Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, April 20, 2012

No High Stakes Decisions Should Be Made Based On These Pearson Tests

UPDATE: Gotham Schools reports that NYSED Commissioner John King defended the "Pineapple and the Hare" passage, although because of media scrutiny, the questions from that section the 8th grade ELA test have been thrown out.

Here's what King said about the test:

King also defended the passage, saying it wasn’t as confusing as it has been presented publicly so far. King, who appeared in Brooklyn this afternoon at Clara Barton High School to hear from students enrolled in a medical pathways program that partners with SUNY Downstate Medical Center, offered another reason the tests weren’t counting.

“The questions make much more sense in the context of the full passage than the excerpts that folks have seen,” King said. ”But given the press coverage we won’t be able to use those particular questions.”

Here is what the author of the original passage (which Pearson adapted) said about this:

Eighth-graders who thought a passage about a pineapple and a hare on New York state tests this week made no sense, take heart: The author thinks it’s absurd too.

“It’s hilarious on the face of it that anybody creating a test would use a passage of mine, because I’m an advocate of nonsense,” Daniel Pinkwater, the renowned children’s author and accidental exam writer, said in an interview. “I believe that things mean things, but they don’t have assigned meanings.”


I’m on this earth to put up a feeble fight against the horrible tendency people have to think that there’s a formula. “If I do the following things, I’ll get elected president.” No you won’t. “If I do the following things, my work of art will be good.” Not necessarily. “If I follow this recipe, the dish will come out very delicious.” Maybe.

Trust me, there is no formula for most things that are not math.


It's high stakes standardized testing week here in New York State and the reviews are in - Pearson's tests suck.

NYC Public School Parents blog covered the tests here, NY 1 here, the NY Daily News here.

NYC Rubber Room Reporter posts a letter from a NYC school principal to NYSED Commissioner John King complaining about the absurdity of the tests here.

The Washington Post covered the absurdity of the eighth grade ELA exam here.

The NYSED Commissioner, usually not shy about taking about how "cool" and "sophisticated" the state tests the Regents and the NYSED are developing for the new teacher evaluation system are, did not comment on complaints about this year's Pearson exams.

NYCDOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott did, saying

"We expect to see much more rigor and complex reading passages on next year’s tests."

Pearson has apparently recycled some of the test content it's given in at least half a dozen states over the past few years, so the idea that they have a storehouse of quality testing material waiting to be rolled out is absurd on the face of it.

It is quite clear Pearson is squeezing as much profit out of these state testing contracts while putting as little effort into these state tests as they can.

Students will be held back because of the scores on these tests. Teachers will be declared "ineffective" because of the scores on these tests. Schools will be closed because of the scores on these tests.

The tests are kept secret by the state, the NYSED Commissioner is refusing to speak about them, Pearson is refusing to speak about them, the NYCDOE is issuing some boilerplate statement about next years exams - BUT HIGH STAKES DECISIONS ARE GOING TO BE MADE THIS YEAR USING THESE EXAMS.

This cannot be allowed.

The tests cannot remain secret - not with the stakes that are on the line here.

If teacher evaluations and Teacher Data Reports are FOILable, then Pearson's tests that give us the "data" for teacher evaluations and Teacher Data Reports are FOILable too.

Also, NYSED Commissioner King cannot be allowed to duck accountability for these tests.

He MUST answer to the quality of the tests and explain why they are so secretive about the contents.

If Pearson and the NYSED are so confident in the sophistication and content of their tests, let's see that out in the open.

They say they can't do this because of security reasons.

The reality of course is, they know the tests will not be able to take the scrutiny they'll receive if they were to show up in the newspapers.

In the near future we're going to get 35+ tests a year for every child in subjects ranging from math to ELA to science to social studies to music to art to physical education.

The way the state has set up the new teacher evaluation system, many districts will have to give both state AND local assessments for every subject.

You can bet the mortgage most of these tests will be as badly designed as the one with the pineapple and the hare on it.

And high stakes decisions for students, teachers and schools will be made using these test scores.

That fact is as absurd as the "Pineapple and Hare" story.

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