Scantron, the test publishing company, was compelled to delete a reading passage that was highly propagandistic after parent activists learned about it and called attention to it. The item was brought to the attention of the media by Parents United for Responsible Education.
The Chicago Sun-Time wrote: “PURE executive director Julie Woestehoff said the passage, titled “Reforming Education: Charter Schooling,’’ is so one-sidedly pro-charter that its use amounts to an attempt to “brainwash” children ‘with propaganda about charter schools.’’” Julie Woesterhoff is a co-founder of the national parent organization Parents Across America.
The reading passage on the test was a paean to charter schools, with pie charts and bullet points, all intended to show that charters were decidedly superior to the public schools in which the test-taking students were enrolled. It even had the nerve to identify a presumably fictional “multimillionaire” who enrolled his own children in a charter school. It would be interesting to know if there are any real-life multi-millionaires who have done so. I guess that the folks who wrote the test passage didn’t know that charters are supposed to be “saving” poor kids from failing schools, although not many of them do that.
The test question was presented as “non-fiction,” but Scantron initially responded by saying it was fiction intended to test reading comprehension. Even Scantron eventually realized that the question was inappropriate. That is putting it mildly. The question was charter propaganda, intended to misinform students and persuade them that charters were proven better than public schools. That’s not inappropriate, that’s lies.
It may not be coincidental, but it’s worth noting that Scantron was a corporate sponsor of ALEC. When the publicity about ALEC’s role in the Trayvon Martin affair got too hot, Scantron was one of the corporations that withdrew from ALEC.
The fake charters-are-best question is an even bigger scandal than Pearson’s pineapple question. The pineapple story (which by the way was given to Illinois students in the past) was at worst idiotic, not insidious. It was in some way typical of the sanitized, vacuous reading passages that often appear on standardized tests, which explains how it got past the test review panels that approve test content.
The charter question is far worse than the pineapple question. The pineapple question wasn’t selling pineapples. It was not an advertisement for Dole or another corporation. The charter question was taking a one-sided stance on a matter of public policy. It was dishonest propaganda. It advanced a political cause and, in today’s reality, it advanced the commercial interests of for-profit charter operators.
Do these people have no shame?