Students see the light as the blind lead the blind...by Tim Wolcott
A sage once said “Life is 10% how you make it…and 90% how you take it.”
Activist eighth graders from New York aren’t taking mistreatment by this year’s English Language Arts test sitting down. Hooray for them and us all!
Effective this year, students in grades six to eight in New York State are required to take three 90-minute E.L.A. and three 90-minute Math exams over six different days for a total of forty-two teaching hours, cutting into precious teaching time and putting students and teacher under intense pressure to perform. These tests are being hyped as the best way to institute accountability for both teachers and students. This “accountability” is premised on statistically “improved” exams purchased from corporate conglomerates. Pearsen was paid $32 million dollars by New York State [taxpayers] to design these exams.
As was first published in the NY Daily News and subsequently in The New York Times and other newspapers, the eighth grade E.L.A. featured a reading section, “The Hare and the Pineapple,” so severely flawed that students posted numerous gripes about the “unanswerable” questions on Facebook. (Note: Teachers weren’t aware of the problem, since as of this year they are not allowed to even read the exam while administering it).
Parents supporting their children’s outrage created such uproar that within a couple of days the New York State Commissioner of Education admitted to the “ambiguous” nature of the test questions and decided that the questions from that section would not count against students’ scores.
The test vendor, Pearson, Inc. has used the same passage and similar questions since 2007 in Illinois, Arkansas, Delaware and Alabama. Every time, bafflement has followed. This time, however, the students couldn’t take it any longer, and this time, parents couldn’t take it any longer either, and this time, teachers “in the trenches” cheered as the educational system improved by becoming more responsive to its real constituents.
If students and educators must be judged based on the results of standardized tests, the test publishers and educational bureaucrats in our state capitols must be held to the same criterion. Would they pass the pineapple test? Until that happens, may students continue to take action and lead the way back to commonsense in education.
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