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 5. Smarter Balanced uses two types of assessment questions: Selected Response and Constructed Response.
- Selected Response requires the students to select one or more correct answers.
- Constructed Response requires the students to create their own answer.
Fifth Grade Write an Opinion Piece
Common Core Standard Assessed
5.W.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
a. Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.
From Smarter Balanced Scoring Guide
Students should be allowed to use cell phones in school. Cell phones have many uses that can benefit students in their classwork as well as in an emergency.
For many students, a cell phone is more than a way to communicate. It has many tools that are helpful. For instance, a student may use the calculator on a phone. Also, many phones have calendars to help students stay organized. Another reason why students should be allowed to have cell phones at school is because they can reach their parents in case of an emergency. Sometimes students need to contact their family to let them know they are staying after school. This way, students can have better communication with their families.
On the flip side, sometimes families need to contact their child and don’t want to bother the class. Families can send a simple text to a student. Then the student can contact them during lunch or free time.
Some people think that cell phones will be distracting and allow students to cheat. However, teachers can take care of this problem by making students keep their phones in their backpacks during class time unless there is an emergency.
For these reasons, I believe that students should be allowed to have cell phones in class. The benefits of cell phones far outweigh the downsides.
Students should be allowed to have cell phones in class because they have tools that are helpful to learning. Many phones have a calculator and that way a student doesn’t need to buy one to bring to school. Many phones also have calendars to help organize students. This is why students should be allowed to bring a cell phone to class.
Students should be allowed to bring cell phones to school so that they can make plans with their friends.
What do we learn from this item?
Students must be able to interpret research. In this example they are given valid points for and against students being allowed to have cell phones at school. Students must choose a position and write three paragraphs that express their opinion using reasons and support, incorporating details from the research. The question uses a real-world scenario that should be familiar to most students. To write the paragraphs, students need to elaborate on the details in the table based on their experience (or prior knowledge) of the topic. This will be necessary for students to receive the maximum two points for their written answer.
How is this concept assessed in other grades?
Composing or writing opinion pieces are specifically addressed in grades K-5 (in grades 6-12 the content vocabulary changes from write an opinion piece to write an argument) in the Common Core Standards. Smarter Balanced assesses this concept by providing research or tables with information for students to draw details from and evidence to support their opinion.
Suggestions for classroom instruction
Students should practice correct writing structure and use of transitions between paragraphs. Give students research for and against specific “controversial topics” and ask them to pick a side and write an opinion piece. Include evidence from the text, citations, etc. Students need practice with word processing. Smarter Balanced assessments ask all students to enter their writing examples via computer.