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  1. #1

    Frustrations with illogical people

    So, anyone else every frustrated by people who are somewhat illogical?

    We have been administering a reading assessment at my school. Students read a passage aloud, and then answer eight questions. If they get a question wrong, they drop from independent reading ability to instructional, so each question (especially getting one wrong) is pretty key.

    So; the kids had to read a passage about ancient Egypt and the Nile. One segment of one paragraph talked about the papyrus plant, and that it was important to the Egyptians because they used it to make paper and keep records.

    One of the questions (which could be either explicitly answered from the text or you have to deduce an answer from the text) was...

    "How do we know that the Egyptians were a literate people?"

    There have been two answers coming up.

    First, the "wrong answer" which I tend to think is correct... because archeologists have found artifacts, including hieroglyphs, that indicate they wrote.

    Second, the "right answer" according to the teachers that say I am being stubborn... because Egyptians used papyrus to make paper.

    I tried to explain that making paper does not, in any way, prove that the Egyptians were literate... it just proves that they made paper. I tried to explain that kids who were giving answer #1 were, in fact, making connections between the text and prior knowledge, which we teach constantly. "Nope," a few teachers said with smug expressions "That answer is not in the text. They need to get the answer from the text."

    Except, of course, in the implicit question section.



    Sometimes it drives me nuts working with a group of fairly illogical people. And to top it off; there are questions like this on EVERY reading sample... ones that logically do not actually make sense, and despite the fact that I have pointed out that the assessment is flawed (in fact, 90 percent of students scored higher on the 6th grade test than the 5th grade, which should almost IMMEDIATELY prove there is a problem but no, no one seems to get why this is an issue...) everyone just says "Just do it and stop complaining."

    Heaven forbid we try to ensure that our assessments actually... you know, assess?

    Anyone else ever find themselves frustrated by this sort of thing?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Watching carolina Go To HELL!
    If it helps any, I agree with your assessment of the question's answers.
    Ozzie, your paradigm of optimism!

    Go To Hell carolina, Go To Hell!
    9F 9F 9F
    http://www.EGLEW.com


  3. #3
    Everyone with half a brain does

  4. #4
    My mom is a middle school teacher and is equally frustrated with her school system's assessments. Her frustration has increased over the last few years as she has moved from the classroom into a sort of administrative role and has been somewhat responsible for the accreditation process.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Meeting with Marie Laveau
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Ash View Post
    So, anyone else every frustrated by people who are somewhat illogical?

    We have been administering a reading assessment at my school. Students read a passage aloud, and then answer eight questions. If they get a question wrong, they drop from independent reading ability to instructional, so each question (especially getting one wrong) is pretty key.

    So; the kids had to read a passage about ancient Egypt and the Nile. One segment of one paragraph talked about the papyrus plant, and that it was important to the Egyptians because they used it to make paper and keep records.

    One of the questions (which could be either explicitly answered from the text or you have to deduce an answer from the text) was...

    "How do we know that the Egyptians were a literate people?"

    There have been two answers coming up.

    First, the "wrong answer" which I tend to think is correct... because archeologists have found artifacts, including hieroglyphs, that indicate they wrote.

    Second, the "right answer" according to the teachers that say I am being stubborn... because Egyptians used papyrus to make paper.

    I tried to explain that making paper does not, in any way, prove that the Egyptians were literate... it just proves that they made paper. I tried to explain that kids who were giving answer #1 were, in fact, making connections between the text and prior knowledge, which we teach constantly. "Nope," a few teachers said with smug expressions "That answer is not in the text. They need to get the answer from the text."

    Except, of course, in the implicit question section.



    Sometimes it drives me nuts working with a group of fairly illogical people. And to top it off; there are questions like this on EVERY reading sample... ones that logically do not actually make sense, and despite the fact that I have pointed out that the assessment is flawed (in fact, 90 percent of students scored higher on the 6th grade test than the 5th grade, which should almost IMMEDIATELY prove there is a problem but no, no one seems to get why this is an issue...) everyone just says "Just do it and stop complaining."

    Heaven forbid we try to ensure that our assessments actually... you know, assess?

    Anyone else ever find themselves frustrated by this sort of thing?

    What you described regarding the adults' interpretation sounds like a demonstration of the difference between literal interpretation and inference.... the difference between interpretation based on limited analysis and synthesis and more sophisticated, higher level thinking. Does the wording of the assessment's instructions contribute to this seeming disconnect between the questions and the "correct" answers?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Scrap Metal Hill
    Lord Ash, I presume you're paraphrasing a good bit, but the one quote from your post that your illogical opponents might be emphasizing is "they used it to make paper and keep records." The "keep records" part implies something that could reasonably interpreted as literacy. No doubt the actual text is more ambiguous than that...

    Earlier in the year, they did a state-wide standardized test for two of my young Turks in grade school. Both of them had "Reading Comprehension" scores that were 15-20 points below all their scores in every other category. The teachers shrugged it off as an outlier and said they were both above grade level readers. We never saw the test, and it wasn't used for any placement purposes - just a statistical data-gathering exercise.

    Now I have to wonder if maybe their text was about Egypt and paper. I agree with Lord Ash - you can use paper for a lot of things besides writing. If you draw stick-figure Egyptians with funny hats and hands parallel to the ground (cue Bangles music) but no words, are you literate? I think not - no different than drawing pictures of animals on cave walls.

    Lord Ash, maybe you can counter with a chunk of text out of Sherlock Holmes or Encyclopedia Brown. If your kids can reason from what's NOT there in addition to what IS there, they will be in fine shape...

  7. #7
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    Feb 2007
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    Sterling, VA
    I'm curious if "keep records" is equivalent to literacy. I'll have to think about it...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Seattle, WA
    Ahh, but this is one of those things that any student has to learn when taking standardized tests. The *right* answer is not always the "correct" answer.

    The "correct" answer is the answer that the test is asking you to provide. In this case, it's given to you in the reading, so you just have to answer what's provided to you.

    When it comes to standardized tests, you're just supposed to provide the correct answer and nothing more. If you find yourself thinking about the "right" answer, you're probably thinking too hard.

    Best your 5th graders learn this facet of testing now, before they start taking PSATs and SATs. Lesson 1 - if the instructions state, "use the reading to answer these questions," then the answer WILL be in the reading.

    (And yes, I agree that you're "right," but the "correct" answer is what was clearly being requested.)

  9. #9
    For what it's worth, I think both answers are reasonable, and it's just a bad question .

  10. #10
    Unfortunately the directions do not help; we simply say to read the passage aloud and then answer some questions... answers might be in the text or they might not be. In fact, the questions are divided into implicit and explicit (although this is not shared with the students.)

    The question actually reads "How do we know that the Egyptians were literate people - that is, that they could read and write?" The desired answer is "Papyrus was an important crop that they used to make paper." The answer doesn't actually say anything about records! My problem is that REALLY how we know is finding artifacts, including paper. Saying that we know because they made paper doesn't quite get to the point...

    As for the correct answer vs the right answer... there are a number of times I think this actually makes sense, and I actually teach a few days about this. Test taking strategies can actually be a lot of fun if you approach them the right way. But for something like this, where we specifically tell them that answers may not be in the passage... well, how do we then punish them for that sort of answer?

    If you all would like, I'll post one or two of the tests... let's see how you all do!



    Here we go; fourth grade reading level passage. Read it aloud, then answer the questions. Some answers might be in the reading; some may not. You may look back at the text at any time. Note: please remember that your answers would normally be given orally, so try not to write nice long essays and instead answer how you would aloud.

    EARLY RAILROADS

    Railroads began as rails laid down in a road. The rails were made of wood topped with iron. Horses pulled carts running along the rails. The rails were smoother than the roads so the horses could pull the carts faster than they could pull wagons over roads.

    Then Peter Cooper got a better idea. Why not develop a steam engine, or locomotive, to pull the carts? He believed a steam engine would be able to pull heavier loads faster than horses could.

    In 1830, Cooper built a steam-powered engine. It was small and weighed barely a ton. Because of its small size, it became known as the Tom Thumb, who was a tiny hero in old English stories. Cooper wanted to let people know about his new machine so he advertised a race between the Tom Thumb and a gray horse.

    On an August day that year, the locomotive and the gray horse lined up side by side. Cooper stood at the controls of the Tom Thumb. The race began. At first the horse pulled ahead. Then the train picked up speed and soon it was neck and neck with the horse. Then the Tom Thumb pulled ahead and a great cheer went up.

    But suddenly a safey value on the engine broke. The locomotive slowed and then fell behind the horse. Although Tom Thumb lost the race, steam engines would soon take over from horses.

    Over the next 20 years, railroads replaced canals as the easiest and cheapest way to travel. By 1840, the United States had about 3000 miles of railroad tracks. This was almost twice as much as Europe. A person could travel about 90 miles by railroad in just a few hours. Such a trip took a day and a half by horse-drawn wagon.


    1) What is the passage mainly about?



    2) Why did Peter Cooper build a steam engine?



    3) Why was the first steam engine called Tom Thumb?




    4) Why did Cooper set up the race between Tom Thumb and the horse?




    5) How do you know that people who watched the race wanted Tom Thumb to win?




    6) Even though the horse won the race, why could you say that Tom Thumb really won?




    7) Why did the horse win the race?




    8) By 1840, what country had more miles of railroad track?
    (I know that isn't properly written, but that is how it is in the test.)

  11. #11
    Answering that "archeologists have found writing" shows knowledge of Egyptian history. It does not show knowledge about how to gather information from a text. That is the fundamental problem. It is a great answer, but does not helpyou assess if the student has good skills in information gathering.

    If the only thing you wanted to measure was the ability to gather information from text you would need to use a text that was about something that was unfamiliar to the students. Then you would have a more independant measure of that particular skill. Otherwise, you never really know if you are measuring reading ability or general knowledge.

    On the other hand the whole thing is stupid and a waste of time. If you have spent a full year as their teacher, you already know far more about the reading ability of your students than any assessment will tell you.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by snowdenscold View Post
    I'm curious if "keep records" is equivalent to literacy. I'll have to think about it...

    I dont think it necessarily does (though it isnt a big assumption). I'm thinking specifically of the Incas and their knotted string. They used to keep records, (think inventory type numerical records) using knotted strings, but from what Ive read it hasn't been considered advanced enough a system to be considered literacy.

  13. #13

    Dissidence here

    So at first, I was with you Ash. Then when I realized the answer you were advocating, I wasn't so sure any more. After all, this is a reading comprehension test, not an LSAT.

    To kind of make MY point, let me give you the answers that match the "because we have found artifacts that prove it..."


    1) What is the passage mainly about?
    RIGHT answer: The birth of the steam engine
    CORRECT answer: The woes of live demos in early start-ups


    2) Why did Peter Cooper build a steam engine?
    RIGHT answer: He thought it would be better than horses
    CORRECT answer: To become rich

    3) Why was the first steam engine called Tom Thumb?
    RIGHT answer: Because the engine was small
    CORRECT answer: Everybody thought that The Cooper might be confused for some guy that works on shoes



    4) Why did Cooper set up the race between Tom Thumb and the horse?
    To make money (by advertising his invention)



    5) How do you know that people who watched the race wanted Tom Thumb to win?

    I wish I had a smart-aleck answer for this. The answer is obviously because a "great cheer went up when Tom Thumb overtook the horse,"


    6) Even though the horse won the race, why could you say that Tom Thumb really won?
    RIGHT answer: because steam engines eventually replaced horses on teh railroad
    CORRECT answer: did you read the passage? Tom Thumb didn't Win. MAYYYYYBBEEEE Cooper won when he got rich (see Question 2) off his invention -- well, after he let somebody else BUILD the thing, but Tom Thumb was probably scrapped that week to see why the stupid valve failed.

    7) Why did the horse win the race?
    Because of a broken valve
    Because Cooper didn't outsource his engineering



    8) By 1840, what country had more miles of railroad track?
    (I know that isn't properly written, but that is how it is in the test.)


    So while the passage did not compare individual countries, I can deduce that if America had more track than all of Europe, than transitive says it has more track than any European country.

    HOWEVER, that ignores the fact that there are 4 other populated continents, and that none of their railroad track was discussed, so the correct answer is that I don't have enough information to answer properly. But obviously, the RIGHT answer is the Good ol' US of A.

  14. #14
    Okay, here is your reading level, taking into account the "better" of each of your answers....

    Instructional 4. You would be kept at a 4th grade reading level. Hopefully you would advance to fifth grade by the end of the year.

    I won't tell you which you got right and which you got wrong. Suffice it to say that I fought pretty hard for what is considered a "wrong" answer to make sure it was considered right. I lost.

    As for reading comp... ehhh. We try to teach way beyond; students are explicitly taught about making text-to-self connections, text-to-text connections, text-to-world connections, and a host of other things. We expect this in SOME of the questions; why not allow it in all? For the papyrus example, it defied all of this and simply logically did not prove correct.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Ash View Post
    As for reading comp... ehhh. We try to teach way beyond; students are explicitly taught about making text-to-self connections, text-to-text connections, text-to-world connections, and a host of other things. We expect this in SOME of the questions; why not allow it in all? For the papyrus example, it defied all of this and simply logically did not prove correct.

    Not arging this at all - your methodology is sound. I am saying that if students can answer the question based on their general knowledge, then using the assessment to measure their ability to gather information from text is compromised. You then can't be sure if the student answered correctly based on his/her general knowledge or based on his reading ability.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Tennessee
    We see this a lot in our public school's textbooks, esp. at the elementary grade level. Many times the answer simply isn't in the text at all! And when an answer is, but requires inference, it is often riddled with logical fallacies.

    I am reminded of Bertrand Russell's witty little book, The Good Citizen's Alphabet, in which P is for pedant, "one who likes his statements to be true."

    As Bill Clinton used to say, "I feel your pain."

  17. #17
    If the text literally (no pun intended) says that the Egyptians used papyrus to "make paper and keep records," then there is no way to determine whether they were literate or not solely from the information provided. Maybe they used the papyrus to make paper and also used it independently to keep records.

  18. #18

    Wink

    I know I am older than many here, but I need to point out that records were made of vinyl, not paper. Perhaps they used the papyrus for sheet music.

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