Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Daniel Pinkwater Writes About "Selling Out" To Sleazy People Who Do Sleazy Things

There is a delightful little piece from Daniel Pinkwater, the "alleged" author of the Hare and the Pineapple, the selection that appeared on Pearson's 8th grade ELA exam this year (and previous other state exams dating back to at least 2007.)

Here are some excerpts:

I received this email from an eighth-grader: “Listen, I love your work, but seriously? Selling out to the state test?

“Also, before my class goes crazy, which was the wisest animal in ‘The Hare and the Pineapple’?”

You bet I sold out, I replied. Not to the Department of Education, but to the publisher of tests, useless programmed reading materials, and similar junk. All authors who are not Stephen King will sell permission to allow excerpts from their books to have all the pleasure edited out of them and used this way. You’d do the same thing if you were a writer, and didn’t know where your next pineapple was coming from.

I’ve done it for years. Sometimes I get paid a hundred or two, and sometimes I’ve been able to jack them up to a couple thousand. It’s dirty money, but I didn’t see that any real harm was done, other than boring students. But that was before these tests became more than a way to try to find out what the kids were learning so they could be taught better.

Now, there are repercussions to these tests. A kid might not be advanced to the next grade, a teacher might not get a new contract, a school could lose funding, get shut down. There are things riding on these tests, and the money is dirtier. I hadn’t given this any thought . . . until now.


On the test, the story makes even less sense, (less sense than nonsense? Yes! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible), and then . . . get ready . . . there are multiple choice questions the kids are supposed to answer.

Well, if a thing is absolutely illogical and meaningless, it’s not possible to ask questions like, “Which animal in the story was the most wise? Choose (a), (b), (c), (d), etc.” And, “Why did the animals eat the pineapple?”

I forgot to mention, my name was on the story — edited to where not a single word of it was mine, just the name.


The communications from kids broke down into three categories: “What? Were you high when you wrote that? Are you an idiot?” or “None of the multiple choice answers made sense. What is the right one? I am upset and confused,” and my favorite category, “Wow, New York State puts out some stupid tests, doesn’t it?”

Yes, it does, kid, yes it does.


Everybody knows what Andy Warhol said about everybody getting his 15 minutes of fame. Is this mine? Do I need to ask that? Obviously it is. I think I’m happy about it. I feel like a real celebrity — real in the sense that I got a whole bunch of media attention, and I didn’t actually do anything.

Well, I accepted money from sleazy people for what turns out to be a sleazy thing. But that is good too! That’s what a lot of celebrities do. Do I want another 15 minutes? Nah. One is plenty.

Governor Cuomo bragged earlier this year about the new "scientific" and "objective" teacher evaluation system the state has developed based upon these Pearson tests.

The UFT and the NYSUT, although many in the leadership know the tests are horrible and the value-added measurements they use to evaluate teachers based on those tests are even worse, agreed to this system.

NYSED Commissioner John King continues to defend these tests, saying next year's tests are going to be just great because they'll be rigorous and tied to the Common Core, so don't you worry you're pretty little heads about anything.

But of course as Leonie Haimson points out, the only reason we found out about the Hare and the Pineapple debacle at all is because somebody divulged it to her and she posted about it.

In NY State, the tests are now being kept secret, allegedly for "security purposes," although given the quality of the tests and the frequency with which they are being given, the reality is the NYSED, the Regents and Pearson HAVE to keep these turkeys secret to keep people from seeing what garbage they are.

The call is now coming for the tests to be made public from Diane Ravitch and others.

Cuomo and King and Regents Chancellor Tisch and of course Pearson (which still hasn't responded publicly to any of this) will ignore calls to make these tests public for as long as they can because they know they will not be able to stand up to scrutiny.

They MUST not be allowed to get away with it.

If this year's 8th grade test contained a Hare and Pineapple, you can bet there were a couple of other selections on tests from other grade levels that were almost as ludicrous, almost as badly designed.

That's why these tests must be revealed to the public.

After all, these test score are now going to be used to hold students back, to declare teachers "ineffective" and fire them, to close schools.

If they cannot stand up to scrutiny in the light of day, than they cannot be used for high stakes decisions.

Daniel Pinkwater noted in his Daily News piece, these are sleazy people at the state and Pearson doing sleazy things with these tests.

Let's shine some light on that sleaze.

1 comment:

  1. Well, did Pinkwater get a "couple of hundred" or a couple of thousands? Inquiring minds would like to know.