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The Folly of ILEARN: 7th Grade

The following ILEARN questions were taken from the Indiana Department of Education's Repository Site. They are from the 7th grade English Language Arts evaluation portion of ILEARN. These are questions asked to 12-year-olds & 13-year-olds. To return to the main ILEARN page, click here.

7th Grade: 2019-2020 - Questions 1 & 3
 

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It’s difficult to guess whether ILEARN considers B or D the correct answer here. Typically, a text’s first paragraph summarizes what the reader should take away from it. Here, that’s clearly that Antarctica is an unforgiving place and it takes significant efforts to maintain a human presence there. From that, B initially seems the best choice.

 

Yet, the majority of the text deals with conservation and minimizing waste, topics not mentioned at all in B. This provides a strong argument for D being correct. Except D mentions nothing of Antarctica’s harshness. Omitting the reason why people must conduct themselves differently on Antarctica leaves out a vital piece of information.

 

If I were one of the 12-year-olds facing this question, picking the correct answer would feel like a coin toss.

 

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ILEARN almost certainly considers either A or B to be the correct answer here, but neither really works.

 

Regarding A, the text provides no evidence that they amount of waste left behind by McMurdo Station has decreased. It does mention a zero tolerance for leaving waste behind, but says nothing to indicate that the station ever had a different policy.

 

Yet B isn’t a great answer either. The text’s second mention of McMurdo Station reducing its footprint is immediately followed by, “It starts with energy.” But then the text goes on to talk about adjusting how energy is generated for the station, as opposed to adjusting the amount used. Mention is made of using waste heat from the generators to warm buildings, which definitely would impact usage, but I don’t think it follows that that adjustment was made “to meet needs.”

 

This question really highlights one of the most frustrating aspects of reviewing ILEARN. It would be very, very easy to make a very small change to either A or B that would make one of them correct.

 

7th Grade: 2021-2022 - Question 5
 

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This question asks for two answers, yet three are correct. 

 

The details help support the idea that the coelacanth’s features can help scientists learn about prehistoric life forms.

 

The details help support the understanding that the unique prehistoric features tie the coelacanth to other ancient life forms.

 

The details help support the idea that other living vertebrates do not have the same features that are found in the coelacanth.

 

All three of those are accurate. So either ILEARN is attempting to trip students up by providing more than the requested number of correct answers, or it is penalizing students for selecting a correct answer that it mistakenly considers incorrect.

 

7th Grade: 2022-2023 - Question 7
 

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This question has two very viable answers, depending on which portion of the text is considered.

 

Early in the text, the dialog between Peter and Mattie provides details about how reporters can use their position to gain information. Assuming that Peter’s statements are correct, that early dialog provides “facts as background information.”

 

Near the end of the text, the dialog between Peter and Rebecca shows the difficulty that the boys are having in getting adults to take their concerns seriously. Considering that the entire excerpt is about that effort to gain an adult ally, it seems safe to say the author included that dialog “to better explain the central conflict.”

 

Given that the question bolds the words “most likely,” it feels like ILEARN recognizes that there are multiple correct answers and is tasking students with identifying which one is most correct. I’m not sure how they would go about in doing so.

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