A pineapple, a hare and a swift outcry against a handful of confusing questions on this week’s English Language Arts exams have led the state’s education commissioner to scrap a portion of the eighth-grade reading test.
The disputed section of the test contained a fable about a talking pineapple that challenged a hare to a race. But students and teachers complained that none of the multiple choice answers to several questions made sense.
In response to the complaints, the commissioner, John B. King Jr., concluded the questions were “ambiguous” and would not be counted against students.
“It is important to note that this test section does not incorporate the Common Core and other improvements to test quality currently underway,” Mr. King said in a statement, referring to a new teaching curriculum and standards that are being adopted in New York and other states. “This year’s tests incorporate a small number of Common Core field test questions. Next year’s test will be fully aligned with the Common Core.”
He added that this particular passage, like all other questions, was reviewed by a committee composed of teachers from across the state, but it was not crafted for New York State. Dr. King also noted that media reports about the passage weren’t complete. He was specifically referring to a Daily News report that included the reading passage.
Pearson, a test preparation company, has a $32 million contract with the state to make the exams more rigorous. A spokeswoman for the company has yet to respond to WNYC requests for comment.
Complaints surface each year about certain test questions. But the exams are increasingly fraught as districts prepare to use student scores to evaluate their teachers next year.
New York teachers have been posting complaints on Web sites about this year’s grade 3-8 English exams, and Liz Phillips, the principal of P.S. 321 in Park Slope, sent Dr. King a letter saying some of test questions were “ridiculous.”
The math tests will be given next week.
For the record, a state Education Department spokesman, Dennis Tompkins, provided this link to the passage that appeared on the New York state exam. And he shared the following answers:
Questions 6:B, 7:C, 8:D, 9:A, 10:D, 11:C.
“As the commissioner stated, none of these six questions will be included in the students’ scores,” he added.