Everybody, apparently, except those who make money off of them, is against standardized testing. Most teachers and administrators criticize the tests for the burden they place on teachers to raise the test performance of students ill equipped to take such tests, the teachers blamed if kids don’t do better than students with the same demographic characteristics have done in the past. And that is not to speak of the unreliability of the tests and the control variables used to make comparisons between student groups possible. Reformers, on the other hand, criticize the tests for not allowing teachers to teach the students as they are or in creative ways, the tests measuring minor skills rather than the overall intellectual growth of a child, something that may not show up until years later.
And it is easy to ridicule such tests simply by calling into question a particular test item that seems particularly foolish. This has happened in the past week because of a reading passage called “The Hare and the Pineapple” that appeared on a standardized eighth grade reading test. The somewhat whimsical story told of a talking pineapple who challenged the hare to a race. The surrounding crowd of animals assumed the pineapple had some secret plan to win the race, but he (if it were a he) didn’t and so the hare won and the crowd ate the pineapple. One of the questions the students was asked was whether the crowd ate the pineapple because they were annoyed, amused, hungry or excited, which is the way Gail Collins put it when she reported on the test item in her Times column. How were the students to figure that out? Collins interpreted the failure of the test item as a result of the test preparer, Pearson, getting so many large contracts to construct tests.