School Improvement in Maryland

Evolution of an Item

Social Studies

  

Introduction

The key for developing effective Selected Response and Constructed Response items for the 1998 Government Prototype Assessment was revision, revision, and more revision. Language was repeatedly changed to focus each item on the appropriate Core Learning Goal Indicator or to clarify its meaning.

Here are four examples of the evolutionary writing/editing process.

Sample 1

1.1.1 The student will analyze historic documents to determine the basic principles of United States government and apply them to real-world situations.

August/September

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

  1. Identify those clauses and arguments that might be used by the National Rifle Association to work against gun control.
  2. Identify those clauses and arguments that might be used by Sarah Brady and those working for gun control.
  3. Which side of the issue would cartoonist Eugene Payne of the Charlotte Observer support? Use specific examples from the cartoon to support your answer.

October/November

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

  1. Identify the phrases from the Second Amendment above and other arguments that might be used to protest gun control.
  2. Identify the phrases from the Second Amendment above and other arguments that might be used to support gun control.
  3. Which side of the issue would the author of the cartoon below support? Use specific examples from the cartoon to support your answer.

0

Edits

The directions in Step 2 were made more specific, and the reference to Sarah Brady was removed because it assumed students had certain prior knowledge. Students with the necessary knowledge and skills might be thrown off because they did not know Sarah Brady. The cartoon was moved to follow Step 3 because it was not needed until then. “Clauses” was changed to “phrases” so as not to confuse students with terminology. The name of the cartoonist and newspaper were removed from Step 3 because it added unnecessary reading.

Sample 2

1.1.2 The student will evaluate how the principles of government assist or impede the functioning of government.

August 1998

Use the graph below to answer Numbers __ and __.

This data illustrates which possible weakness of the Electoral College?

  1. The winner of the popular vote is not always the winner of the electoral vote.
  2. Each state has the same number of electoral votes.
  3. It is necessary to have a majority of the popular vote to become President.
  4. Third party candidates have little chance of winning a presidential election.

Who became President in 1876?

  1. Samuel Tilden
  2. Rutherford B. Hayes
  3. The U.S. House of Representatives had to choose the President.
  4. Answer cannot be determined from the graph.

Edits

In the first item only choice C identified a weakness. Choice D did not necessarily relate to the Electoral College. All answer choices must relate to the Electoral College, or the stem needed to be changed. To call choice A a weakness of the Electoral College was subjective. The stem was awkward; data is a plural word. The question word should be the first word in the stem whenever possible.

The second item did not work because it could be answered without having the skills being measured. Students could answer the item correctly simply by knowing Hayes was a former president. The answer choices were not parallel. Choice D was a “none of the above” type answer, which are not to be used.

September 1998

Look at the graph below.

Who became President in 1876?

  1. The candidate with the majority of the popular vote.
  2. The candidate with the majority of the electoral vote.
  3. The candidate selected by the U.S. House of Representatives.
  4. The candidate who won a run-off election.

Edits

The answer choices were rewritten to make them more parallel. However, students could still answer the item correctly by knowing that Hayes was a past president.

October 1998

Look at the graph below.

Presidential Election Results

Who will become President?
  1. The candidate with the majority of the popular vote.
  2. The candidate with the majority of the electoral vote.
  3. The candidate who is selected by the U.S. House of Representatives
  4. The candidate who wins a run-off election.

Edits

Finally, students could only get this item correct if they understood how the Electoral College works.

Sample 3

1.1.4 The student will explain roles and analyze strategies individuals or groups may use to initiate change in governmental policy and institutions.

August 1998

Why is a third-party candidate unlikely to be elected President of the United States?

  1. Third parties can only run write-in candidates for offices.
  2. Third parties are illegal and unrecognized in many states.
  3. Third parties represent only wealthy citizens and their interests.
  4. Third parties lack financial resources and national recognition. *

Edits

As written, this item did not address the indicator. It focused on a generalization about third parties rather than on the role of third parties as a way to initiate change in government. This item, as originally written, could have been used to measure Indicator 1.1.2

September 1998

Which of these best describes the role of third parties?

  1. They discourage supporters from voting for a particular candidate if their candidate withdraws from the race.
  2. They represent the views of a small portion of voters and lobby legislators on their behalf.
  3. They allow former Presidents to run for the office for a third term.
  4. They support candidates whose positions on issues differ greatly from the positions of the two main parties. *

Edits

This rewritten item was better focused on Indicator 1.1.4

October 1998

Which of these best describes the role of third parties?

  1. They discourage supporters from voting for a particular candidate if their candidate withdraws from the race.
  2. They represent the views of a small portion of voters and lobby legislators on behalf of those voters.
  3. They allow former presidents to run for office for a third term.
  4. They support candidates whose positions on issues differ from the positions of the two main parties. *

Edits

During editing, choice B was rewritten to make the statement more clear.

Sample 4

4.1.3 The student will examine regulatory agencies and their social, economic, and political impact on the country, a region, or on/within a state.

August 1998

In President Reagan's First Inaugural Address he said,

“Now, so there will be no misunderstandings, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work - work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it...”

With which of the following statements would President Reagan most likely agree?

  1. Industry should be deregulated by government. *
  2. The government should be abolished.
  3. The government should provide health care for citizens.
  4. Businesses should be controlled by the government.

Edits

Choice B was not realistic, according to the first line of the quote.

September 1998

Use the following quote from President Reagan's First Inaugural Address to answer Number __.

“Now, so there will be no misunderstandings, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work - work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it...”

With which of these statements would President Reagan most likely agree?

  1. Many government regulations need to be removed to allow industries to grow.
  2. Federal government should provide health care for all working citizens.
  3. Employment opportunities need to be controlled by the federal government.
  4. State and local governments should give more power to the federal government.

Edits

All incorrect responses contained “federal government” which made the correct response seem different.

October 1998

Edits

The item was deleted because it really did not measure the indicator. It focused on a President's beliefs about the role of government rather than on the role of regulatory agencies.