Common Core Assessment Analysis
Each state that has adopted Common Core State Standards will select an assessment consortium to assess how children are progressing in school. The two options most widely chosen at this point are: Smarter Balanced and PARCC. Each assessment consortium has provided practice test questions and today we will review one of these questions and discuss its potential impact on classroom instruction.
Below is an assessment question from Smarter Balanced grade 3. Smarter Balanced uses two types of assessment questions: Selected Response and Constructed Response.
3rd Grade Main Idea
Common Core Standard: 3.RI.2 Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Excerpt from Smarter Balanced: The Dragon Hunter by Keith Wilson
Dragonflies come in many sizes. The smallest one is the size of your thumbnail. The largest one would cover your face.
I recently looked for one of the heaviest dragonflies in the world—the giant petaltail. It lives in Australia.
You might think such a large bug would be hard to miss. The petaltail, however, is very rare. Few people have ever seen it. After looking for a week, I spotted several of them zooming around.
Smarter Balanced Scoring Guide:
- A two-point response includes a correct explanation of how Wilson supports his statement and a correct supporting detail. Responses are not scored for grammar usage, conventions, or punctuation.
- A one-point response includes a correct explanation or a correct supporting detail.
- A no-credit response provides neither a correct explanation nor a correct supporting detail.
Two-point response: Wilson supports the idea that dragonflies come in many sizes by describing some types of dragonflies. He says the smallest one is about the size of a thumbnail. He says the largest one is the size of a face. He also says that there is a very heavy one that lives in Australia.
One-point response: Wilson says that dragonflies are the same size as a person’s thumbnail.
Zero-point response: Wilson says that dragonflies can come in different sizes.[hr]
What do we learn from this item?
This item is a possible two-point question that requires students to rephrase the question, explain the answer, and paraphrase and/or quote details that support the main idea or statement from text.
The item does not use the academic vocabulary main idea but instead uses the term statement. However, the term detail is used in the item, which aligns with the Common Core Standard. As a result, students must be taught academic vocabulary and related synonyms for the academic language, so they understand what is being assessed.
This question does not use word matches to locate the main idea or statement of the text; instead a synonym is used. The question changes the main idea or statement from “dragonflies come in many sizes” to “dragonflies can come in different sizes.” So teachers need to help students develop a broad vocabulary and use context clues for meaning.
Student responses are not scored for grammar usage, conventions, or punctuation.
How is this concept assessed in other grades?
The concept of main idea and key details is addressed in grades K-12 of the Common Core Standards. Smarter Balanced assesses this concept using different approaches and academic vocabulary. At times, students are expected to select the correct main idea or key details that support the main idea from several answers, and other times students are expected to write their own response using information from the text. Throughout the practice test examples, Smarter Balanced uses some terms interchangeably such as main idea,
statement, and central idea.
Suggestions for classroom instruction:
Students must be taught how to properly construct a full-credit response. Refer to the DataWORKS Constructed Response poster (available for free along with our other ELA posters) on how to respond to this type of question.
Students must be taught the academic vocabulary and usually the concept in order to determine what is being assessed.