Monday, April 23, 2012

The bad pineapple questions are not the problem with standardized tests

I am disappointed that the mainstream story about testing happens to be a poor test section about pineapples. While I agree the test question was ridiculous, I think focusing on that diverts us from the real problem which is that even if the test had greatest questions on earth, standardized testing at its core is a problem for numerous reasons.

Here are a dozen that come to mind.
1) Teachers are assessment experts. We don't need to spend 32 million on outsourcing assessments in NY alone. Billions nationwide.
2) If we believe we should differentiate instruction, then we can not standardize assessment. We must measure students where they are at.
3) Standardized tests are one of the least effective forms of diagnostic assessment.
4) Standardized tests don't provide any value to students.

5) Standardized tests have very little to do with instruction and much more to do with developmental readiness, parental involvement, student interest, test taking comfort, socio economic status.
6) Standardized tests subject students to unnecessary stress.
7) Standardized tests don't measure skills that are relevant for the 21st century.
8) Standardized tests assess in artificial, disconnected environments which is the exact opposite of what our children will need for success. 

9) Standardized tests aren't created by teachers. They are created off of people who profit off of children.
10) Standardized tests are not used to inform instruction. Teachers use meaningful assessments that are customized to children, not standardized to the system to accomplish that.
11) Standardized tests are not used to help children learn. They are used to punish students, teachers, and schools. 
12) Standardized test are making many children sick.

When we focus on the content of the atrocity of standardized tests rather than the fact that they shouldn’t exist, we are losing focus. It is as though we are trying to build a better torture chamber rather than stopping the use of something that is helping no one but the mega billion dollar publishing companies and elected officials who like pretty graphs.


  1. Wait a sec. I thought teachers were part of the problem because they think they have a monopoly on knowledge and that they just follow orders and that their policies in their classes hurts and abuses children. Now you're saying they're actually the people who should be writing the tests because they're assessment experts? I'm confused.

  2. Great post. If you want more support for this point of view, read my summary of "The Myths of Standardized Tests" at I do think teachers can make good use of formative assessments developed by others and administered online. Each student can take the assessment they are ready for and take it multiple times if necessary. Keep up the good work.

  3. I don't think the reaction to and discussion of the pineapple's sleeves is disappointing. A number of claims are made in this article that question the effectiveness of standardized tests, their value to instruction and students, their relevance, and their ultimate purpose. If the public is to engage in this thorny problem, examples such as the pineapple question are valuable as red flags. Of course, members of the education industry are already debating the value of standardized testing, but for many folks who have their heads down trying to weather the times, it's diatribe for which they have little or no time. Reading a story about a very foolish and misguided question on a test that is intended to evaluate their children is an entry point for a wider public. I would hope those who are truly interested in engaging all "stakeholders" of public education in meaningful discussion about this issue wouldn't shake their heads at the weak grasp we hold on the salient points, but rather encourage the revelation and provide conversation about alternatives that actually have the effective education of children as a true and single goal. Being a smarty pants didn't serve the pineapple, and it won't serve the interests of this discussion.

  4. Who lives in a Pineapple under the sea?April 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    The content of the tests are the biggest fucking joke of all time and this was known way before NCLB. The reading passages are stupid and have nothing to do with anything we've read for the school year. The answers are stupid and could be "any of the above" when you really think about it. Give me a break. What a fucking waste of taxpayer money. You can't just say they suck and make better tests. They need to be abolished. Ask any kid or teacher how stupid they are. Ooops, I forgot, the teachers can't say anything about the content.