized tests went from $423 million in 2001 to $1.1 billion in 2008.

When educational policy is just coincidentally falling in line with something that very directly creates large corporate profits, it's time to stop and consider whether maybe the policy is being driven more by profit than by actual results.

(Continue reading below the fold)

The tests are fallible

Standardized tests tend to be treated as if their results are Truth, as if they shine a light into the learning and the teaching going on in classrooms and report back an unvarnished, non-ideological assessment of how students and teachers are performing not just on standardized tests but in their entire intellectual lives.

In fact, we know that, at least as applied to teacher performance, the tests have huge measurement error and are often sloppily applied. We know that the rise of high-stakes testing leads to cheating scandals. We know that adults struggle with the tests. We know that the appearance of rising scores in a district is often a product of changing student bodies, tweaks to whose scores are counted, or flat out making the tests easier (never mind whatever cheating goes on). We know that pineapples don't have sleeves.

Then there are the eyewitness accounts. Todd Farley, who worked in the testing industry for 15 years, writes that:

...the companies who employed me [were] willing to take huge shortcuts in developing tests because meeting a contract’s deadline was clearly more important than the quality of any assessment.

Last year I was amazed to see the management of a publishing company giving its test developers only four weeks to produce K-12 assessments for the Detroit Public Schools (a school system now bankrupt but then willing to pay millions to a testing company); later, however, that short time-frame looked like a leisurely vacation compared to breakneck pace the company next worked its employees at, when the staff was required to pound out more than 200 Common Core Standard tests over the next two months.

The questions about scoring tests are equally serious: Farley identifies a number of occasions on which thousands of test-takers have been given incorrect results, pointing out that:
...most of those errors were discovered only after a test-taker complained about a score, not when any company voluntarily disclosed the problem, raising questions about the legitimacy of every other test administered over the last 10 years.
Those are your multiple-choice tests, where there is at least theoretically a single correct answer. But multiple choice only measures a very limited range of knowledge and skills, and open-ended tests that assessed higher-order skills have to be graded by someone. By whom, though? People paid $12 an hour to "read" 20 to 30 essays an hour? Tales of what that looks like are legion and make clear what a poor option it is. Recently there's been big claims about robo-graders being as effective as human graders. There's reason to question that conclusion:
The e-Rater’s biggest problem, he says, is that it can’t identify truth. He tells students not to waste time worrying about whether their facts are accurate, since pretty much any fact will do as long as it is incorporated into a well-structured sentence. “E-Rater doesn’t care if you say the War of 1812 started in 1945,” he said.

Mr. Perelman found that e-Rater prefers long essays. A 716-word essay he wrote that was padded with more than a dozen nonsensical sentences received a top score of 6; a well-argued, well-written essay of 567 words was scored a 5.

To summarize, pineapples aside, tests include a lot of error, of the measurement error kind and the scoring error kind. They're written under time and financial pressure. They tend to produce cheating. If they're not multiple choice, there are huge issues with how they're graded. Yet they keep being treated as if they're infallible documents that have dropped from the sky instead of flawed ones created for profit.

The test's influence on schooling doesn't begin and end on test day

If everyone's future is, in some measure, riding on a test, schools will teach to the test. That means students don't learn math, reading, history, science. They learn how to do well on the specific test their school district has contracted with a testing company to provide. Examples of this abound. Jeff Nichols and Anne Stone, New York City parents who are opting their son out of standardized testing, write that:

Because so much is riding on these tests, the curriculum at our 3rd-grader's school has been distorted dramatically. There is no music, science, or gym teacher; art has been suspended since December so that there can be extended hours for test prep. Our son's homework for months has consisted of practice tests; the main function of school seems to be to teach him to read passages of little or no literary merit and then decide which of four possible answers to equally insipid questions is the "right" one. In math, our son brings home dreary worksheets day after day, asking the same kinds of questions 100 different ways.
Pearson and other testing companies don't just make and sell tests, by the way. They also make and sell "teaching materials," and districts that are using tests by a company often also buy its "teaching materials"—what better way to be sure your students are prepared for the test they'll be taking? Yet schools on military bases, where standardized testing is deemphasized and doesn't control the curriculum, outperform traditional public schools and have a narrower racial achievement gap. Similarly,
A study published in the journal Science Education in December 2008 looked at two sets of high school science students. One set “sprinted”; the other set had teachers who slowed down, went deeper, and did not cover as much material. The results? The first group of students actually scored higher on the state tests at the end of the year. This is not surprising, as their teachers covered more of the test material. I am sure it made their parents, teachers, and administrators happy. What is more interesting, however, is that the students who learned through the slower, in-depth approach actually earned higher grades once they made it to college. This, too, is not surprising. These students were taught to think critically.
Cases like these are why opting out is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

The opt-out movement

While policy leaders continue pushing testing and signing multimillion dollar contracts with Pearson and its ilk, people on the ground are revolting. In Texas, by now more than 360 school boards have passed a resolution:

...that says an “over reliance” on standardized high stakes testing is “strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage.”
A National Testing Resolution based on the Texas resolution was written by:
Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; National Education Association; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education - Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.
It has been signed by dozens more groups and thousands of individuals. Given how completely bought into high-stakes, but unproven, standardized tests policymakers remain, a widespread movement opposing and opting out of reckless testing has become a necessity.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging, New York City, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tests Give Results That Executives Can Understand. (22+ / 0-)

    People pass them, people fail them. You can then act on the people for profit.

    Students, shirt buttons, ecosystems, all's the same for purposes of profits.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:44:48 PM PDT

  •  Can we PLEASE give Texas back to Mexico already? (13+ / 0-)

    What an albatross those bassackwards morons are around this country's neck.

    Stop the party of Gut & Spend policies that gut our Earned Benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare and spends on tax breaks for the wealthy elite.

    by jillwklausen on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:55:14 PM PDT

  •  I'm Still Totally Baffled by (15+ / 0-)

    The pineapple. Anyone have any idea what this was supposed to be testing?

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:56:05 PM PDT

  •  texting does equal learning!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10

    it is that simple.

    Be involved! http://www.whereistheoutrage.net

    by ecthompson on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:56:28 PM PDT

    •  I hope that was snark (0+ / 0-)

      otherwise, you deserve a donut.  I'll assume you are snarky, but if I read more comments that indicate otherwise, I'll come back to feed you a donut for the day.  

      "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength", George Orwell, "1984" -7.63 -5.95

      by dangoch on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:21:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Shouldn't that be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Amber6541

      txtng=lrnng

      Gotta be able to put that thought out in as few characters as possible. Then again, I don't text because I normally write complete words and sentences.

      The Golden Rule isn't so golden if you don't bother polishing it with every soul you meet. (-6.5,-4.1)

      by minidriver on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 06:59:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Typical (29+ / 0-)

    It's amazing how often a conservative 'solution' to a problem does two things: it makes a bad situation worse, and it usually generates huge profits for someone while doing so.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:59:46 PM PDT

    •  So true! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar

      "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 08:44:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Teaching/Testing absurdity is conservative? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYmama

      While questionable for that age group, I think those questions are quite imaginative.  Some questions, remember, are designed only for the top few percentiles.

      Item analysis is performed on all these tests.  They know full well which level of student can answer these questions.  And, if they are wrong, the questions are thrown out.

  •  School$=profit$ (6+ / 0-)

    Money trumpets everything.

  •  I actually love the story. (12+ / 0-)

    However, the ambiguous questions are terrible. I remember poorly posed test questions such as these from my past. The stupidity hurts.

    There is only one planet suitable for human habitation in our solar system.

    by too many people on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:04:22 PM PDT

    •  Which questions do you think are ambiguous? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jerry J, NYmama

      I think they're tough questions for eighth-graders, but I don't think the correct answers are difficult to discern.

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

      by deminva on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:22:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why did the animals eat the pineapple? (12+ / 0-)

        The correct answer is because they were annoyed, because there's no indication they were hungry. But...being annoyed is reason to eat pineapple?

        Who's the wisest? Well, the owl says what ends up being the moral. But it's a nonsense sentence, and since owls are supposed to be wise, the fact that it's an owl feels like a misdirection, that you're supposed to associate owl with wise and choose that answer when the correct one is something else.

        •  I see what you mean (6+ / 0-)

          about the potential misdirection of the owl being (too obviously) the wise one.  But when the other animals are speculating semi-blindly about the pineapple's intentions, the owl cuts right to the chase.  He's the clearheaded one.  The moose and crow actually speculate incorrectly, and the hare only states the obvious.

          I think it's "hungry" that ends up being the misdirection, but the whole tenor of the story points to their annoyance.  This pineapple challenges a hare to a race.  The animals are all confused, and wondering what's going on.  They get worked up about this race, decide to back the pineapple, then -- he just sits there.  Doesn't even move.  The jerk.  So they eat him.  And yeah, they eat him because they're animals, and he's a fruit.

          If it had been a story that only involved sixth-graders, they would have slugged the kid who didn't move.

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

          by deminva on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:39:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  in some districts, that would maybe be a more (0+ / 0-)

            identifiable story, sad to say.

            "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength", George Orwell, "1984" -7.63 -5.95

            by dangoch on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:25:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  LOL! (0+ / 0-)

            That was my point in the comment here, but adamcadre's response made sense too...

            The important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question. For there are few things as useless–if not dangerous–as the right answer to the wrong question. -- P. Drucker

            by The Angry Architect on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 09:59:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It was two hours later! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Amber6541

            The animals could easily have been hungry!  Why would they eat him out of annoyance??  Who EATS something because they're annoyed with it???

            And how do we know how they would feel if they'd backed the hare?  There's not much satisfaction in backing an obvious winner.  They would've likely felt confused about the whole thing.  Obviously it's the RIGHT answer, but that doesn't make it the true answer.  Which of course is problem number 19390409 with these tests.  

            The owl's wisdom was so obviously accidental that I find that answer somehow ironically acceptable.  

          •  Is he the wisest? Maybe he just doesn't know (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            norbalish, MPociask

            idiomatic english. The owl says nothing else, so you have no real evidence that the owl was wise versus just popping off his failure to understand what the moose said. For example, you can imagine a 5-year-old saying something similar, out of ignorance. The owl never directly says what he thinks about the pineapple.

            On the other hand, the hare is right all along.

            In the end, you know that on a standardized test that the owl is the answer because the owl stated the moral of the story and because owls are traditionally wise. But as to the Truth... you could have a whole classroom discussion making a case for any of the animals. It would be a great debate.

            And of course, time spent to think takes away from the time to complete the test. Even a 1 minute hesitation costs dearly from other items.

            So do you want kids to learn how to think or do you want them to be good at guessing what unimaginative standardized test authors think? :-) Are you testing reading comprehension or conformity?

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

            by elfling on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 10:51:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Or maybe animals (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Amber6541

          eat food that is laying on the ground because they are animals doing what animals do. (no snark)

      •  Ambiguous questions (7+ / 0-)

        7 is a toss-up, since we don't know why the animals would eat the pineapple.  After all, at first they were cheering for him!  Were they annoyed that they had chosen wrong?  If so, why does the pineapple get murdered(he was, after all, a talking pineapple, with thoughts and feelings of his own)?  The story does say the race was two hours long - maybe they were hungry?

        8 is very unclear.  What's so wise about saying pineapples don't have sleeves?  That's obvious.  The hare was the animal who immediately sized up the pineapple, and correctly guessed that a vegetable couldn't beat an animal in a race.

        9 introduces the framing of before the race, but none of the other animals are even introduce until the race itself is beginning.  How is a reader supposed to know how they felt about the pineapple before then?  They think it's strange that he'd challenge the hare, but that's about it.  Does guessing he have a clever plan to win make them suspicious?  Or sympathetic? Maybe they envy his cleverness!  How can we know?

        11, it could be b-d.  D is restating the metaphor - he certainly means what he means, right?  C looks close to right, although it's not at all clear he's trying to fool all the animals.  B doesn't make much sense, but in the context of the animal's guessing about the pineapple's motivations, could make sense.

        •  Was choice given re: Why eat for answer---- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TheLawnRanger

          ----because they were animals.

        •  What do you think reading comprehension tests test (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jerry J, The Angry Architect, NYmama

          I can't tell if you're serious or playing devil's advocates with your attempts to argue these questions are ambiguous, because you seem to know the desired answers.

          11 is not ambiguous at all. The question asks what the moose means. The moose very clearly means choice c. None of the other answers make any sense with the actual story.

          In the case of 9, the other animals are introduced after the hare is challenged but before the actual race. All of the comments from the animals (except the owl) are suspicious of the pineapple. Yes, you can say that the animals might envy the pineapple's cleverness, but there is nothing in the actual provided text to suggest this. Whereas there is a lot in the text provided to suggest that the animals are suspicious of him. That's what reading comprehension tests do... they test the child's (or adult's) ability to infer from the provided text.

          8, the owl gives the FREAKING moral. Come on!

          The only one I'd say there's some ambiguity about is 7, but not in the sense that there's really ambiguity. The right answer is pretty clearly "annoyed," but I could understand an 8th grader not getting that and going for "hungry." However, I don't think it's bad that there's a single question that demands the ability to make a more complex inference from the text. Tests are supposed to be designed with a mix of easy and challenging questions.

          I hate high-stakes testing, but if we have to have it, I'd rather have something like this with a fun story that's absurd enough the students need to actually READ it as opposed to the many where you can get the answer just from the question.

          •  I am serious (0+ / 0-)

            Tests such as these, in the end, test a child's ability to guess what the person writing the question meant, not their ability to comprehend texts.

            If you want to know a child's ability to comprehend a text, I'd suggest having a teacher distribute short stories/newspaper articles/brief essays to their classroom.  Afterwards, they could write an essay on a prompt (of course, it does not have to be an essay!  They could write a newspaper article discussing the events of the short story.  They could write an introspective journal from the point of the view of one of the characters.  Kids are creative.  Let's encourage that!)

            This would reflect both their reading and writing ability.  It would allow the child to interpret a text, and allow for creativity and dynamic thinking, as opposed to concept regurgitation.  

            You would not have a bunch of fancy charts showing things like Reading Comprehension, Analogy Ability, etc. etc., but you would have something actually created by the child where you could understand why a child understood the text differently from the person administering the test.  

            It would not allow you to compare how Billy in Boise compares in bubbling abilities to Sally from San Diego, but frankly as a parent I am not interested in that piece of data whatsoever.  

            It would also not let children be reduced to a matrix of grades and test scores.  I realize this could be a negative for college admission officers, who used to do individual entrance exams and interviews but now rely on a corporatized public schooling system to sort children for them.  It may also be hard on national administrators, who'd prefer control of public schooling dictated from Washington DC instead of from local parents.  From my perspective, that's a plus.

            PS - I realize you have said you are personally opposed to high stakes testing.  I don't want you to think I am saying you would be opposed to this type of assessment - I suspect we may agree.  I put this here because I believe in smashing the standardized destruction of our public education system, whenever possible.  

  •  As a parent of a New York student (19+ / 0-)

    I can say that testing controls almost every aspect of the way my daughter's school is run, from teachers who are scared of being fired for their 9 year old students' low scores to the rhythm and purpose of each minute in the classroom, as well as the arc of the school year.  My daughter is 7 and the school offers reduced time for socializing and play so that they might better prepare her for the tests she'll take in 2 years.

    •  That's horrible. You should speak up (3+ / 0-)

      Teaching to the test two years down the road is just wrong in my book.  

      "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength", George Orwell, "1984" -7.63 -5.95

      by dangoch on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:31:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Welcome to the education that Conservatives and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Angry Architect, Amber6541

        Corporatists are IMPOSING on American children!  I do not know one classroom educator who embraces that vision.  There are so many children who do not score well on objective exams but they HAVE learned.

        "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 08:49:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Amber6541

          it's all business now, biiiig business. Will they teach our kids what FASCISM means?

          The important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question. For there are few things as useless–if not dangerous–as the right answer to the wrong question. -- P. Drucker

          by The Angry Architect on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 10:02:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If they have a monopoly on the tests and materials (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Angry Architect, Amber6541

            they could choose to teach kids that the moon is made of blue cheese, and the Ark was real, or the conservative New Originalist version of the constitutution and the wishes of the founding fathers,  and there would be no remedy. That's the risk here, that the private entity, not covered by the First Amendment and its limitations, can put whatever the pols it loves want into tests for which every child of every persuasion must be prepared to know the so called correct answers. That was the problem with Texas before. Because it had the hugest single book buys in the nations, other states were offered principally what Texas chose to buy, no matter what their other priorities were because it cost more, and others paid more, for the variant non Texas books.

      •  It's a "high-performing" school (0+ / 0-)

        in a low-income area.  People have called it a "miracle" school.  The "miracles" all come at the expense of socialization and creative play, which capitalism cannot evaluate, even for 1st graders. Just down the street are public schools that look like castles, with idyllic landscaping and amazing facilities.  Because that's what the founding fathers would have wanted: better opportunities for the super-wealthy.

    •  Schools are now all about the testing... (4+ / 0-)

      I am a teacher.  My value and ranking as an educator is based upon the scores of my students.  Try having your value based on the whims of 150 early adolescents!

      The new wave of administrators are MBA types who often did not spend a lot of time as educators (think Michelle Rhee).  NCLB has encouraged adminstrators to focus on spreadsheets filled with testing outcomes (ie: which student needs to be pulled from music class and placed into a remediation class, did enough special ed kids pass, etc.), making them more akin to business analysts.

      My students take the NCLB exam three times, plus two district tests and a state writing test.  Each test is about five class periods, making a total of one entire grading period (6 weeks) devoted to the test each year.

      In addition, we have to get the students prepared for taking the tests.  As such, we have to spend many hours each year reviewing testing skills and strategies with students.

      My students have very high outcomes, but the stress it places on all concerned (educators, students) is awful.

      We cannot solve the problems that we have created with the same thinking that created them." - Albert Einstein

      by CarolinW on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 09:00:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ironic that "traditional" (0+ / 0-)

      now means excessive testing & "reform" is a return to a broad curriculum, careful reading of texts with emphasis on critical & creative thinking, & greater respect for the teaching styles of individual teachers.  

      "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

      by DJ Rix on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 11:07:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't trust Edu-Business, Either (6+ / 0-)

    but the story is just fine by me.  For one thing, it's by Daniel Pinkwater, who was a great writer.  A very funny guy.  Fans of Car Talk may remember him as a recurring caller.

    I've done a lot of testing prep over the years (SAT, GRE, and MCAT), and I love that they're using an ironic story, instead of something dry.  It's not easy to find something short like this that tests subtle reading skills -- especially irony, which a lot of students simply cannot navigate.

    The questions and answers aren't the least ambiguous; a careful reading makes each answer clear.

    So I think the brouhaha about this story is unfair.  I mean, if folks want to call the premise -- of a pineapple challenging a hare to a race -- stupid, that's their business.  It's just a bit of whimsy.  "Pineapples don't have sleeves" sounds like something the Mad Hatter would say.

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

    by deminva on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:05:21 PM PDT

    •  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

        [ Parent ]

        •  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

            [ Parent ]

            •  Arguments that these tests are too hard... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              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

                [ Parent ]

                •  Unclear what skills are being tested? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  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-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Tamar

                    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

                    [ Parent ]

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

                    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

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  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

                        [ Parent ]

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

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  "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

                      [ Parent ]

              •  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

                [ Parent ]

                •  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

                  [ Parent ]

                •  It does in a test of reading comprehension (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  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-)

                    http://www.dailykos.com/...

                    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:
                      MPociask

                      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

                        [ Parent ]

            •  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. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

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

              [ Parent ]

            •  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.

              best,

              john

              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

              [ Parent ]

    •  Did you read what Pinkwater had to say (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wsexson, laurnj, Cassandra Waites

      He said that the piece from his book was rewritten by someone at Pearson. He also said that the questions being asked were ludicrous.  

      The questions and answers aren't the least ambiguous; a careful reading makes each answer clear.
      The author does not agree with you. Do you work at Pearson? It is my understanding that Pearson employs kids fresh out of college, who can't get jobs as teachers, to help write these tests.

      Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

      by BMarshall on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:35:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pearson is the publisher? (0+ / 0-)
      •  No, I don't work at Pearson (0+ / 0-)

        And I've been a poster here since 2002, so I'm not trolling.

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

        by deminva on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 03:38:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  What Pinkwater Said (0+ / 0-)

        was

        the test-makers had turned a nonsensical story into a nonsensical question for what he believed was a nonsensical test
        which is a funny line.  And he actually characterized this story -- and much of what he writes -- as "nonsense," so it's not a bad word to him, necessarily.  

        I'd call it an ambiguous statement, although my sense is that Pinkwater believes these sorts of tests are silly and ask silly questions.  He probably believes you could better gauge readers' abilities by asking them lots of interactive questions, or perhaps having them write a short response.  The former is impossible in a standardized test, and the latter is very hard to do well.

        I'm not defending standardized tests, just explaining why this one uses multiple choice.

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

        by deminva on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 03:49:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Standardized testing perverts... (0+ / 0-)

      the educational process...
      www.dumpduncan.org

      Educational experience based on behaviorism is mind control.

      by semioticjim on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:39:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sleeves or no sleeves, most of my poor, rural farm (8+ / 0-)

    students wouldn't know what a pineapple was.  If it doesn't grow in their own garden, they probably have never seen one, especially a whole pineapple.  What a culturally biased analogy!

    •  and maybe kids (5+ / 0-)

      in the inner cities..doubt they have much of an acquaintance with fresh fruit of any kind...

    •  So what? (0+ / 0-)

      Do they not understand the word "fruit"? Because that's all they need to know. There's also a picture of the pineapple, but it doesn't matter because nothing in the story or the reading comprehension questions that follow it depend on knowing what a pineapple looks like or tastes like or smells like or anything specific to the pineapple at all. All you need to know is that it's a fruit.

      •  Yeah, I agree. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Angry Architect

        I know there's a very real and serious risk of cultural and socio-economic bias in these things, but I'm not seeing it here.  The problem here seems to be mission confusion about just what skills are being assessed.  I see alarming signs of the deadly disease, "drafted-by-committee-itis."

        "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 08:16:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •   Right, "fruit" is the point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        drmah

        Rumaikiya: Thanks for consistently pointing out the purpose of this question.
        It really isn't relevant whether or not the students are acquainted with pineapples in their kitchens. The text defines pineapples.

        "You're not even an animal!" the hare said. "You're a tropical fruit."
        •  The entire Parody breaks down when Pineapple and (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MPociask

          animas lose their andromorphic forms in final analysis and revert back to being animals being true to their nature and fruit serving as "just" food.  There is no longer any purpose to the parody.

          •  it's not a parody, it's a fable (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            drmah

            Like the original "Tortoise and the Hare," it's a fable. By 8th grade, kids understand what fables are and that they feature anthropomorphized animals, etc. Even much younger children understand talking animals as seen in cartoons. Do Looney Toons cartoons 'break down' when Sylvester stuffs Tweety Bird in his mouth, because he's reverted to his feline nature and treated Tweety as just food? Of course not.
            Yes, this was a very difficult question but just because it's difficult doesn't make it bad. As deminva pointed out above, you have to have a wide range of difficulties on a test so you can distinguish among the wide range of abilities of the test-takers. If all the test questions are easy, then you can't tell which students have above average skills (the "ceiling effect") and the data isn't very useful. If all the questions are hard, then you can't tell the differences among any of those with less than superior skills (the "floor effect") and that data wouldn't be very useful either.
            There is a branch of psychology, psychometrics, that applies science and statistical analysis to the measurement of psychological characteristics, like personality traits and intellectual abilities. A good test has a mix of easy, medium and hard questions, with most being of medium difficulty.
            An advantage to having professional companies make tests is that they use of psychometrics to ensure the validity and reliability of the results, instead of just relying on an individual's perceptions of the fairness of the test questions.
            Yes, there's lots wrong with NCLB and the effect that high-stakes testing has had on education but this one question isn't bad from a psychometric point of view.

        •  Seems to me that line is as wise as (0+ / 0-)

          "Pineapples don't have sleeves." :-)

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

          by elfling on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:06:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  RW radio has been a great seller of this shit (3+ / 0-)

    And ironically our 'institutions of higher learning' endorse a lot of those stations

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and partisan lying by broadcasting sports on Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:07:57 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for posting this (11+ / 0-)

    I have spent the past two weeks proctoring NY state tests for eight, nine and ten year olds who have IEP's. What a complete waste of their time and mine. I have written and agitated and organized around this issue for so long that I don't have the energy, at the moment, to explain what I know about the destructive nature of these tests. I will have to leave it up to others for awhile because I am exhausted.

    Thank you for posting this on the front page of Daily Kos. I will link and share.

    Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

    by BMarshall on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:10:27 PM PDT

  •  In the old days, teachers wrote test questions! (6+ / 0-)

    In years gone by, teachers across any given state, would submit questions to their respective state departments of education, and some would select the best ones.   This worked for many years, and was of course, very cost effective.

    As a former middle school educator, I made my own classroom tests, based on a variety of questions, not just true/false.  I also used other methods to assess my students, such as classwork, homework, projects, classroom participation, and etc.  

    None of this is rocket science.  Whenever I hear the GOP saying get rid of the US Department of Education, and the Dems saying that the GOP is against students, I can't help but wonder why we can't have a fact-based conversation about what these bureaucrats do all day long, and what their qualifications are.  I have a feeling a lot of dead wood could be tossed.  

    States and localities need to run schools, not the feds.  This bureaucratization of education is ruining our schools.

    •  Why we can't have a fact-based conversation? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Angry Architect

      Because too many of the people involved see dollar signs — starting with the GOP, which wants to get rid of the Department of Education so corporations can COMPLETELY control the education process.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:12:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does President Obama know who he's lost? (11+ / 0-)

    Millions of teachers across the country are pretty upset with this man and his secretary of education.
    www.dumpduncan.org

    Educational experience based on behaviorism is mind control.

    by semioticjim on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:17:10 PM PDT

    •  He has certainly lost every teacher that I know (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vernon nackulus

      Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

      by BMarshall on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:40:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then they are stupid (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tamar, little lion

        because they have less than zero chance of getting any respect or input or hope of reversing this trend with President Romney. Look: I am totally disgusted with Obama's policies on this issue, but I am not willing to risk a President who makes clear his contempt for 99% of the country's citizens in virtually every speech he makes. This is the kind of issue where you elect the guy who at least leaves a little chink open and then you start pushing like crazy. You don't elect the guy who will immediately destroy you without batting an eyelash.

        Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

        by anastasia p on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:58:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  exactly! /nt (0+ / 0-)

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

          by Tamar on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:31:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Teachers who do not support (0+ / 0-)

          president Obamas education policy are stupid?

          Nothing personal, but if you are having trouble with the logic taught in fifth grade classes, its kind of hard to have a discussion.

          And yes, I read your follow up, but you are misdirecting BMarshalls point. He simply stated that our President has lost the teachers, you run from there wherever you wish.

          Teachers will just continue being stupid, I guess .

        •  I didn't say that the teachers That I know... (0+ / 0-)

          won't vote for him. They are as tired as everyone else of voting for the lesser scourge.

          Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

          by BMarshall on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 02:42:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Heartbreaking for those of us who are educators (8+ / 0-)

    and know that the corporate driven tests and their use as a single school evaluation is invalid BS.

    Tip: Check Pearson's profits since NCLB

    Remember, you can't have crazy without az.

    by Desert Rose on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:17:16 PM PDT

  •  the original story (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, eru, Cassandra Waites, vacantlook

    is from Pinkwater's classic novel, Borgel.  The story is about a race between a rabbit and an eggplant.  the moral is "never bet on an eggplant.

    I dont know why they change an eggplant to a pineapple, and the sleeved stuff is inexplicable.

  •  Pineapple reference (3+ / 0-)

    In the Vietnam era Navy, pineapple was used to refer to Filipino sailors- who were generally kitchen workers- and who wore sleeveless undershirts.

  •  If only I had opted out of the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    laurnj, happymisanthropy, Tamar

    whole testing thing, maybe my kids would have enjoyed their school experience.

    Applications to college and SATs were pure hell for me and my kids. Totally out of control and useless.

    No Child Left Behind - what a joke! It's enforced mediocrity.

    In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

    by vcmvo2 on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:32:00 PM PDT

  •  Based on fake data (7+ / 0-)

    On thing we need to keep in mind that NCLB was based on fake data.  Rod Paige, Bush's Education secretary, talked much about the 'Texas Miracle'.  This was a dramatic increase in graduation rates, along with increases in test scores.  Accountability, as codified in NCLB, was largely cited as a major factor in this miracle.  Bush and Paige presented this miracle as reason to promote accountability, not teaching, as the primary purpose of education.

    Of course it is now known that the Texas Miracle was a fabrication, and that Houston Schools, in particular Sharpstown High School, went to great lengths to fabricate data.  It is important in all reports on education that our current system is based fraud.  For those of us around 10 years ago, it was clear that NCLB was ineffective, not based on real data, not research based, merely another thing that Bush wanted to believe was true, and was going to make huge money for some people, but not huge gains for students.

    It is my opinion that the fraud was perpetrated to transfer funds from educated children to profit for private firms.  This is done through testing, through required private tutoring, and through charter schools.

    The later also must be publicized.  We have just seen the founder of Brooklyn charter school has been indicted on fraud.  This of course is not guilt, but if the charges are found true much money was diverted into his personal accounts. The same holds true for almost every state. This, again, is nothing new.  In 2005 Prepared Table Charter school was convicted of stealing $6 million.

    Obama, who probably should be working to end NCLB, is at least trying to do one thing.  Right now each state pays huge sums to develop what should be essentially the same standards and the same test.  After all, math, science, reading, and writing does not change just because you change geography.  So there is an attempt to have national standards, and maybe a national test bank.  This would mean that federal funds would be paid to a firm once, instead of multiple times after the money is transfered back to the states.  Of course this is not possible because education is a states rights things.  So we are wasting billions of dollars rewriting the same test instead just paying for the administration of the test.

    •  Isn't one of Bush's brothers (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tamar, WineRev, banjolele

      one of the people profiting from this? Doesn't one of them have a stake in a testing company?

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:03:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes! (0+ / 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 08:57:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Neil Bush (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Angry Architect, banjolele

        having helped ruin the savings and loan industry (Silverado) along with Charles Keating in the late 80s, did indeed move on to creating standardized school test products.

        One of his clients: Florida, when it was headed up by.......JEB Bush.

        All part of the Carlyle Group (member: George H.W. Bush) and their efforts to impose corporate fascism on America and the world. (Grandpa Prescott Bush's efforts to aid Hitler and subsequently being raided by the FBI for un-American activities in about 1942 or so didn't go as well, but at least it set a tone for the whole family.)

        Shalom.

        "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

        by WineRev on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 09:21:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I worked for a child advocacy group when (3+ / 0-)

      the so-called No Child Left Behind bill was passed and we were very concerned about the effects of the bill. In addition to the fact that Bush stole the name from my organization's motto, we had grave concerns about the over-emphasis on testing, and the incentive it gave to schools to get rid of kids who would test badly. There was also no money provided to actually repair and improve schools, to help out the poorest (in income) school systems that were and are badly in need of real help.
      I would love to see class sizes reduced all over the country; to see the curriculums loosened up and the testing reduced allowing teachers more scope for creativity. I would like to see much greater investment in school systems with the lowest income children.
      My younger daughter, now almost 12, has been subjected to an extreme of testing that I view as interfering with her education, not enhancing it.  The curriculum has been made so rigid, with scoring systems and grading systems that have no flexibility, that children have no room to really explore and grow. My two older daughters went through the exact same schools and programs before NCLB and had a very different experience.

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

      by Tamar on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:41:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is a real story. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OrdinaryIowan

      I would love to read more about it. Fits the theme of fraudulent privatization of resources from the public commons. Verrrry sad....

      The important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question. For there are few things as useless–if not dangerous–as the right answer to the wrong question. -- P. Drucker

      by The Angry Architect on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 10:11:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Since it's public school students (5+ / 0-)

    who suffer from the testing mania, and the dumbing down of education that goes along with it, I suspect that one additional result is that it furthers the race/income achievement gap.

  •  Dems have no room to complain (5+ / 0-)

    Pragmatic centrism!  Private sector initiatives!  11th-dimensional chess!  Competitiveness!  Who was it that made a national star out of Michelle Rhee anyway?  Oh, that's right, Arne Duncan, Obama's trusted lieutenant and political soulmate going back to Chicago days.

    Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

    The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

    by ActivistGuy on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:36:01 PM PDT

  •  And since we're on the subject of labor... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites

    what about the free labor provided by thousands of children a year who are taking NOT ONLY the tests themselves, but if you look carefully, you will find that many of those tests include several extra questions that are put in place for "testing evaluation and expansion" purposes.

    In short, an extra 15-25 minutes per student per test is devoted to evaluating new questions for future tests...

    for free.

    How many person hours is that? How much are those underage children being paid for that labor? How much extra are the teachers getting for taking that extra time and stress and angst into their classroom?

    Oh.

    Nothing? Really??

    The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

    by RedDan on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:38:11 PM PDT

  •  And Machete don't text! (0+ / 0-)

    Things happen when you wear ELEGANZA!!!

    by Fordmandalay on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:38:59 PM PDT

  •  Pineapples don't have sleeves (5+ / 0-)

    But clearly, they have a greater intellectual endowment than the racketeers who write these ignorant tests.

    Just one more shameful fact about America, enriching political cronies and big business takes precedence over the education of our children. Imagine spending hundred's of millions of dollars on this absolute crap while the schools and the educators staffing them try to teach with inadequate funding and over-crowded classrooms.

    Shame on this country, shame.

    "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

    by Dave925 on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:39:20 PM PDT

  •  And the frustratingest thing is that politicians (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    give lip service to "de-emphasizing standardized tests" and yet do NOTHING.  How often has the President mentioned this, only to have Arne go along with the all test all the time mentality?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:47:41 PM PDT

  •  No Child Failed for Profit (4+ / 0-)

    Lets move forward on this. Not just moan. There are enough educators, students, and parents that see the evil in testing for profit to fight the for profit test companies.

    My 5 steps to end this all are:

    1) Create a free alternative to the state tests. This will get rid of any profit margin that motivates them. And also fights against their propaganda of teachers not wanting to give tests because we don't want to be held accountable.

    2) Have more local progressives join their Board of Ed

    3) Create a movement in each state and district to make it illegal to make profit off of failing children for profit. Test companies need a percentage of students to fail to make money on their test prep materials. Lets make it ugly to be in that business.

    4) Have a website up that dissects the amount of money each state spends on test companies.

    5) Support the opt out movement.

    •  Add to the list: Pass laws that allow parents to (0+ / 0-)

      opt their child out of state testing and publicize the right!  

      In my state the for-profit, charter, and parochial schools who get taxpayer dollars from vouchers do not have to give state exams that public schools are forced to subject their students to.  They are exempt...parents of public school children should also be able to exempt their children.  Some states have this law; most do not.

      If a movement begins and enough parents exempt their children...high-stakes testing will end.

      "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 09:05:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent ideas, especially #3! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Angry Architect

      "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 09:10:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've been saying for a while (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tamar, The Angry Architect

    The push toward testing, in addition to enriching some corporations that administer the tests, has led a lot of people to believe that our schools are bad.

    Hence more push for education "reform" (read: busting teachers' unions, more privatization a.k.a. school vouchers and charter schools.)  It's a win-win for the GOP and their big-business donors.

    27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

    by TDDVandy on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:49:01 PM PDT

    •  It's the blueprint to destroy public education, an (0+ / 0-)

      institution that the Far-Right does not control...all parts of the plan!  See Eric Heubeck's The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.

      "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 09:08:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gail Collins' (3+ / 0-)

    op ed column on the pineapple story. Funny, as usual, but also as usual, gets some sharp digs in.

  •  bananas too (5+ / 0-)

    if a banana is going down the road,doing 90 mph,and the left front tire blows out,how many eggs does it take to cover a doghouse?

    ans: ONE,cause ice cream doesn't have any bones!

  •  I'd like to share... (2+ / 0-)

    Mr. Brillig's take on this ridiculous test question:

    1. Why did they eat the pineapple? c. Because they were hungry. Why else would you eat a pineapple? you'd be insane to be annoyed or amused at a specific pineapple, and "because they wanted to" isn't an answer.

    2. Who was the wisest animal? d. owl. Because owl refused to dignify such an idiotic story by appearing in it and everyone knows owls don't eat pineapple.

    "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

    by brillig on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:05:09 PM PDT

  •  That particular line, in context, wasn't that bad. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    But the questions themselves, I really could not figure out what they were assessing.  That's the larger problem.  Particularly that switching-back-and-forth nonsense - perhaps another fad in teaching literacy?  If there's ever a subject more littered with fads than that one, I'd be shocked.  Teaching math, particularly elementary school math, is also fairly faddish, I suppose.

    I think the real problem was in the questions, which, in relation to the story, were at best incomprehensible and at worst really had more than one correct answer, which I suspect is the real reason that the State is (rightly) pulling those questions.  The problem wasn't necessarily with the story, which was unusual but wasn't all that bad in making kids think outside of the box.

    I find myself wondering how they got leaked - that was a scan from a test booklet.  An administering teacher incensed by the inane questions, perhaps?

    "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 08:10:24 PM PDT

  •  Once upon a time I wrote (3+ / 0-)

    an article entitled The Case Against Standardized Testing.  It's been five years now, but everything -- and I mean everything -- about this debacle was fully predictable at the beginning.  We are getting what we deserve in education at this point.  And, it has to be said, from the Republican perspective, if we ruin public education, hey, that's just too damn bad.  

    But, in point of fact, we have already diverted 1 billion away from public schools and into corporate pockets, so they are achieving part of what they want.  

    What will it take for America to realize they can spend money on instruments, or they can spend money on relationships?  The only thing that always works in education is making sure kids have relationships with caring adults.

    Hard to do when it's just a worker reading an essay in a block building out in the suburbs somewhere instead of their teacher.

    Industrial food production in America ruins our health, our environment and consumes more fossil fuel than any segment of our economy.

    by Mi Corazon on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:22:30 PM PDT

  •  I experienced Florida's FCATs for several years (2+ / 0-)

    I know firsthand how this emphasis on standardized testing is ruining American education. In Florida, reading and math tests are taken every year beginning in 3rd grade, writing in 4th and 7th (I think one high school year as well) and science in 5th, 8th, and 11th.

    The writing test (Florida Writes) is by far the worst. Basically, each student is randomly assigned either a creative writing assignment or a five-paragraph expository essay. Now, clearly creative writing and essay writing are two entirely different skills. Some people are very good at both, but most are probably at least somewhat better at one skill than the other. The same child who gets a horrible score on the test because he got an essay assignment might have done extremely well if given the creative writing one, or vice versa. This makes any meaningful comparison of two different students' scores practically impossible, and it becomes impossible to measure a given student's improvement between tests.

    I also think that their is a potential economic inequality issue at play here. For example, one of the practice questions I remember being exposed to was to write a story about a past vacation. Another was about a restaurant meal. Now these were practice questions, but I don't see why the state would use them if it wasn't possible that they could appear on the actual test. And of course, there's always the old standby--make it up (and yes, Florida teachers actually encourage children to do this!). But an economically privileged student who can recall multiple recent vacations is always going to be able to write a better essay about that topic than a disadvantaged one who has to come up with all these details on the spot. In addition, not a lot of Florida kids can afford super-exotic vacations, but just about everyone has been to Disney World, so I'm guessing most kids are going to write about that. Now I'm sure most test graders try to be fair, but its hard to judge the 10,000th description of the Magic Kingdom fireworks, no matter how well-written, the same as a description of, say, the Great Wall of China. The China vacation will always stand out more.

    Oh, did I mention that the creative writing prompts INSIST on exactly three paragraphs, one for the beginning, middle, and end? So you can't indent a new paragraph for dialogue, or you'll lose points. IT PENALIZES KIDS FOR USING PROPER GRAMMAR.

    All expository essays are required to be in five-paragraph format, with one paragraph for each of three "main points". Three weak or trivial main points are considered preferable to two strong and well-thought-out ones. The entire test is judged based on how well the kid adheres to the ridiculous structure of the test, not on writing style or fluency. Handwriting is paramount, though, as teachers are terrified that the essay will get the dreaded "unscorable" score because of illegibility. Penmanship is practically a religion in Florida schools.

    Of course, these schools blatantly "teach to the test". Proper FCAT-format writing is taught beginning in 2nd grade and that is the only writing you are taught. I wasn't really taught any writing at all in 5th grade, though I did learn plenty of science. Florida schools do have excellent history classes, though. There's no history FCAT.

    As for me, I left public schools for homeschooling and haven't taken the FCAT since. On Saturday, though, I make my triumphant return to standardized testing for the SATs.

  •  This kind of testing is ruining public education, (2+ / 0-)

    and it is asinine!  Teaching "testing strategies" to improve multiple choice test scores is all the rage which takes time from learning activities that actually promote learning...what multiple-choice exams really show is how well students have learned to take multiple choice tests.

    Those kind of tests do not assess whether students can pick up a piece of literature and "connect" with its meaning, apply it to their lives, analyze, and question.  Heaven forbid that we actually expose students to quality, diverse learning material to encourage thinking, reasoning, and original thought!  After all...THOSE higher level-thinking skills do not lend themselves to easily produced examinations and cost-effective scoring methods so Corporations can gouge their profit margins from the scant tax dollars spent on public education in this country!

    "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 08:33:40 PM PDT

  •  President Cuomo (2+ / 0-)

    There was a great article in the Huffington Post a few months back by Alan Singer that gives an interesting look at Pearson’s connection to New York’s very “popular” governor.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...
    As an active Democrat and classroom teacher it turns my stomach to see how the political pins have been set up by the Obama and Cuomo administrations and easily knocked down. Teachers have been made the scapegoats and the Pearsons of the world and their political benefactors reap the profits. Of course, the whole country will hear from Governor Cuomo in a few years as he runs for president proudly tell about all the ass kicking he did to improve New York schools. Though, he probably won’t mention the nine hours of testing elementary students get to enjoy. (Ever try to get a nine year old to sit for one and a half hours at a clip and focus?  Ok- How about a fifty year old?)  Nor will he talk about the quality of the tests Pearson puts out because- well-  they’re secret. That’s right, New York’s tests paid for by public money are not public. He won’t talk about the money he has withheld from the state’s school districts while fighting to keep the tax rate low for the wealthy and corporations. And he certainly won’t talk about the money that has driven his “reform” agenda.

    •  And when as a profession are we not going to take (4+ / 0-)

      it anymore?!?  I am so sick of non-educational clowns telling experts, classroom teachers, how to teach and assess learning.  

      How do we organize and stop this with our collective voices and outrage?!?

      "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 09:16:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're right... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mostel26, historys mysteries

        I don’t think certain Democratic politicians really understand the fire they are playing with. For instance, when a governor gets up and starts spouting obscure statistics to prove his point that all that’s wrong with public education is bad teachers, those of us in the field know it is bullshit for the newspapers and the folks in the cheap seats. My governor and my president never miss an opportunity to give their tough love speech of teacher accountability, but they never touch student, family, or cultural accountability. Teachers see through this. My solution to fight back is simple. Here in New York there is not much we can do at this time to make the governor face the music, but we can make his party pay. Using social media we should make it very clear to the New York State Democratic Party that we and our families will not support or vote for any Democratic candidate for state or national office in the coming year.
         As teachers we failed to realize this has always been a political fight. (Just ask the Democrats for Educational Reform.)  We’ve always viewed the “reform “ movement as an education movement while they have been punching us in the nose every time they get a chance.
         It’s time we take off the gloves.

        •  Organized labor finds itself in the same position; (0+ / 0-)

          taken for granted and kicked in the "teeth"!

          "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 Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:10:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thaks for the link...I am taking that information (0+ / 0-)

          and sharing with others in my school who have expressed similar feelings.

          "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 Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:12:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  "Pineapples don't have sleeves" is as cool as... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Thurber's "Don't count your boobies until they are hatched."

    Isn't it a good feeling when you see the paper in the morning, it says 'Axe Slayer Kills 19' and you say, "They can't pin that one on me!" - Jean Shepherd

    by razajac on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 02:50:31 AM PDT

  •  NCLB, et al. have generated the educational (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, nominalize

    industrial complex and are about as useful to education as the war in Iraq was to our national security.

  •  Computers and a few lab assistants. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    Why bother with electives, high school sports or even elementary and middle schools.

    At ages 6-14 teach nothing but the test.  Sit the little minds in front of a bank of computers.  Higher a few computer lab assistants.

    Test the crap out of the kids until they comprehend the average Fox News broadcasts or can say ask the question "Do you want to supersize that order?" they pass.

    Email them a high school diploma and put them into the workforce.

    After all who needs a real education to work jobs that pay the same hourly rate as the Chinese are paid.

    I teach and trust me.  In Texass the only thing that counts is the test.  Nothing more.

  •  With some expertise here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    I can say with confidence and evidence that most of the tests are truly invalid. I've developed, validated and taught grad level analysis of this stuff and most often the tests are developed by the "lowest bidder." Given a forum (preferably a few beverages around a table) I could quote horror stories of tests gone wrong.

    The standards are often developed by educators, but the actual tests are developed by hacks. In the state where I'm sitting they pay minimum wage for the folks who grade the essays. Anything that smacks of higher order thinking skills (or might, OMG, nurture future voters) is cut from the test, and therefore from the curriculum.

    The right has sold the nation on the idea of accountability. I have never met a teacher in decades who doesn't want to be accountable--but wants to measure what they teach in a valid and reasonable way, and wants to measure students' growth (from the way they walked through the door) and not some arbitrary yardstick that they cannot control.

    If citizens knew how really bad these tests are they'd be up in arms at the money wasted. To only measure a tiny core of basics and omit all the rich common core material that makes an educated citizen is nonsense.

    Just shouting "We are the best" or "Restore Our COuntry" as RMoney does, without putting some thought into the skills that made us great is total insanity.

  •  These test-focused curriculums (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    are what's killing the education system.

    We are literally training children to answer questions about fruit and what kind of clothing they wear.

    And we wonder why people think Americans are unintelligent.

  •  Instead of pissing away so much money, (0+ / 0-)

    if we want a standardized test, we should have separate tests for each subject (including music and phys ed), pay educators who'll make one that is not multiple choice, and pay teachers summer money to grade the tests in their subject.  Just make sure that the tests are graded anonymously and not by teachers at your own school, and presto!  A decent standardized test.

    I know this works because it's the standardized test model the French have successfully used for over two hundred years.

    Republicans won't like it because the Mitt Romney's of the world can't make money off it, but guess what?  Boo hoo--- nobody is entitled to make money off the public good. If the chips fall your way, so be it.  But you're not entitled to a fortune, just because you can't think of a better get-rich-quick scheme.

    Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

    by nominalize on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 06:06:24 AM PDT

  •  We do not have a k-12 educational system (0+ / 0-)

    we have warehouses to provide daytime storage of our children. If an educational system is fundamentally to educate children and imbue them with living skills, it cannot rely on corporate robots to provide its stock in trade. That's what we have now: schools are stores that sell this corporate crap we call education.

    Teachers are trained to teach and evaluate. Collections of teachers are the groups most qualified to arrange successful curricula. Part of the academic mission of our public universities should be the creation of text books published in the creative commons and accessible at no costs to schools worldwide on the www.  Part of teaching is examining students. A students ability to recognize a correct answer on a multiple choice test is generally a weak indicator of useful skills or knowledge. Essays provide excellent insight into verbal and thinking skills in addition to an assessment of useful knowledge. Oral examinations are even more valuable as they test the same areas as the essay with the added tests of oral presentation, argument, and social interaction.

    I went through K-12 and college, including a national board examination in nuclear medicine technology without ever experiencing an oral exam. That changed in Medical School and beyond. I came to love the oral exam, both as the examinee for the intense learning experience that it is, and as the examiner, for the intense learning experience that it is. In the face of oral examinations, students break the ice and spontaneously begin discussing the subject matter among themselves. They collectively assemble the knowledge in thoughtful interactions that solidify the learning. It's not learning through rote, it's through narrative --- "here's the story of how this part works."

    Anyway, that's my take from 20 yrs teaching medical students, residents and fellows.

  •  Flowers are not plants, according to one of these. (0+ / 0-)

    My first-grader's education has been put on hold for the past month or so and replaced with test prep. On one of the official "practice" tests, the kids were presented with a drawing of a daisy and asked to choose what sound it starts with. Both "fl" and "pl" were options, but about half of the class got the "wrong" answer going for "plant" instead of "flower".

    As a result of the class's scores on these practice tests, more learning has been canceled to provide more time for test prep.

  •  I thought the pineapple story was a good choice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    McWaffle, Rumaikiya

    I actually think that the public response to this particular test item speaks much more loudly than the item itself about the slide of American education into rampant corporatism.

    Why should reading be all about “information”? It's important to be able to read for other purposes: allegory, absurdity, escape. Someone had a very sound (albeit nonlinear) idea when that story and the accompanying questions were added to the test.

  •  Reminds of those loathsome SRA cards (0+ / 0-)

    Stupid, trivial, piecemeal "stories"; inane topics and "answers".

    Fortunately they weren't tests. Unfortunately we had to do this everyday.

  •  make testing non profitable (0+ / 0-)

    If anyone has numbers on how states pay their test companies or where I can get the numbers it would be appreciated.

    Does anyone know of open source code to make a test online and available for immediate computer answer checking and score calculations? If we offer their services for free we can cut them off from their profit motive.

    Thank you.

  •  From a comment elsewhere on the 'net (0+ / 0-)

    About the pineapples don't have sleeves test questions:

    One kid in my class laughed so hard he had to go to the nurse. That was the most stupid story ever on an ELA test. It even has a facebook page now.

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

    by elfling on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 10:39:35 AM PDT

  •  There's nothing wrong with this question. (0+ / 0-)

    I actually think it's really good. It actually requires some thought. And I mean, this is a test for eighth graders, who should probably be able to grasp comedic writing, right?

    Also, the hare is wisest, hands down.

    "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 11:00:38 AM PDT

  •  No time to review comments, but (0+ / 0-)

    just a reminder, the Washington Post owns Kaplan testing which accounted for over half of WaPo's 2010 revenue!

    "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

    by bartcopfan on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 12:57:51 PM PDT

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