Monday, April 23, 2012

Allergic to pineapple

Tonga Room!
Some people in my family are allergic to pineapple. My father can't eat it, nor can I, nor can one of my kids. This response to a tropical fruit seems strange among northern/eastern European-descended Jews, but, whatever, humans are weird. And as allergies go, it's highly manageable given our usual non-pineapple-centric food options.

Nevertheless, due to the pesky pineapple allergy, I generally spend a tiny bit more time thinking about pineapple than most people, usually when I am in tiki bars, to the extent that I do any thinking at all in tiki bars, and thinking about them at all makes me miss the Tonga Room, San Francisco people, please go to the Tonga Room and have a non-pineapple-containing umbrella drink for me until I can join you there myself. Thank you.

That is, I suspect I think about pineapple more than most people (or at least more than most New England-based middle-aged white ladies) until this weekend, when pineapple was on everyone's minds when the usually quite separate topics of pineapples and standardized tests collided in a brouhaha that the New York Times thoroughly documented here. Go read it.

Done reading? Excellent. Now we can think about something else that far too many of us, including me, don't spend enough time considering: the content of high stakes standardized tests. We focus fiercely on test scores and what they may or may not mean for various subgroups, schools, districts, states, and nations. But most of us don't spend nearly enough time thinking or asking questions about the validity and reliability of the test questions themselves. We are justly anxious about the impact of teaching to the test, but I take part in relatively little conversation about the quality of the tests themselves, the method of their construction, their uses (many that are supposed to be diagnostic are used as high-stakes assessments) and the ways they are scored.

As a parent, perhaps a parent who thinks about standardized tests a fair amount (certainly more than pineapple), I am shocked at my own lack of critical thinking about this. I don't love the NECAP and don't think it tells anyone very much about my kids academic abilities. I have from time to time downloaded samples and look at what's on the tests, but haven't asked myself or others where those test items came from, who developed them, how they're scored. I haven't asked much beyond, "Is my kid likely to know this?" and "Will this freak out/bore/amuse/engage my kid?"

So, in the free moments when I don't think about pineapple because I lack Tonga Room proximity, I am going to think a bit more about the tests per se, and drag you along with me. If you really like the results, you can fly me to San Francisco and buy me a (pineapple free!) Tonga Tart.

1 comment:

  1. Amen to the Tonga Room, boo to stupid test questions.

    (One tiny tiny bright spot: The New York Times gave credit to the Daily News for breaking the story. The Times isn't always good on this issue, so YAY for the awesomely named Amenona Hartocollis.)