Friday, April 20, 2012

Updating "legislative Tourette's" in New York

About a month ago, I took issue with NYC's Department of Education and their recent decision to ban references to dinosaurs, birthdays, Halloween, and basically everything else in city-administered tests. At the time, I wrote:
I mean really, once you've corrected for every single thing that any student could conceivably be "sensitive" to, what is left? Anything?
I should've known better than to ask, because now I've got my answer. Once again from the great state of New York...
Students across the state are still scratching their heads over an absurd state test question about a talking pineapple. 
The puzzler on the eighth-grade reading exam stumped even educators and has critics saying the tests, which are becoming more high stakes, are flawed...
In the story, a take-off on Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, a talking pineapple challenges a hare to a race. The other animals wager on the immobile pineapple winning — and ponder whether it’s tricking them. 
When the pineapple fails to move and the rabbit wins, the animals dine on the pineapple. 
Students were asked two perplexing questions: why did the animals eat the talking fruit, and which animal was wisest? 
Teachers, principals and parents contacted by The News said they weren’t sure what the answers were.
Wow. So if you're keeping score at home, Halloween is no good, but talking pineapples are a-okay. Sure, why not? I don't know, maybe the test administrators (Pearson) are just having a little fun with an overly bureaucratic process. Or maybe they spent a little too much time watching "Téléfrancais!" in French class back in the day.

But from where I stand, this seems like a pretty foolish way of spending taxpayer dollars, especially when you consider that Pearson was awarded with a $32 million state contract to revamp these very tests. What are we trying to teach our kids? And what skills, exactly, are we trying to ensure that they've gained in the classroom? Does banning references to dinosaurs while asking bizarre and abstract questions about talking pineapples better prepare our children for life in the global economy in the 21st century? What are we doing here?

[NY Daily News]

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