The state's major teachers union, New York State United Teachers, is suing the state Education Department in federal court, alleging that their free speech rights are being violated by a requirement that teachers who agree to score standardized tests not talk about the questions.
"They are under a 'gag order' to be silent," said NYSUT President Karen Magee.
The Education Department, though, says teachers are free to talk about the tests, except for "secure portions,'' or questions that are likely to be used in future exams.
"Teachers are absolutely free to talk about the portions of the test that have been released," said SED spokesman Dennis Tompkins.
"The only prohibition is for secure, non-released test questions.''
How are teachers supposed to know which questions are "secure, non-released questions" and which are going to be released by NYSED later in the year?
It's not like NYSED labels those clearly on the test booklets.
And NYSED has ratcheted up the threat levels to teachers in the past year over this issue:
Some teachers have long volunteered to score standardized tests for a modest fee and they historically were subject to confidentiality agreements developed at their local schools.
But this year, they were required to sign a state-generated agreement, according to education officials.
The agreement warns that violations could jeopardize a teacher's employment, certification and could even bring criminal charges.
Talk about the test and you could jeopardize your employment, have your teaching certificate revoked or be hit with criminal charges.
That's a gag order for sure and it's meant to be threatening and keep anybody proctoring, grading or working with these tests from talking about them publicly.
The goal behind all this is to keep any future "Pineapple and Hare" debacles from making it to the press by keeping the tests as secret as possible.
NYSED's defense that teachers are only barred from talking about "secure, non-released test questions" is quite frankly as absurd as the questions they offered around the nonsensical (and infamous) "Pineapple and Hare" passage a few years ago.