Common Core Standard
In this article, we will look at a standard that students slightly improve on across grades 3 through 5 even though the complexity increases. We will also look at how these standards differ from the old NY state standards.
English Language Arts
In a lot of ways, this standard is classic English Language Arts.
When we reflect on our own English classes these are the questions that come mind. Why did a character act a certain way? Why is the setting important? And so on… What shifts with the common core standards is the depth of analysis students must engage in and the text complexity.
On that level, it might be clear why students seem to increase proficiency through the grades, but it is still necessary to analyze the assessments so that we don’t need to worry about this test we don’t get to see until it is administered.
Progression on the Standards
Elementary students, starting in grade 3, must describe the characters of the story within the linear construction of the story. Grade 4 expands on grade 3 by expanding both depth of understanding as well as adding in setting and story events. Grade 5 expands on grade 4 by requiring students compare or contrast.
Student Performance Across Grades
In general, students performed better on this standard across the elementary grades with 74% of students answering correctly on two questions in the 5th grade in 2016.
|RL 3.3||RL 3.3||RL 4.3||RL 4.3||RL 5.3||RL 5.3||RL 5.3||RL 5.3|
|Q 6||Q 17||Q 6||Q 30||Q 9||Q 17||Q 18||Q 20|
Grade 3 Stems Noticings
· Two released test questions align with standard 3, and student proficiency was at about 50% for both questions.
· Each question contains the word “most” or “mostly” indicating that the correct answer is not obvious. Multiple answer choices will contain relevant information from the passage.
· We cannot tell from the question stem the text complexity or the required depth of understanding of the text is necessary.
· Both will require implicit and explicit understanding of the text.
Finding Parts of the Passage
Passage for Question 6
This is as close to finding a part of the passage as you can get for question 6 as no clues are given in the question stem, nor is there any point within the text that the characters explicitly explain the meaning of “Private I’s.”
To have the best possible shot at answering correctly, students must have prior knowledge about private investigators and understanding there is word play on private investigator going on in the passage. It is possible to answer this question without prior knowledge of private investigators, but knowing that information goes a long way in helping a student choose correctly. If student’s do have that understanding they can make the next leap in understanding that the “I” is also the first letter of each girl’s name.
Question 6 – Implicit Information
When students have prior knowledge of private investigators and then make the connection to the girl’s names then they correctly choose D as the answer for question 6. If they did not make the connection between the “I’s” and the girl’s names, then other answer choices look enticing.
Passage for Question 17
A Good In-Class Question is a Hard Multiple Choice Question
What does paragraph 22 show us about Mary Jane?
If this question were posed in class and students had to write down their answer we would probably accept a few answers as correct. Students would write their descriptions of Mary Jane and tell us why this paragraph is important, but in the context of test taking and multiple choice there is only one right answer. The question asks students to identify what paragraph 22 is MOSTLY shows us about Mary Jane. Students need to be careful with the answer choices.
Answering Question 17
For question 17, it becomes slightly more complicated. If this were a question posed in class and students wrote their answers then all four answer choices here would probably be accepted. Within Mary Jane’s actions you could see that spending time on her project shows her to be a good student, and that she spends a lot of time on her assignments. Reading into it a little more you could even say that the detail she describes her process shows she enjoys art a lot. But, because those are leaps from the function of the paragraph, the correct answer is A. Within the broader context of the story that answer fits Mary Jane the best and is what the paragraph is MOSTLY about.
With the Common Core Standards there is a real emphasis on using the text to answer questions and defending with specific evidence. In class, students must explore the texts they are given with time for repeated readings.
What It Used to Be
I believe that for third grade the two questions we looked at were difficult. Just for comparison, here is a question from the 2010 third grade test from the same standard in grade 3. We use to expect much less.
There is no need necessarily to go back and reread. No connections made or specific information from the text. It’s just the best word that describes a character.
In many ways, although masquerading as a character question, this is a vocabulary question for third graders. When the answer choices are one word long on an ELA test a student must have a fluid understanding of the words given.
Check out Common Core ELA Test Question Stems By Standard
These can help develop in class assessments.
Free Download of the NY State ELA Question Stems in Elementary
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Grade 4 – Expanding to the Whole Passage
For grade 4, and this standard, we still see an emphasis on picking the right answer from a group of good answers. A deeper understanding of character is required. This time they use the word “best,” and last time they used “most,” and “mostly,” but it is the same test design strategy.
Grade 3 was about understanding characters and the sequence of events, but by fourth grade students begin to analyze depth of character. Minna is the main character of this passage and we can be assured that all the answer choices will have some truth about Minna.
A complete understanding of the passage is required, and yet students across the state were slightly higher in proficiency on this standard than in 3rd grade.
One hypothesis, is that the test may have change and the standards shifted, but ELA teachers and classroom teachers were well skilled in teaching students reading in this way to begin with.
Choosing the “Best”
All answer choices are true. There is evidence in the story for each of them. Students must understand the entire passage to answer correctly.
I won’t include the passage here because I would have to include the entire passage. You can look it up on engageyny.org.
Old Grade 4 Standard
Like grade 3, I suggest you look at how easy the passage was when students answered the question below, and then compare it to the passage the 4th grade had to read last year.
Grade 5 – Comparing and Contrasting
The standard in grade 5 requires students to compare and contrast characters or events. More than 70% of students were proficient on this standard on multiple questions in grade 5.
We can see immediately in the question stem evidence of comparison and contrast, because something shifted for this character. Students must figure out what.
Text Specific Answers
Understanding how the character changes is deeply ingrained in standard 3.
Again, I didn’t include the passages here because it would require copying the entire passage.
The question demonstrates the progression of the common core standards from 3 to 5 well enough to design questions within the classroom.
What Grade 5 Used to Be
The closest old NY State standard to Common Core Standard 3 asked students to identify literary elements such as character.
This is the depth that used to be required of 5th grade.
You could look up this passage too. In grade 5 the texts were shorter and the reading level much lower.
If you are thinking that the answer to this question is at the very beginning of the story and is simple, straight forward, then you would be right. Our standards used to be much lower.
Reviewing the Progression
· Grade-3 – how a character acts within the sequence of events
· Grade-4 – depth of character and add in analysis of setting and events
· Grade-5 – depth of character, setting, and events through comparison and contrast
Something that shifted with the common core standards that is not stated within each standard is that the required reading level and text complexity at each grade level is higher than previous standards. This impacts how we design assessments and strategies connected to this classroom.
1) Expose students to a variety of literary texts and allow them to engage in deep thinking about characters and structure.
a. Think about the questions that you ask students across a balanced literary program and give students time to think and explain.
2) Ask questions that require students to support their answer with evidence from the text.
a. Think are common question stems that address grade level standards and incorporate them into independent, guided, and whole class reading time.
3) Require that any statement or claim made about a story is defended to the point that there is consensus on the best answer even though multiple perspectives may hold weight.
a. We can value multiple viewpoints while acknowledging there one view on a text is stronger than another.