Even the Daily News editors, gung-ho testing advocates and teacher bashers, understand the danger that the Hare and Pineapple story did to the high stakes testing/accountability movement.
So they attack those responsible for this mess - the state officials and testing company who are in the business of holding others accountable but refuse to be held accountable themselves:
No one in a position of authority would step forward Friday to defend the now-infamous question, titled “The Pineapple and the Hare,” that appeared on the eighth-grade statewide English exam administered this week.
Queries were put to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, state Education Commissioner John King and to Pearson, the company that produced the test. They dared not venture forth, because this question was a lollapalooza of a damaging embarrassment.
King offered only that the reading passage, taken in context, was not the bizarre exercise it plainly is — while at the same time acknowledging that questions posed to test-takers were “ambiguous.” Thus they have no value. Thus the whole thing will be dropped from future tests.
What was it doing there in the first place? Follow this explanation offered by a state Education Department spokesman:
This particular reading passage and questions were included by the testing company on exams given in a variety of states only as a way to compare student performance among states.
Thus New York students wouldn’t be graded on their answers. Thus New York had no power to ask the company to change the passage — even though staff thought it was goofy. But now it will disappear because making kids try to answer unanswerable questions makes no sense.
Over resistance from testing opponents and teachers unions, Tisch and King are moving to establish new statewide reading and math exams that, they promise, will raise standards and can be used to gauge the performance of both students and teacher.
Allowing nonsense like “The Pineapple and the Hare” to be placed before New York students, many of whom found it absurd, gave testing foes powerful ammunition to argue that standardized exams cannot be trusted.
Tisch and King must a) get their acts together, b) recognize that they have no margin for error, c) build a consensus that their testing program is excellent, d) all of the above.
The right answer is unambiguous and obvious.
The Daily News editors should have added Governor Cuomo to the list of people in power refusing to take responsibility for this mess.
Cuomo was happy to parachute into the teacher evaluation battle, but now that the tests those evaluations are based upon are exposed as horseshit, Cuomo is off eating Sandra Lee's cooking and cannot be reached for comment.
Also, the Daily News fails to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, this Hare and Pineapple debacle occurred not because Pearson, the NYSED and the Regents are full of irresponsible idiots (although that is certainly true) but because the testing regime that Cuomo, Tisch, and King have engineered is going to be impossible to pull off.
Teachers have to be evaluated on both local and state "assessments" (NYSED Commissioner King never uses the word "tests" - it's so gauche!) in every subject in every grade.
Pearson is going to have to create hundreds of quality tests a year so that 20%-40% of a teacher's evaluation can be based upon student test performance (and that's leaving out those districts that will be using "local assessments" for 20% of the test-based part of the evaluation.)
High quality tests do not create themselves - they take a long time to develop, to field test, to ensure are of the highest quality.
It is just not possible to develop that many quality high stakes tests a year as quickly as Cuomo, the NYSED and the Regents want them created.
So Pearson will roll out some quickly developed crap, they'll hope the state resists calls to make these tests public, and they'll refuse to respond to criticism when some turkey like the Pineapple and the Hare is exposed in the media for the garbage it is.
It's not as if Pearson didn't know this thing was a piece of garbage. They've been using it in at least half a dozen states since 2007 and garnering criticism for it whenever they rolled it out.
Kids had made a Facebook page ridiculing this test item back in 2010.
But Pearson, recipients of $32 million state contract largesse, rolled it out again anyway.
And as the DN noted, instead of taking responsibility for this garbage, John King defended it then threw the test questions based upon the passage out anyway.
What the hell is that?
This passage is a quality passage with quality questions - but I'm going to disallow the selection anyway because some of the questions are "ambiguous."
Wow - talk about a walking oxymoron - that's our Dr. John King.
And Regents Chancellor Tisch was nowhere to be found - no response, no statement, no appearance next to Dr. King to address this concern.
Compare that to how she was all over the place during the teacher evaluation fight.
And as I noted earlier, Cuomo was AWOL too.
The high stakes testing/accountability movement has been damaged by this Pineapple and Hare episode, though not permanently.
They'll regroup and try and deflect attention to some other education issue - most likely teacher quality.
I expect another document dump to our friend Ben "Where Are The Perverts?" Chapman and their other media stenographers in the papers and who will dutifully splash stories about criminal teachers all over the papers in the next week.
That's been the M.O. of the NYCDOE and the NYSED so far - no reason think it will change now.
So it is incumbent that those of us who care about quality education continue to keep the pressure of King and Tisch for the high stakes standardized crap they put out there this year, the first year that tests will be used to evaluate (and perhaps fire) teachers.
It is incumbent that Governor Cuomo be made to answer for this mess as well. He claims he has put in place the best teacher evaluation system in the country - something that is "objective" and "scientific" that will do a swell job of weeding out "bad teachers"
But nothing that uses the Pineapple and the Hare for scoring is "objective," "scientific" or fair - Cuomo MUST be made to answer for this.
As for Pearson, they're still hunkered down over the attorney general's investigation into their bribing of state officials for testing contracts.
Now they're hunkered down over this mess.
How is it the company that is in the accountability business can be so above accountability for its own actions and tests?
The Daily News editors have shown that they mean to double down on high stakes testing as a means to fire teachers, close schools, etc.
But if the "accountability people" at the state - like the governor, the NYSED commissioner, and the Regents chancellor - along with the testing company itself - refuse to be held accountable for their own messes then the whole accountability movement falls down like the house of cards it is.