Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pearson Refuses Accountability For Its Tests

The Hare and Pineapple passage that appeared on this year's New York State 8th grade ELA exam has gotten a lot of coverage over the past three days.

First Leonie Haimson at the NYC Public School Parents blog posted about the absurdity of the passage and questions and asked the following:

Why put a reading passage with questions so nonsensical on a state standardized exam, either as a “field test” question or for any other purpose? Especially given the high-stakes nature of these exams, which will be used in NYC to decide which students to hold back, the school's grade on the progress reports, and in the near future, as in integral part of the new statewide teacher evaluation system.

Pearson didn't respond to her question or concerns.

Then the Daily News and NY 1 both covered the controversial test yesterday, pointing out the absurdity and ambiguity of at least two of the six questions associated with the passage.

Pearson did not respond to those reports.

Gotham Schools actually published the test section itself yesterday when they ran a post on the controversy.

Again, Pearson did not respond.

The Wall Street Journal ran an interview with the author of the original story, Daniel Pinkwater, who was paid a small amount by Pearson to use (and re-use) his story on their tests after they liberally adapted it.

Pearson did not respond to that report.

Today the NY Times covers the ammunition this test is giving to anti-testing advocates, saying that

Antitesting activists have taken up the cudgel, saying that the passage and the multiple-choice questions associated with it perfectly illustrate the absurdity of standardized testing. And by Friday afternoon, the state education commissioner had decided that the questions would not count in students’ official scores.

The Times reports that Pearson has used this passage and questions at least as far back as 2007 in Illinois, Alabama, Delaware, and Arkansas and each time the passage showed up on a high stakes test, there were complaints about it.

Again, Pearson did not respond to the Times article.

There is one constant throughout this furor over the Hare and the Pineapple, and that is the questioners who developed this passage and the associated questions refuse to respond to any questions about those questions.

So Pearson, which has a $32 million contract with New York State and is currently being investigated by New York's attorney general for alleged bribing of state officials with lavish overseas trips and other largesse in order to garner that contract, refuses any accountability on the very mechanism that the state uses to hold students, teachers, administrators and schools accountable - the state tests.

Pearson has managed to place some former employees into high places in New York State. David Wakelyn, former Senior Associate for America's Choice School Design, a leading Pearson sub-division, was appointed Deputy Secretary of Education in New York State by Governor Cuomo.

And Pearson had the former NYSED Commissioner, David Steiner, in its back pocket - Dr. Steiner is one of the state officials who took lavish overseas junkets on Pearson's dime.

So clearly the company figures it can ride this furor out, that the new teacher evaluations requiring so much testing and the connections its got in the corridors of power will make everything all right in the end.

Just don't respond to questions about the tests, never mention the words "hare" or "pineapple" ever again, and avoid as much scrutiny, accountability and responsibility as possible.

This Hare and Pineapple episode is emblematic of education reform and education reformers - the accountability is always on the teachers and the schools, never on the policies, never on the policymakers, never on the politicians and never on the education consultants and never on the test makers.

Silly rabbit, accountability is for teachers...


  1. I'd like to know if Daniel Pinkwater got a cut of the profit from Pearson for the use of his passage.

  2. Sorry, I didn't see that he was paid "a small amount". He is a friend of Scott Simon of NPR.