ALBANY Did you hear the one about the talking pineapple?
How about the one about the math question with no right answer?
These aren’t riddles. They’re questions from the New York state math and English Language Arts exams given to third- through eighth-graders statewide from April 16 to 27. The tests are designed by Pearson, Inc., which has a $32 million contract from the state to provide the tests, and vetted by a team of psychomatricians (test experts) before they are distributed to school districts.
The pineapple question refers to a much-maligned reading passage on the eighth grade ELA exam describing a race between a pineapple and a hare, a twist on the old fable of the tortoise and the hare. The entire passage and related questions can be read here: usny.nysed.gov/docs/the-hare-and-the-pineapple.pdf. The passage so confused such a great number of students that the state had to pull the questions; they won’t be counted towards the final assessments.
Meanwhile, there were errors in the math sections, as well. Due to a typographical error on the eighth grade math exam, one question had no correct answer. On the sixth grade exam, one question had two correct answers.
Representatives from State Ed were quick to defend the questions.
“A lot of items are taken from a pool of items that have been field tested,” said Dennis Tompkins from the State Education Department’s communications office. “For example, the pineapple question is eight years old. It was first used on the SAT-10, which is kind of like the IOWAs — a local assessment test. It’s been used in several other states.”
Tompkins said that the pineapple question and the two math questions that were pulled will not impact student scores.
“The psychomatricians — the experts in testing — they’ll tell you those questions have no impact on that final score,” he said. “Because of the way the tests are constructed, they’re weighted so that adjustments can be made very easily.”