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Do you need ears of corn to hear a talking pineapple? Maybe testing company Pearson has the answer.
Students across the state are still scratching their heads over an absurd 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.
“I think it’s weird that they put such a silly question on a state test. What were they thinking?” said Bruce Turley, 14, an eighth-grader at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School.
“I thought it was a little strange, but I just answered it as best as I could,” said his classmate Tyree Furman, 14. “You just have to give it your best answer. These are important tests.”
In the story, an apparent 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 at all 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.
“My reaction is horror that a question that’s so obviously confusing should be used on a test that is going to be used to determine our kid’s future and the future of our children’s schools,” said parent Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters, who first posted the question on her blog.
In response to revelations that the state exams had become predictable and easier to pass, the state last year awarded a new $32 million contract to testing company Pearson to overhaul the tests.
The new exams have higher stakes for principals and teachers statewide, whose evaluations will be based in part on student scores beginning as soon as this year.
Scarsdale Middle School Principal Michael McDermott said the question has been used before and “confused students in six or seven different states.”
And he had a quick answer to the question of who is the wisest:
“Pearson for getting paid $32 million for recycling this crap.”
The city confirmed the questions were on the exam, but declined to discuss any specifics, and Chancellor Dennis Walcott directed questions to the state.
State officials wouldn’t divulge the answer and said they couldn’t speculate on whether the questions will be scored or scratched because of the controversy. They also noted that under new state rules, the questions and answers won’t be released.
But E.D. Hirsch, founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia, had no problem coming up with the answer.
“It’s clearly an allegory. The pineapple is the Department of Education. The hare is the student who is eagerly taking the test,” said Hirsch, author of “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” and “The Knowledge Deficit.”
“The joke is supposed to be on the hare, because the questions are post-modern unanswerable,” he said. “But in fact the joke is on the pineapple, because the New York Daily News is going to eat it up.”
Pearson spokesman Jason Smith said the state Education Department prohibited the company from speaking to the press on “matters like this.”
Educators said that the talking pineapple wasn’t the only problem.
“There were a few questions on each grade level test where the teachers who were administering the test had different ideas about what the answer should be — and that was across the grades from third all the way up,” said Brooklyn New School principal Anna Allanbrook.
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