On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

27th April 2012 at 01:00

This week: New York education board

Exam question controversy is nothing new in Blighty. In 2003, for example, there was staffroom outcry after 11-year-olds were asked to write about queuing in their key stage 2 Sats. "Boring!" shouted just about everyone. And last year there was widespread anger over an OCR AS-level maths paper that asked an impossible question.

Nothing on this side of the pond comes close, however, to Talking Pineapplegate, which rocked the state of New York last week. Parents, pupils and teachers alike reacted with rage to a reading test taken by 14-year-olds that asked questions based on a passage, adapted from a novel by children's author Daniel Pinkwater, about a surreal race between a hare and a talking pineapple. In the episode, the fruit does not move an inch and winds up being eaten by spectating animals. Examinees were required to explain why the fruit was devoured and how the other animals must have felt about it.

"I think it's weird that they put such a silly question on a state test," Bruce Turley, an eighth-grader at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, was reported as saying after emerging from the exam hall. "What were they thinking?" Well, quite.

Mr Pinkwater certainly agreed, damning the test, and at the end of last week the state's school bosses bowed to the inevitable and invalidated the questions. But that is not enough for TES - New York State Education Department, to the naughty step you go.

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