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The Folly of ILEARN: 5th Grade

The following ILEARN questions were taken from the Indiana Department of Education's Repository Site. They are from the 5th grade English Language Arts evaluation portion of ILEARN. These are questions asked to 10-year-olds & 11-year-olds. To return to the main ILEARN page, click here.

5th Grade: 2018-2019 - Question 5
 

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The main idea of this passage is that sewing quilts by hand makes them special. ILEARN claims two sentences don’t support that idea, which clearly means they’re unrelated, as no sentences provide direct contradiction. There are at least three sentences that don’t support the idea.

 

When it gets cold at night, you might reach for a quilt to keep you warm.

 

Some people like blankets better than quilts.

 

Sometimes, they had to quit early because they ran out of candles.

 

Which two does ILEARN count as correct? Who knows.

 

5th Grade: 2019-2020 - Questions 2 & 4
 

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If this question were a simple age-appropriate vocabulary question, it wouldn’t be bad. Just remove “…in paragraph 12” and D is obviously the correct answer. But it’s not used here as an age-appropriate vocabulary question. No, it’s used to gauge reading comprehension, asking students to discern meaning through the context of usage. It fails miserably.

 

Yes, if a student simply read paragraph 12, they might determine that “published” means “printed as a book to buy.” But if they read the entire story, the first piece of information they came across, way back in paragraphs 1-4, is that L. Frank Baum didn’t even come up with the name “Oz” until some point in 1900. Hence, according to the passage, the book was both “written by the author” and “printed as a book to buy” in 1900.

 

If you ask a student to determine a word’s meaning based on something that happened, but two things happened and they’re both included as possible answers, it’s grossly unfair to penalize them for your poor question writing.

 

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This question initially seems to have two correct answers, yet there are two others that are not only arguably correct, but arguably more correct than their obvious-seeming counterparts. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of the following four answers are counted as correct by ILEARN.

 

Baum became the manager of opera houses.

Considering it allowed him to write (and star in) a successful play, becoming a manager of opera houses is probably more directly linked to Baum becoming an author than the three following answers.

 

Baum spent time making up tales for his sons.

This feels like one of the two answers ILEARN wants students to pick, but the text tells us that Baum was already an author by the time he had children. It would be a stronger option if the question ended with ‘…an author of children’s books?’ Even then, many people enjoy making up stories for their kids without choosing to become an author.

 

Baum grew up living on a country estate.

The text tells us Baum spent the majority of his time at the country estate due to health issues, and heavily insinuates that the isolation led to his love of reading and writing stories. That certainly seems influential on his choice to become an author.

 

Baum told stories to the children who visited his store.

This feels like the other answer ILEARN wants students to pick, but again, he was already an author at this point. Additionally, the text seems to indicate that he becomes an author of children’s books a full seven years after he had closed his store in South Dakota and moved all the way back to Illinois, so the link would be a bit tenuous.

 

Lastly, if we want to be truly accurate, there can only be one answer to the question, not two, and it’s the one about living on the country estate. Once someone begins writing, they are an author, whether they are published or not. Living on the country estate is the only thing that occurred before Baum became an author. 

 

5th Grade: 2019-2020 - Question 9
 

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I have no idea what to make of this. As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time fishing and hiking around creeks and rivers in the Midwest, the phrase “dance over the rocks” brings to mind words like bubbling, gurgling, swirling and eddying. None of those are in any way present in the answers presented. Let’s take a quick look at what it would take for the author of this question to think any of these answer options are correct.

 

A. The water floods into the fields.

Maybe they once saw a picture of a river overrunning a rocky bank into a field?

 

B. The water forms pools in the hollows.

I honestly don’t know how they could think this one is correct.

 

C. The water finds the shortest route to the sea.

Maybe they saw a version of A that showed water from the river making it to the sea?

 

D. The water flows quickly through the mountains.

Maybe they remembered mountains are made out of rock and have never seen a river anywhere else?

 

Seriously, whatever answer is supposed to be correct, it feels like it had to be written by someone with little to no experience around nature.

5th Grade: 2022-2023 - Question 2
 

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This is a bad question. First, none of the details support the conclusion that an increasing number of people come to Hyder, Alaska. The text simply doesn’t say that. It does say that at some point in the past, the number of visitors grew and mentions that the higher number of visitors could not be accommodated by the old, short platform. But for all we know, the number of visitors peaked a decade ago and has been slowly, but steadily declining. Admittedly, I don’t think most 10-year-olds would apply this level of nuance, but it’s still bothersome to see the adults writing these questions either not care or not have the capacity to get them right.

 

Ok, let’s attempt answering the question as ILEARN likely intended it. Whether now or in the past, growth in the number of visitors is supported by the second detail: “They didn’t all fit on the platform, so they wandered everywhere.” Granted, it requires additional details from the text to make sense, but it seems a likely correct answer.

 

But students have to select two details. The third and fourth options both seem obviously wrong, but the first and fifth are essentially two sides of the same coin. The park used to have a small platform, now it has a large platform. Both of those, with additional context, seem to support the idea that the number of visitors grew. Neither seems particularly inferior to the other. How a student is supposed to pick between them is beyond me.

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