One of my mother’s favorite expressions was,“You can’t pee on my head and make me think it’s raining.” Nabbed in some infraction of her rules, like all children and far too many adults, my brother and I would creatively try to explain why we really didn’t do what she had just caught us doing. Her response was always the same. “You……..”
Mom’s expression came to mind immediately I read the Pearson Company’s justification of the now infamous “pineapple question” on the recent eighth grade ELA exam. The leaders of the Pearson Company, the makers of the test, apparently didn’t benefit from my mother’s kind of parenting. Although the entire state appears to agree that the pineapple question was absurd and, more importantly misleading, Pearson, in a letter to the State Education Department, disagrees. Claiming that the correct answer could be derived from evidence in the text of the story, Pearson wrote, “The owl declares that ‘Pineapples don’t have sleeves,’ which is a factually accurate statement. This statement is presented as the moral of the story, allowing a careful reader to infer that the owl is the wisest animal.”
Chancellor Tisch’s response to the pineapple flap was at once more equivocal and scary. The Times reports that she maintains that the question makes sense in context but should have been discarded. Why? Because questions like this are used by the opponents of testing to discredit the process. Given the many problematical questions on the recent battery of ELA and math exams, don’t the opponents have a point, Dr. Tisch? Sorry Dr. Tisch and Pearson. It’s not raining.