The Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet” education blog has an essay today from a 14-year-old Ossining student named Isaiah Schrader.
Isaiah, an eighth-grader at Anne M. Dorner Middle School in Ossining, writes about his experience taking the state ELA test a couple of weeks ago. (That’s him last October receiving an award for his achievements in studying the Italian language).
He has a problem with, of all things, product placement.
He writes: “Students in grades 3-8 are required by New York State to take standardized tests annually. No students should be required, however, to take tests that subject them to hidden advertising. Clearly the trademarked products mentioned throughout the exam had no relevance to the stated goals of testing students’ reading comprehension and analytical skills. Surely Pearson can afford to edit standardized tests and remove all mention of trademarked products.”
Answer Sheet also includes a statement from Pearson, which created the test. It includes this: “As one of the main shifts of the Common Core State Standards is to help students read and analyze more authentic literature and workplace documents, brand names are referenced occasionally in the passages. Neither Pearson nor NYSED request that these brand names be added, eliminated, or changed. The brand names are not selected, but exist as part of previously published passages due to choices made by authors. Pearson and NYSED do not receive any financial compensation for product branding that is included in a passage or an item. If a brand is mentioned in a passage or item, the trademark symbol is included in order to follow rights and permission laws and procedures.”
For what it’s worth, Isaiah’s piece is good, really good. There can’t be too many middle-schoolers around who would grasp the potential problems with product placement on standardized tests, let alone be able to write about the issues involved so well.