So, maybe a bad assumption on my part. However...
There's just no way this teacher should have been removed from his classroom for tweeting this if it's not an actual problem on the test. And I do think there is a "gotcha" quality to the question, although that's obviously a matter of opinion.
One of the friends of this blog is teacher/blogger @rratto; he's reposted and retweeted me more times than I could count, which I very much appreciate. So this is hardly an unbiased opinion on my part; nevertheless, the story he is telling at his blog is shocking and disturbing:
Go to the blog and read the rest; it's incredible. @rratto is accused by a stranger on Twitter of posting test questions - an action that is easily verifiable. The state should have been able to confirm whether his tweeted problem was the one from the test book immediately. They could also have easily given permission to the superintendent to look at the test book and see if the problem @rratto had posted matched his tweet. Obviously, it does not.
I'm not a math teacher, but even I recognize @rratto's example as a classic "order of operations" problem. You have to know PEMDAS - Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction (left-to-right) - as the order of operations in order to solve the problem. This is a great example of how an item can be constructed to "trick" a test-taker into giving a wrong answer, even if she grasps the concept. Adding parentheses to the first two multiplication operations would easily clarify the problem, but they are excluded here, increasing the chance of a wrong answer.
Psychometricians at testing companies must love PEMDAS problems: I'll bet their inclusion into a test almost guarantees that a certain percentage of test takers get the item wrong, which gives that nice normal distribution test-makers crave. But they don't necessarily tell us much about a child's ability to complete math problems: they may only tell us how well a child can be fooled.
You may agree or disagree with me or @rratto, but we both have every right to broach the issue. He and I and every other educator have the right, as American teachers, to use our First Amendment protections to publicly question the validity of state-mandated tests.
This was an act of intimidation. NY Education Commissioner John King has proved himself to be a bully and a hypocrite. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has proved herself to be indifferent to the suffering of children under this testing regime. Governor Andrew Cuomo has proved himself to be uninterested in the opinions of teachers and contemptuous of their professionalism.
But these people do not like to be challenged by those on the ground who actually work with our nation's kids every day. So the very minute someone stands up and points out the insanity of this system, he is descended upon like a pack of wolves. Why? Because they do not have an answer to their critics that can justify what they are doing.
@rratto is a hero and a true educator. He has done a great service for his students and their families by questioning the authorities who are imposing their will on our public schools. He is following a great American tradition of healthy skepticism for our "leaders," and I am proud to serve with him as part of America's teaching corps.
We teachers are the last defenders of critical thinking this country has left. Purge us at your peril; right George?
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying -- lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want -- they want MORE for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They DON'T want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that, that doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting ****** by system that threw them overboard 30 ******' years ago. They don't want that. You know what they want? They want OBEDIENT WORKERS. OBEDIENT WORKERS. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly ******** jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.Word.