The absurd talking pineapple story found in an 8th grade standardized test is not a new phenomenon--it’s been sighted on tests in several states in the past seven years and has been the subject of much discussion online since at least 2007.
It’s only in the past few days, however, that the story’s real problems have come to light. Education Week has some good thoughts here about the unquestioned power of the companies that draft your child’s standardized tests:
I do not know what the teachers in New York can do to prepare their students for the pineapple story – perhaps have them watch some episodes of Monty Python.
Teachers who give standardized tests are required to sign affidavits swearing they will not copy the tests, or divulge their contents. Thus teachers are forbidden from airing concerns they might have about the contents of the tests.
The tests have become the ultimate authorities in our schools, and the test publishers are virtually unquestionable.
The standardized testing technocracy has convinced our policy makers that the only way we will be competitive in the world is if everyone learns the same information, and has that learning measured in ever-finer increments. We are not supposed to look behind the curtain to see the way this data is arrived at.
We are promised that any problems in the system will be fixed by the next generation, the Common Core, the computers that can score tests as well as the current system of warehouses of poorly paid readers now used for that purpose.
The truth is that sensitive formative assessment is the proper domain of a well-trained, intelligent teacher, capable of seeing the individual strengths and weaknesses of children, and guiding their learning. Standardized tests are useful when used as an annual check on that learning, but that is all. Once heavy consequences are attached to them, all the learning in a classroom is re-oriented to focus on pleasing that master, that almighty unquestionable arbiter of what has been learned.