This week, the New York State Education Department decided that a now notorious reading passage included on a standardized test will not be scored. The passage, modified from a fable by self-proclaimed "nonsense author" Daniel Pinkwater, is a parody of the tortoise and the hare story, in which the tortoise has been replaced by a pineapple. During testing, many children raised their hands to tell proctors the question didn't make sense. Angry Facebook posts, phone calls and emails to Pinkwater, and news coverage followed.
The final paragraph and one question that followed were said to be particularly baffling:
The animals crowded around, watching to see how the pineapple was going to cleverly beat the hare. Two hours later, when the hare crossed the finish line, the pineapple was still sitting still, and hadn't moved an inch. The animals ate the pineapple. The moral of the story: Pineapples don't have sleeves.
The animals ate the pineapple most likely because they were:
Which answer would you have picked?
The anti-testing community has used this passage as an example of the ambiguity and arbitrariness of standardized testing. Critics have said that this particular excerpt illustrates the idea that standardized tests are not objective or reliable means of determining real differences among students.
A new trend in testing called "performance-based assessment" is taking flight in several uniquely organized New York City schools. At Urban Academy, for example, students, experiment, problem-solve, collaborate, or complete personal projects to demonstrate proficiency in a variety of areas. These types of assessments, according to founder Ann Cook, show how a student approaches a problem instead of just whether they choose the right or wrong answer. Cook goes on to say that it's difficult to assess children when educators aren't clear about what they want: "Are we interested in getting kids to enjoy books and ideas? Because if we are, then we should be doing some different things. But if we're not interested in that, then we'll continue to give kids more of the same."