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Winter Storm Stalls PARCC Tests – and Debate Over Their Future Use in New Jersey

Snowed in? Try tackling some sample questions from the 3rd-grade language arts exam

computer testing kids

Yesterday’s snowfall put this week’s statewide launch of the new PARCC testing in the deep freeze – only about 2,000 students took the tests yesterday, compared to a quarter-million two days before.

And the late-winter storm also stalled the state Legislature’s action on a key PARCC-related bill -- the Assembly education committee had been scheduled to consider a proposed statewide policy for families choosing to have their children “opt out” of the controversial tests.

That proposal will surely be taken up again, but it already faced long odds in the state Senate. Neither that bill nor another more significant Assembly bill that would delay the use of the test results in school or teacher evaluations have even been posted in the Senate for a hearing.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said this week in an interview with NJ Spotlight that he was waiting on both bills until the Senate education committee meets with state Education Commissioner David Hespe. The meeting is tentatively planned for next Thursday, he said.

“What I’ve been reading is that (the testing) has been a relative non-event compared to all the hype at this point,” Sweeney said. “I want to know what the commissioner says, and we’ll make a decision. Maybe it is the right thing to do, but I want to get that from the commissioner.”


In the meantime, despite the wintry weather, NJ Spotlight continues this week’s daily sampling from PARCC’s practice exams. Yesterday, we ventured into middle school math, but now it’s time to return to language arts, this time with a sample question posted to third-graders, the youngest students taking the tests.

The exercise asks students to read two stories and answer multiple-choice questions from what they read and to write an essay. The following are questions from the first story, as well as the essay question.


Introduction

Today, you will read two stories titled “Johnny Chuck Finds the Best Thing in the World” and “Me First.” (Editor’s note: Only the first story is reprinted below).

As you read, think about the actions of the characters and the events of the stories. Answer the questions to help you write an essay.

Passage

Read the story titled “Johnny Chuck Finds the Best Thing in the World.” Then answer the questions.

“Johnny Chuck Finds the Best Thing in the World,” by Thornton Burgess

1 Old Mother West Wind had stopped to talk with the Slender Fir Tree.

2 “I’ve just come across the Green Meadows,” said Old Mother West Wind, “and there I saw the Best Thing in the World.”

3 Striped Chipmunk was sitting under the Slender Fir Tree and he couldn’t help hearing what Old Mother West Wind said. “The Best Thing in the World—now what can that be?” thought Striped Chipmunk. “Why, it must be heaps and heaps of nuts and acorns! I’ll go and find it.”

4 So Striped Chipmunk started down the Lone Little Path through the wood as fast as he could run. Pretty soon he met Peter Rabbit.

5 “Where are you going in such a hurry, Striped Chipmunk?” asked Peter Rabbit.

6 “Down in the Green Meadows to find the Best Thing in the World,” replied Striped Chipmunk, and ran faster.

7 “The Best Thing in the World,” said Peter Rabbit, “why, that must be a great pile of carrots and cabbage! I think I’ll go and find it.”

8 So Peter Rabbit started down the Lone Little Path through the wood as fast as he could go after Striped Chipmunk.

9 As they passed the great hollow tree Bobby Raccoon put his head out. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” asked Bobby Raccoon.

10 “Down in the Green Meadows to find the Best Thing in the World!” shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit, and both began to run faster.

11 “The Best Thing in the World,” said Bobby Raccoon to himself, “why, that must be a whole field of sweet milky corn! I think I’ll go and find it.”

12 So Bobby Raccoon climbed down out of the great hollow tree and started down the Lone Little Path through the wood as fast as he could go after Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit, for there is nothing that Bobby Raccoon likes to eat so well as sweet milky corn.

13 At the edge of the wood they met Jimmy Skunk.

14 “Where are you going in such a hurry?” asked Jimmy Skunk.

15 “Down in the Green Meadows to find the Best Thing in the World!” shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon. Then they all tried to run faster.

16 “The Best Thing in the World,” said Jimmy Skunk. “Why, that must be packs and packs of beetles!” And for once in his life Jimmy Skunk began to hurry down the Lone Little Path after Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon.

17 They were all running so fast that they didn’t see Reddy Fox until he jumped out of the long grass and asked:

18 “Where are you going in such a hurry?”

19 “To find the Best Thing in the World!” shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon and Jimmy Skunk, and each did his best to run faster.

20 “The Best Thing in the World,” said Reddy Fox to himself. “Why, that must be a whole pen full of tender young chickens, and I must have them.”

21 So away went Reddy Fox as fast as he could run down the Lone Little Path after Striped Chipmunk, Peter Rabbit, Bobby Raccoon and Jimmy Skunk.

22 By and by they all came to the house of Johnny Chuck.

23 “Where are you going in such a hurry?” asked Johnny Chuck.

24 “To find the Best Thing in the World,” shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox.

25 “The Best Thing in the World,” said Johnny Chuck. “Why I don’t know of anything better than my own little home and the warm sunshine and the beautiful blue sky.”

26 So Johnny Chuck stayed at home and played all day among the flowers with the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind and was as happy as could be.

27 But all day long Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox ran this way and ran that way over the Green Meadows trying to find the Best Thing in the World. The sun was very, very warm and they ran so far and they ran so fast that they were very, very hot and tired, and still they hadn’t found the Best Thing in the World.

28 When the long day was over they started up the Lone Little Path past Johnny Chuck’s house to their own homes. They didn’t hurry now for they were so very, very tired! And they were cross—oh so cross! Striped Chipmunk hadn’t found a single nut. Peter Rabbit hadn’t found so much as the leaf of a cabbage. Bobby Raccoon hadn’t found the tiniest bit of sweet milky corn. Jimmy Skunk hadn’t seen a single beetle. Reddy Fox hadn’t heard so much as the peep of a chicken. And all were as hungry as hungry could be.

29 Half way up the Lone Little Path they met Old Mother West Wind going to her home behind the hill. “Did you find the Best Thing in the World?” asked Old Mother West Wind.

30 “No!” shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox all together.

31 “Johnny Chuck has it,” said Old Mother West Wind. “It is being happy with the things you have and not wanting things which some one else has. And it is called Con-tent-ment.”

(“Johnny Chuck Finds the Best Thing in the World” from Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess, 1910.)

1. Part A

What does "cross" mean as it is used in paragraph 28 of “Johnny Chuck Finds the Best Thing in the World”?

A. excited

B. lost

C. upset

D. scared

Part B

Which statement best supports the answer to Part A?

A. “. . . ran this way and ran that way . . .”

B. “. . . hadn’t found the Best Thing in the World.”

C. “. . . they started up the Lone Little Path . . . .”

D. “They didn’t hurry now . . . .”

2. Part A

How do the details in the story show the idea of “Con-tent-ment”?

A. through describing what Johnny Chuck does at his home

B. through the question that Johnny Chuck asks in the story

C. through the explanation of the animals’ hunger after their search

D. through the listing of all the animals that join the group

Part B

Which detail from “Johnny Chuck Finds the Best Thing in the World” supports the answer to Part A?

A. “By and by they all came to the house of Johnny Chuck.”

B. “. . . played all day among the flowers with the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind . . .”

C. “. . . Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Raccoon and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox ran this way and ran that way over the Green Meadows trying to find the Best Thing in the World.”

D. “Peter Rabbit hadn’t found so much as the leaf of a cabbage.”

3. Old Mother West Wind and the Sandwitch (from the other story, “Me First,” by Helen Lester) both try to teach important lessons to characters in the stories.

Write an essay that explains how Old Mother West Wind’s and the Sandwitch’s words and actions are important to the plots of the stories. Use what you learned about the characters to support your essay.


Here are yesterday’s answers from the 8th-grade sample math question:

  1. -1

  2. There are multiple correct responses. For example:

PARCC 06-answer
















3. A. Maximum score if includes the following two elements:

  • Correct amount of each payment, $80.73

  • Valid work shown or explanation given

Sample Student Response: The discounted price is 75% of the original price, so I need to multiply the original price by 0.75. Then, I will multiply that amount by 0.08 to determine the sales tax. Adding the two together will give me the total price of the computer. I then divide the total price of the computer by 6 to determine the six monthly payments.

$598.00 x 0.75 = $448.50 $448.50 x 0.08 = $35.88 $448.50 plus $35.88 = $484.38 total cost $484.38 divided by 6 = $80.73 per month

  1. B. Maximum scores if includes the following four elements:

  2. Correct total price of the different computer, $602.64

  3. Valid work or explanation given

  4. Correct original price of the different computer, $930.00

  5. Valid work or explanation given

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