Learn your ABC's and your IBM's
At least a half-dozen companies got an unexpected boost in marketing their brands to New York’s children this week — with free product placement on the state’s English exams.
Teachers and students said yesterday’s multiple-choice section of the eighth-grade tests name-dropped at least a handful of companies or products — including Mug Root Beer, LEGO and that company’s smart robots, Mindstorms.
IBM, the comic book and TV show “Teen Titans” and FIFA — the international soccer federation — were also mentioned in the test booklets, some of them with what educators referred to as out-of-place trademark symbols.
“I’ve been giving this test for eight years and have never seen the test drop trademarked names in passages — let alone note the trademark at the bottom of the page,” said one teacher who administered the exam.
Students at JHS 190 in Queens said the inclusion of some of the brands both within and after the reading passages left them scratching their heads — particularly when the questions had nothing to do with them.
“For the root beer, they show you a waitress cleaning a table and the root beer fell on the floor and she forgets to clean it up. Underneath, they gave you the definition that it is a soda and then the trademark,” said Marco Salas, an eighth-grader at the Forest Hills middle school.
“I didn’t think they should put it there,” he said. “There is no reason for it. It is out of place.”
The new exams, created by the education arm of the firm Pearson, are the first issued by the New York state Education Department that will not be made public after they’re scored — so educators have gotten stern warnings not to discuss their content.
State officials have said the exams became too predictable and encouraged test prep when the content and format of the questions were publicly available.
The tests are also the first to rely heavily on unedited excerpts from nonfiction works — to which department spokesman Tom Dunn attributed the bump in trademarked and brand names.
“This is the first time we have had 100 percent authentic texts on the assessments,” said Dunn. “Any brand names that occurred in them were incidental and were cited according to publishing conventions.”
He said none of the firms paid to have their names included in the passages. Reps for IBM and LEGO said the firms were not involved in any way.