Noa Rosinplotz, a sixth-grade student in the District of Columbia public schools:
Each ELA test has 30 or so questions, give or take a few. The questions are related to several passages presented in the test booklet, which can include poems, nonfiction texts written exclusively for the test, and fictional stories. There are usually two written response questions on each test. Sometimes the questions are fine. More often than not, they don’t make sense in context or have multiple or no right answers. For example, question 11 on the first test this school year was as follows:
If “Nasser of the Shaduf had been written in the third person, the reader would probably have learned less about which of the following?
a) Nasser’s childhood
b) Nasser’s sisters
c) how Nasser felt about working the shaduf
d) how his father felt about Nasser
I think they’re all a little bit wrong.
The answer is pretty clearly c). It is only difficult if you aren't used to this kind of question, and believe me, under the Common Core, everyone is going to get used to this kind of question. The Common Core emphasizes textual analysis, but really only a specific subset of analytical tasks. This question seems to be aimed at 5th grade reading literature standard 6:
Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
There are only 7 reading literature standards per grade level, and each level contains some variation on this task. The Common Core argues that this line of analysis is of great importance:
- Grade 4: Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
- Grade 5: Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
- Grade 6: Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
- Grade 7: Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.
- Grade 8: Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
These aren't bad tasks, but the (over-)emphasis seems random. In any other country, this wouldn't be a standard or objective at all, just a fragment.
Noa should expect to answer a question of this type roughly twice a week for the next six and a half years. I'm sure she'll get the hang of it.