Updated 04/19/2012 11:18 PM
"Pineapple" Question On State English Exam Mystifies Many City Students
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The State English exams students are taking this week have very serious consequences for students, teachers and schools, but many eighth graders say they were walking away laughing from an absurd reading passage. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
A reading passage on the state test has a Facebook fan page. Two days after appearing on the eighth grade English exam, more than 11,000 people had said they "Liked" the goofy story, about a pineapple racing a hare.
But students and educators were divided over whether the passage, which is a parody of the "Tortoise and Hare" fable, is amusing or disturbing.
"It was kind of funny and a little weird," said one student.
"That article about the pineapple and the hare was stupid and absurd," said another.
Students had to answer questions about the story, which they say goes like this: a pineapple challenges a hare to a race. Other animals figure the fruit has a "trick up its sleeve.' But the hare wins and the animals eat the pineapple.
It ends with the moral: "pineapples don't have sleeves."
"The 'Pineapple And The Hare' strikes everyone who has read it, from student to teacher to principal, as being nonsensical," said Leo Casey of the United Federation of Teachers.
Students report laughing during the test and said teachers apologized for it.
"When I got home it was like three o'clock and they already had 10 photos on Facebook making fun of the passage," said a student.
One student even made a "Pineapple don't have sleeves" t-shirt.
But it's also sparked serious debate: Is it a clever fable testing students' understanding of sarcasm, or a silly, confusing section in a high stakes exam?
"I was really confused. I expected a lot more from them," said a student.
City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott agreed, saying in a statement, "We expect to see much more rigor and complex reading passages on next year’s tests."
State officials said they will not comment on an "operational test."
The publishing company, Pearson, also did not respond to NY1's questions. It has a $32 million contract to make the state tests.
The story's author, Daniel Manus Pinkwater, spoke out on his blog, saying Pearson paid him a small amount for the story, then changed it and made a lot of money selling it to several different states.
It turns out students and teachers have been struck by the story for years, as Pearson stuck it in tests from Alabama to Illinois to Florida.
Pinkwater's original story was about an eggplant and a rabbit. He suggests the pineapple and hare confuse him too.