April 20, 2012
State education officials said this afternoon that they’re tossing out six questions related to the now-famous “Hare and the Pineapple” passage that appeared this week on the state’s eighth grade English exams.
In a statement, Commissioner John King said that due to the “ambiguous nature of the test questions” from the passage, students wouldn’t be penalized – or awarded – points on the final scoring of the exams.
But King also defended the passage, saying it wasn’t as confusing as it has been presented publicly so far. King, who appeared in Brooklyn this afternoon at Clara Barton High School to hear from students enrolled in a medical pathways program that partners with SUNY Downstate Medical Center, offered another reason the tests weren’t counting.
“The questions make much more sense in the context of the full passage than the excerpts that folks have seen,” King said. ”But given the press coverage we won’t be able to use those particular questions.”
The passage and questions generated widespread debate in the press and on the Internet this week after a version of the passage – and a portion of the reading comprehension questions – were published.
“Some of the versions of the text that have been circulated on the web exclude the very sentences that are the evidence for the answers to the two questions that have been discussed,” King said.
Similar versions of the question have also been used in past years in other states by Pearson, the test developer that is contracting with the state and created the exam. A dormant Facebook page about the passage that was created two years has received thousands of ‘likes’ in recent days as the question resurfaced in New York. Even the renowned author of the passage slammed the use of the passage as a way to measure student learning.
But King didn’t let Pearson completely off the hook. He said that officials would review Pearson’s procedures for selecting and reviewing exam questions.
The passage is also unlikely to appear on state tests in the future because it wasn’t aligned with new Common Core curriculum standards that are being rolled out in full for next year’s exam. The standards would require students to do more analysis and critical thinking, rather than simply locating information in reading passages.
The New York State Education Department released a complete version of the passage and the questions: