May 4, 2012

What Everyone Missed on the Pineapple Question

By By Andrew J. Rotherham

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When the New York Daily News posted an article about an Aesop-inspired fable that appeared on the standardized test eighth graders in New York state had to take last month — about a pineapple challenging a hare to a foot race through the forest — all hell broke loose because the passage was so poorly written and the questions about it so incomprehensible. The fable described several animals assuming that the pineapple must have a trick up its sleeve that would enable the immobile fruit to win the race, and when they discovered that it didn’t, they ate it. Test-takers were asked: Why did they eat the pineapple? The correct answer: because the animals were annoyed. And who was the wisest of the animals? An owl that was never mentioned in the passage. Anti-testing activists responded with fury that this set of questions showed why standardized testing is worthless. New York officials quickly turned tail and tossed out the pineapple passage, declaring that they would not count it on this year’s test and would not use it in the future.

There was just one problem: much of the uproar was based on bad information.

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