New York students, teachers, and parents were utterly bewildered by a question on an eighth-grade state reading exam, the New York Daily News reports.
(Scroll for the question.)
While most found the question comical and simply nonsensical -- with one student even making a "pineapples don't have sleeves" t-shirt -- City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a statement saying improvements will be made in the future.
(Scroll for udpate)
"We expect to see much more rigor and complex reading passages on next year’s tests," he said, according to New York 1.
The New York Daily News staff sent the question to Jeopardy! wizard Ken Jennings... who responded with similar confusion.
"Is this a joke? The story makes no sense whatsoever," Jennings told the paper. "The narrative has no internal logic, the “moral” is unclear, and the plot details seems so oddly chosen that the story seems to have been written during a peyote trip ... A ninja and toothpaste? What does that even mean?"
(The passage appears below)
The Pineapple and the Hare, h/t to the New York Daily News:
In the olden times, animals could speak English, just like you and me. There was a lovely enchanted forest that flourished with a bunch of these magical animals. One day, a hare was relaxing by a tree. All of a sudden, he noticed a pineapple sitting near him.
The hare, being magical and all, told the pineapple, “Um, hi.” The pineapple could speak English too.
“I challenge you to a race! Whoever makes it across the forest and back first wins a ninja! And a lifetime’s supply of toothpaste!” The hare looked at the pineapple strangely, but agreed to the race.
The next day, the competition was coming into play. All the animals in the forest (but not the pineapples, for pineapples are immobile) arranged a finish/start line in between two trees. The coyote placed the pineapple in front of the starting line, and the hare was on his way.
Everyone on the sidelines was bustling about and chatting about the obvious prediction that the hare was going to claim the victory (and the ninja and the toothpaste). Suddenly, the crow had a revolutionary realization.
“AAAAIEEH! Friends! I have an idea to share! The pineapple has not challenged our good companion, the hare, to just a simple race! Surely the pineapple must know that he CANNOT MOVE! He obviously has a trick up his sleeve!” exclaimed the crow.
The moose spoke up.
“Pineapples don’t have sleeves.”
“You fool! You know what I mean! I think that the pineapple knows we’re cheering for the hare, so he is planning to pull a trick on us, so we look foolish when he wins! Let’s sink the pineapple’s intentions, and let’s cheer for the stupid fruit!” the crow passionately proclaimed. The other animals cheered, and started chanting, “FOIL THE PLAN! FOIL THE PLAN! FOIL THE PLAN!”
A few minutes later, the hare arrived. He got into place next to the pineapple, who sat there contently. The monkey blew the tree-bark whistle, and the race began! The hare took off, sprinting through the forest, and the pineapple ...
It sat there.
The animals glanced at each other blankly, and then started to realize how dumb they were. The pineapple did not have a trick up its sleeve. It wanted an honest race — but it knew it couldn’t walk (let alone run)!
About a few hours later, the hare came into sight again. It flew right across the finish line, still as fast as it was when it first took off. The hare had won, but the pineapple still sat at his starting point, and had not even budged.
The animals ate the pineapple.
Here are two of the questions:
1. Why did the animals eat the pineapple?
a. they were annoyed
b. they were amused
c. they were hungry
d. they wanted to
2. Who was the wisest?
a. the hare
According to a New York Public Schools Parents blog, this isn't the first time this head-scratch-worthy question has surfaced in a state exam.
Apparently, the same reading passage and associated questions have been recycled by Pearson for standardized exams in Florida, Illinois, Delaware, New Mexico, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps other states, causing huge confusion among students for at least the last seven years.
The blog notes there is even a Facebook page for the question, with more than 11 hundred likes.
This crazy test question harks back to equally unexplainable schoolwork questions which arose at the Center City Public Charter School's Trinidad campus in Washington D.C. back in March. The questions, which had school officials up-in-arms, featured morbid, mature, and violent content.
For example, question number 2 in the worksheet stated:
"My 3 friends and I were caught and tied up by 1023 screaming cannibals in a jungle last night. Soon we were feeling terribly itchy because of the mosquitoes. We begged the cannibals to scratch us. 219 cannibals refused because they were busy cutting vegetables. The rest of them, however, surrounded us in equal numbers and began to scratch us with their teeth, just like dogs. It felt good! How many cannibals scratched me?"
The unnamed teacher was terminated after the questions were brought to the attention of school officials.
UPDATE, 5:57 P.M.:
The Huffington post received a statement from New York Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr.:
First of all, the "passage" printed in the media is not complete. Although the questions make more sense
in the context of the full passage, due to the ambiguous nature of the test questions the Department has
decided it will not be counted against students in their scores.
It is important to note that this test section does not incorporate the Common Core and other
improvements to test quality currently underway. This year’s tests incorporate a small number of
Common Core field test questions. Next year’s test will be fully aligned with the Common Core.
This particular passage, like all test questions, was reviewed by a committee comprised of teachers from
across the state, but it was not crafted for New York State. It’s a passage that has been used in other
states and was included by Pearson Inc., the test vendor, to provide a comparison between New York
students and students from other states.1The passage and related questions are not reflective of the
precision of the entire exam.
The accuracy and efficacy our state assessments are crucial to our reform efforts and measuring student
academic growth. We will, as always, review and analyze all questions on every assessment we
Other controversial school-related documents from around the country:
In January 2012, parents of students at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, Ga. expressed outrage over the school district's response to reports of using examples of slavery in math word problems. The word problems in questions include references to slavery and "beatings."
In March 2012, students at another Georgia school were given a math problem that referenced slavery, upsetting students and parents. Nearly 140 fourth grade students at James A. Jackson Elementary School contained an extra-credit question that read, "A plantation owner had 100 slaves. If three-fifths of them are counted for representation, how many slaves will be counted?"
In February 2012, Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa received criticism for a class assignment on the Cold War. Based on a worksheet handed out in a social studies class, many questioned whether the lesson promoted communism over capitalism, calling it "communist indoctrination."
A Washington, D.C. teacher was fired from Center City Public School's Trinidad campus in March 2012 for sending home violent, morbid and traumatizing math problems to third graders. Questions included story lines about baking humans in ovens and a child waking up screaming after thousands of fire ants made a nest in a human brain.
A teacher was suspended and handed disciplinary action in March 2012 for a question she wrote on a vocabulary quiz that some argued was racist. When district officials reviewed the test in context, however, the charges against her were rescinded.
Sawgrass Elementary School in Sunrise, Fla. made the news in April 2012 when a second grade student was included in a class photo despite not having turned in a parental consent form. Instead of retaking the photo, the photographer resolved to paste a brown-colored smiley face over the boy's face.
A letter sent home with students at Western Union Elementary School in North Carolina didn't sit well with parents in March 2012. The note asked students to wear "African American attire" or animal print for a Black History Month event, calling into question educators' choice of words and cultural sensitivity.
In April 2012, flyers with an image of Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis in a Ku Klux Klan robe sparked controversy in the community. The bill was in response to a contentious school redistricting plan that would have closed several schools in a number of Atlanta's black neighborhoods.