What the Common Core Assessment Questions Might Look Like

by Jim Burke

I scoured various Common Core State Standards assessments by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to better understand the type of questions they might ask. Below are some samples of the types of questions I culled from these assessments (all available online through released exams) on the respective sites for SBAC and PARCC.

Of particular interest (some would say concern) are those A-B questions which have two steps: If you get A right and B wrong, they may be scored as both wrong, the reasoning being that you do not really know the meaning of the word in part A since you showed no ability to apply that knowledge in Part B.

Here are the samples from grades 7, 9, 10, and 11 (with apologies for the formatting of numbers):

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS: REPRESENTATIVE QUESTIONS AND PROMPTS

Grade 7 (PARCC Example)

Prose Constructed Response from Research Simulation Task (Summary)

  • Based on the information in the text “Biography of Amelia Earhart,” write an essay that summarizes and explains the challenges Earhart faced throughout her life. Remember to use textual evidence to support your ideas.

Technology Enhanced Constructed Response Simulation Task

  • Below are three claims that one could make based on the article “Earhart’s Final Resting Place Believed Found.”
    • Part A: Highlight the claim that is supported by the most relevant and sufficient evidence within the article.
    • Part B: Click on two facts within the article that best provide evidence to support the claim selected in Part A.
  • You have read three texts describing Amelia Earhart. All three include the claim that Earhart was a brave, courageous person. The three texts are: _____, _____, ______. Consider the argument each author uses to demonstrate Earhart’s bravery. Write an essay that analyzes the strength of the arguments about Earhart’s bravery in at least two of the texts. Remember to use textual evidence to support your ideas.

Grade 9 (Based on informational text “Fields of Fingerprints: DNA Testing for Crops”) (PARCC Example)

  • Part A: According to the information in paragraph 1, how is solving crop crimes similar to solving high-profile murder cases?
  • Part B: Which detail from the article best supports the answer to Part A?
  • Part A: The final paragraph is headed by the phrase “Simplifying the Search.” What is the “search” discussed in this paragraph?
  • Part B: Based on the information from the text, what are the two ways  that the procedure for developing a DNA fingerprint simplifies the search identified in Part A?
  • The article shows that understanding plant DNA offers many advantages to plant growers and scientists. To complete the chart below, first select the two statements from the left column that are advantages of understanding plant DNA. Then, draft and drop one quotation from the list of possible supporting evidence into the “Supporting Evidence” column to provide textual support for each advantage you selected. You will not use all of the statements from the box titled “Possible Supporting Evidence.”
  • Complete the diagram below by choosing and correctly sequencing the steps of the process of developing a DNA fingerprint, as described in the text. Drag and drop each selected step into the appropriate box. Not all steps will be used.
  • Part A: What is one question the article answers by explaining the steps required to obtain a DNA fingerprint?
  • Part B: Which quotation from the article best reflects an inference that supports the answer to Part A?

Grade 10 Prose Constructed Response (Literary Analysis Task) (PARCC Example) (Two different versions of the prompt)

  • Use what you have learned from reading “Daedalus and Icarus” by Ovid and “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph” by Anne Sexton to write an essay that provides an analysis how Sexton transforms “Daedalus and Icarus.” As a starting point, you may want to consider what is emphasized, absent, or different in the two texts, but feel free to develop your own focus for analysis. Develop your essay by providing textual evidence from both texts. Be sure to follow the conventions of standard English.
  • Use what you have learned from reading “Daedalus and Icarus” by Ovid and “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph” by Anne Sexton to write an essay that analyzes how Icarus’s experience of flying is portrayed differently in the two texts. Develop your essay by providing textual evidence from both texts. Be sure to follow the conventions of standard English.

Grade 11 (PARCC Example)

  • Part A: In paragraph 8 of “Abigail Smith Adams,” Abigail Adams is called an “advocate for females.” What is the meaning of advocate for females as used in this paragraph?
  • Part B: Which of Abigail Adams’s actions described in the biography best shows her being an advocate?
  • Part A: Which question below is left unanswered by the biography “Abigail Smith Adams” because insufficient evidence is provided?
  • Part B: Which statement is true about the biography and best supports the answer to Part A?
  • Part A: Which statement accurately describes the relationship between two central ideas in the biography “Abigail Smith Adams”?
  • Part B: Which two sentences from “Abigail Smith Adams” best support the answer to Part A?
  • Part A: How does paragraph 2 of Abigail Adams’s letter to her husband most strongly contribute to the text as a whole?
  • Part B: In which two paragraphs of the letter are the ideas in paragraph 2 discussed more thoroughly?
  • Part A: In his letter, John Adams tells his wife that “through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.” Which paraphrase explains what Adams means by this statement?
  • Part B; Which quotation from the text best reflects the meaning of “through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory”?
  • Question: Both John and Abigail Adams believed strongly in freedom and independence. However, their letters suggest that each of them understood these terms differently based on their experiences. Write an essay that explains their contrasting views on the concepts of freedom and independence. In your essay, make a claim about the idea of freedom and independence and how John Adams add to that understanding and/or how each illustrates a misunderstanding of freedom and independence. Support your response with textual evidence and inferences drawn from all three sources.

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If you found this useful, you may be interested in my books The Common Core Companion: Decoding the Standards (What They Say • What They Mean • How to Teach Them) available through Corwin.

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