Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

State English Tests Dissed Deaf Students

This is worse than Pineapplegates.

What is a "listening passage" for deaf kids in the first place?

By Yoav Gonen

State Education Department officials were blind to the feelings of deaf students on this weekâs English exams -- heartlessly asking them questions about sounds such as the clickety-clack of a woman's high heels and the rustle of wind blowing on leaves, educators claimed.

One sixth-grade teacher of hearing-impaired kids said they were completely thrown off by a lengthy listening passage rife with references to environmental noises -- such as a cupboard door creaking open or the roar of a jet engine.

The kids were then asked to write how a boy who hears those sounds as music in his head is like a typical sixth-grader.

"My kids were looking at us like we had 10 heads. They said they didn't understand the story," the teacher said, referring to herself and a sign-language interpreter.

"It was all based on music and sounds in the world they don't know,â added the perturbed teacher. "They definitely were upset."

The teacher's sound criticism was among a host of complaints about the new exams administered to students in Grades 3 to 8 this week, part of a five-year, $32 million deal with the testing company Pearson.

The exams are drawing more scrutiny than ever because of a new state law that will tie student results to teacher evaluations over the next several years.

The head of one of the highest-performing elementary schools in Brooklyn also slammed the quality of the tests this week in a letter to state Education Commissioner John King.

Elizabeth Phillips, principal of the uber-popular PS 321 in Park Slope, wrote that she was "genuinely shocked" by the poor quality of the exams -- particularly given their high stakes.

She complained that the questions following the fifth-grade reading passages were "ridiculous" and seemed designed to trick students.

"There are so many more flawed questions than ever before," she wrote. "The idea that teachers may lose their jobs and schools [at least in New York City] may be closed based on how children do on these problematic exams is incredibly upsetting and demoralizing to educators."

Four state Education Department press officers failed to respond to questions from The Post.

But King did announce that officials will invalidate a half-dozen questions on the eighth-grade English test that were based on a quirky passage about a pineapple racing a hare -- because of their "ambiguous nature."

— Yoav Gonen
New York Post





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.