Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Everyone is so Busy Worrying about the Quality of Common Core Implementation, Nobody has Time to Check the Quality of Common Core Implementation

Kathleen Porter-Magee:

2. Particularly in the sixth-grade sample, several of the questions are rigorous and demand that students not only deeply understand the text, but also that they actually draw on evidence from the text to inform their answers.

I was particularly impressed by question five on the sixth-grade test, which showed how you might craft a multiple-choice question that actually demands that students go back to the passage and provide evidence to support a conclusion.

Question five on the sixth-grade example:

5. Which line or lines illustrate knowledge the narrator has that the characters in the story do not?
A “There had been a time when the Trojans had gone out and fought with their enemies on the plain.” (lines 4 and 5)
B “We can easily believe then that Priam, King of Troy, and his people were very glad to hear that one day the Greeks had gone home.” (lines 10 and 11)
C “No one was quite sure what it [the horse] was, or what it meant.” (line 22)
D “A great rattling sound was heard, and the Trojans, if they had not been very blind and foolish, might have known that there was something wrong.” (lines 32 through 34)

Key: D
Aligned CCLS: RL.6.6

CCLS: RL.6.6 -- Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

I find this question to be fairly confusing. What knowledge does D contain that "the characters in the story" do not have? Not the rattling. The blindness and foolishness of the Trojans? That there was something wrong?

Laocoön, priest of Neptune, knew. The weird thing is that there is a subsequent paragraph in the full text that explains how Laocoön subsequently meets his end which has been cut out, so that makes the question more obscure. There are actually several paragraphs cut out, which make the shorter version more difficult to understand.

Also, Cassandra knew, although the line about her is mangled in the edited text in the example:

Also Cassandra opened her mouth, and that she should speak the truth and not be believed.

It is supposed to be:

Also Cassandra opened her mouth, and prophesied the fate of the city; but no one took any heed of her words, for it was her doom that she should speak the truth and not be believed.

Also, this answer is dependent on not considering the Greeks to be characters in the story.

Also, you can't conclusively determine if A) is known to all of the characters based on the text (when was that time and who did they fight). B) is puzzling since it isn't actually making a claim. C) is puzzling too... It is probably not a true statement, but it is definitely something that none of the characters in the story know. That is, they don't all know what the others know.

So... this is not a very good question in my book. Also, it doesn't ask a very interesting question. I'd say a better approach to the standards would be trying to come up with something that asks for evidence that the narrator is meant to be read as speaking to a live audience ("We can easily believe then...") or that he is Greek ("the Trojans, if they had not been very blind and foolish"). The biggest problem with those questions is, of course, they're really more prior knowledge questions in practice.

It isn't really clear why just:

Explain how the author develops the point of view of the narrator in this text.

is not sufficient. Just copy/paste the standard.

Finally, I'd note that in 1921 this was considered to be a 5th grade text. The standards must be slipping...

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