A High Stakes Test
My colleague Bill Turque writes today in The Post about efforts to prepare D.C. students for the DC-CAS tests, the ultimate measure of public schools in the city. To give you a flavor of the exam, here is an example question. It is one of the "Brief Constructed Responses" used to see how well students comprehend what they read and explain it in writing. The BCRs, as they are called, are unpopular with many teachers. They can be too simplistic and too susceptible to bad teaching---training students to answer with a formulaic structure that discourages graceful writing. But many test designers like them.
Give this third-grade example a try and make up your own mind. Bear in mind that points are not taken away for faulty grammar or punctuation. Students are asked to identify a major theme or idea in a reading passage. Their written responses are scored on a scale from 0 to 3. Click on the scores below the question to see actual students answers and why they received a particular score.
When You get your picture taken, have you ever been told to, "Say Cheese"? Have you ever wondered why? It is so our healthy teeth will show in the picture!
People with healthy teeth have happy smiles!
So how do get healthy teeth?
- Brush at least twice a day -- in the morning and before bedtime
- Brush all of your teeth. Don't skip a single one.
- Use a soft brush and change it every 3 months.
Visiting the dentist is important, too. Go at least two times a year. The dentist checks for cavities and helps you keep your teeth extra clean. The dentist will teach you how to floss. The floss gets rid of food that's hidden where your toothbrush can't get it.
Eating right is also important for healthy teeth. Fruits, vegetables, and milk are good for your teeth.
Stop the pop...the soda pop! Drink lots of water instead of sweet drinks.
The next time you smile for a picture, you can "Say cheese" with a very healthy smile!
Based on the article, explain why the author wrote this article. Support your answer with details from the article. Write your answer on the line below.
Examples of Student Responses
Student Answer: I think he wants you to think about good things.
Reason for Score: This response demonstrates no understanding of the passage as it relates to the question. The response is irrelevant.
Student Answer: I think the author wrote this to tell you to get healthy and don't eat any sweets and eat healthy food like Mac and Cheese and chicken.
Reason for Score: This response demonstrates a minimal understanding of the passage as it relates to the question as evidenced by the words, "to tell you to get healthy and don't eat any sweets." The response includes a purpose that is minimally correct. The focus of the article is healthy teeth, not overall health.
Student Answer: The author wrote this article so we can listen to it and have a healthy smile. The author didn't want us to have bad teeth but good teeth. Not black and yellow. He wanted our teeth to be shiny as silver.
Reason for Score: This response demonstrates a partial understanding of the passage as it relates to the question. The response includes a purpose as evidenced by the words, "so we can listen to it and have a healthy smile." The details included are mostly relevant, but the focus of the response is on the appearance rather than the health of the teeth.
Student Answer: I think that the author wrote the story because he wants you to have healthy teeth for pericsample (ed note: child's misspelling) he gives some tips, like brush at least twice a day.
Reason for Score: This response demonstrates a complete understanding of the passage as it relates to the question. The response is clear and concise. The student demonstrates the ability to synthesize as evidenced by the words, "...he gives some tips." Furthermore, the student includes specific detail/information relevant to the passage and prompt.
Washington Post Editors
| April 18, 2009; 1:00 AM ET
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