Grade 8 Science MCA-III Item Sampler Teacher Guide

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Grade 8Science MCA-III Item SamplerTeacher GuideUpdated September 2, 2016

Purpose of the Item SamplersItem Samplers are provided to help teachers and students become familiar with the format andtype of content included in the MCAs. Item Samplers contain fewer items than an actual fulllength test and are aligned to the Minnesota Academic Standards. They are not suitable forpredicting how students will perform on the MCAs.For more information on the proportions of items aligned to each standard and clarifications onhow each standard will be assessed, see the MCA-III Test Specifications for Science (MDE Districts, Schools and Educators Statewide Testing Test Specifications).The Item Samplers and other testing resources, like the Online MCA Tutorials, can be found onthe Pearson Access Next site ( Design and Navigation······The screen is split vertically, with the scene on the left and questions on the right.Students are required to answer all questions in a section before they can proceed to thenext section.A review screen at the end of a section reminds students about unanswered questions andquestions they marked for review, and it provides an opportunity to review any questions inthat section.Text-to-speech (TTS) is available on all items. Accommodated text is available for graphicsand tables, but needs to be part of the student’s IEP or EL designationOnline tools include a highlighter, eliminate choice options, line reader, answer optionmasking, magnifier, notepad, screen contrast, and a calculator if needed.All items in the Item Samplers are worth one point.

Score ReportUpon completion of the Item Samplers, a Score Report is displayed. This report can be printed.Teacher GuideThis guide includes the answer keys for all items in the sampler, along with rationales for theanswer options. When student performance data is available for an item, the percentages ofstudents answering correctly and incorrectly are shown. Item benchmark alignment and Depthof Knowledge (DOK) level are also provided for each item.DOK refers to the cognitive demand associated with an item. The level of cognitive demandfocuses on the type and level of thinking and reasoning required of the student on a particularitem. MCA-III levels of cognitive complexity are based on Norman L. Webb’s Depth ofKnowledge1 levels. Although certain verbs, such as “recall,” “classify” or “reason,” are commonlyassociated with specific cognitive levels, Webb’s DOK levels are not determined by the verbsthat describe them, but rather the contexts in which the verbs are used and the depth of thinkingrequired.DOK 1 (recall) items require the recall of information such as a fact, definition, term or simplescience process or procedure.1Webb, N. L. Alignment of science and mathematics standards and assessments in four states (ResearchMonograph No. 18). Madison: University of Wisconsin – Madison, National Institute for Science Education, 1999.

DOK 2 (skill/concept) items call for the engagement of some mental processing beyond ahabitual response, with students required to make some decisions as to how to approach aproblem or activity.DOK 3 (strategic thinking) items require students to reason, plan or use evidence to solve aproblem.The MCA-III Science Test Specifications give a more detailed explanation of DOK levels used inthe MCA-III assessments.If you have further questions concerning the MCA Science Assessments please contact thefollowing MDE staff:Dawn Cameron,, 651-582-8551Jim Wood,, 651-582-8541

Section 1Scenario: Lake SuperiorQuestion 1Benchmark: the role of weathering, erosion, and glacial activity in shaping Minnesota'scurrent landscape.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAFossils can occur withoutglaciers.13%BWind erosion is not due toglaciers.8%CChemical weathering can occurwithout glaciers.28%Striations are a direct result ofglaciers moving over exposedrock.51%Correct: D

Question 2Benchmark: changes in wind direction, temperature, humidity and air pressure and relatethem to fronts and pressure systems.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Student selects Fairweather and Cirrus cloudsThe student understands thathigh pressure systems areassociated with cirrus cloudsand fair weather.20%Incorrect:All other responsesStrong winds, stratus clouds,and heavy rains are notassociated with an establishedhigh pressure system.80%

Question 3Benchmark: and refine a variety of scientific questions and match them with appropriatemethods of investigation, such as field studies, controlled experiments, reviews ofexisting work and development of models.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAOnly the type of pollutant wasmeasured. This gives noinformation about the source.19%Correct: BOnly the type of pollutant wasmeasured.46%COnly the type of pollutant wasmeasured. This gives noinformation about the length oftime the pollutants have beenpresent.9%DOnly the type of pollutant wasmeasured. This gives noinformation about the effect onthe lake ecosystem.25%

Question 4Benchmark: ways that human activities can change the populations and communities inan ecosystem.DOK: 2Answer optionRationaleCorrect:From left to right:decreases, decreases,increases.If people use less energy, theamount of coal burned toproduce electricity woulddecrease, which would result ina decrease in the amount ofmercury released. Lessmercury in the environment willimprove the condition of thelake.Incorrect:All other responsesThe student does notunderstand the relationshipbetween burning coal and therelease of mercury and thatmercury is a source of pollution.Percent of studentresponses72%28%

Scenario: Water Bottle RocketsQuestion 5Benchmark: evidence of physical changes, including changing phase or shape, anddissolving in other materials.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAA chemical change can producegases, temperature change,formation of a solid, or changesin color. Dissolving is not achemical change.No data availableBThe color of the water does notchange during the physicalchange of dissolving air in water.No data availableCThe molecular composition of thewater does not change during thephysical change of dissolving theair.No data availableCorrect: DA physical change occurs when asubstance dissolves.No data available

Question 6Benchmark: the conversion of units within the International System of Units (SI, ormetric) and estimate the magnitude of common objects and quantities using metric units.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:0.65Using the conversion factor1000 milliliters 1 liter, solve Xliters 650 ml/1000 ml.No data availableIncorrect:All other responsesThe student does not convertmilliliters to liters correctly.No data available

Question 7Benchmark: density, dissolving, compression, diffusion and thermal expansion using theparticle model of matter.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Increases, decreasesThe student understands that inthe particle model of matter asthe pressure increases, thedistance between particlesdecreases.No data availableIncorrect:All other combinations ofresponsesThe student does notunderstand the relationshipbetween pressure and particlespacing.No data available

Question 8Benchmark: the forces acting on an object and describe how the sum of the forces affectsthe motion of the object. For example: Forces acting on a book on a table or a car onthe road.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:All 3 arrows pointing down.The student understands thatthe force of gravity acts to pullan object towards the Earth’ssurface.No data availableIncorrect:All other responsesThe student thinks the force ofgravity acts to pull an object invarious directions or in a singledirection not towards Earth’ssurface.No data available

Question 9Benchmark: and calculate the speed of an object that is traveling in a straight line.DOK 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect: AThe rocket would have a speedof 20 meters/5 seconds or 4m/s.No data availableBThis answer was obtained bystudents if they subtract the timefrom the distance.No data availableCThis answer was obtained bystudents if they add the time andthe distance.No data availableDThis answer was obtained bystudents if they multiply the timewith the distance.No data available

Question 10Benchmark: a scientific conclusion from an investigation, clearly distinguishing betweenresults (evidence) and conclusions (explanation).DOK: 3Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAAt the lower ranges of watervolume, the height the rocket fliesincreases.No data availableBAs the water volume increases,the height the rocket fliescontinues to change.No data availableCorrect: CAt the lower ranges of watervolume, the rocket increases inheight. At the higher ranges ofvolume, the height decreases.No data availableDThis is opposite of the resultsfrom performing the simulation.No data available

Question 11Benchmark: and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, measurements, graphs andmathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural and designed systems inEarth and physical science contexts.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:The student plots the points100,4.3; 200,4.8; 300,5.1;400,5.3; 500,5.4.The student correctly runs thesimulation with the variablesgiven and plots the results.No data availableIncorrect:All other responsesThe student does not plot thedata correctly and/or run thesimulation with the correctvariables selected.No data available

Question 12Benchmark: and conduct a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis about a relationshipbetween two variables, ensuring that one variable is systematically manipulated, theother is measured and recorded, and any other variables are kept the same(controlled). For example: The effect of various factors on the production of carbondioxide by plants.DOK: 3Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Any combination of trialswhere only the amount ofwater is changed in all 3trialsThe student understands that ina controlled experiment, only 1variable should be changed. Inthis simulation, the student canselect any size water bottle andpressure and vary only theamount of water for each trial.No data availableIncorrect:All other responsesThe student does not set up acontrolled experiment correctly,changing only the amount ofwater in each trial or runs fewerthan 3 trials.No data available

Section 2Scenario: Pea Plant ExperimentQuestion 13Benchmark: that producers use the energy from sunlight to make sugars from carbondioxide and water through a process called photosynthesis. This food can be usedimmediately, stored for later use, or used by other organisms.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAWhile plants use light energy, theydo not use soil in the process ofphotosynthesis.22%BWhile water is used duringphotosynthesis, plants produceoxygen, not use it to make sugars.19%CWhile plants do take in carbondioxide, they do not use soil in theprocess of photosynthesis.6%Correct: DPlants take in water and carbondioxide to produce sugars duringphotosynthesis.53%

Question 14Benchmark: and use appropriate safety procedures, tools, measurements, graphs andmathematical analyses to describe and investigate natural and designed systems ina life science context.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAThe values on the circle graph do notmatch the data in the table.5%BLine graphs are used to track changesover a short or long period of time.14%A circle graph can be used to conveyproportional data.76%Line graphs are used to track changesover a short or long period of time. Theaxis’s do not convey the appropriateinformation.5%Correct: CD

Question 15Benchmark: that variation exists in every population and describe how a variation canhelp or hinder an organism’s ability to survive.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:The student must select one of thefollowing pairs: large amount ofgenetic diversity, increased chance ofspecies survival; small number oforganisms, decreased chance ofspecies survival; negative change inenvironment, decreased chance ofspecies survivalIncorrect:All other responsesThe student understands howgenetic diversity, the number oforganisms, or changes in theenvironment factors might affectthe chance of survival for aspecies.78%The student does notunderstand the relationshipbetween certain factors and thechance of survival for a species.22%

Question 16Benchmark: and conduct a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis about a relationshipbetween two variables, ensuring that one variable is systematically manipulated, theother is measured and recorded, and any other variables are kept the same(controlled). For example: The effect of various factors on the production of carbondioxide by plants.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Variable(s) Changed: Amount ofwaterVariable(s) Measured: Height ofplantVariable(s) Kept the Same: Size ofcontainer and Amount of lightThe student understands that inthis controlled experiment, only theamount of water was changed, andthe height of the plant wasmeasured. All other variables werekept the same.50%Incorrect:All other responsesThe student does not understandwhich variables are changed,measured or kept the same in thiscontrolled experiment.50%

Scenario: SatellitesQuestion 17Benchmark: how gravity and inertia keep most objects in the solar system in regular andpredictable motion.DOK 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Gravity, InertiaThe student understands thetwo properties that keep objectsin orbit are gravity and inertia.31%Incorrect:All other responsesWhile objects in orbit have adensity and speed andexperience some friction, theseproperties are not what keepthem in orbit.69%

Question 18Benchmark: the changes of energy forms, including thermal, electrical, chemical,mechanical or others as energy is used in devices. For example: A bicycle, lightbulbor automobile.

DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent ofstudentresponsesCorrect:Energy stored in fuel cells: chemicalEnergy of moving rocket: mechanicalEnergy released into atmosphere:heatThe student understands the 3energy types that occur when arocket is launched. Chemical energyis stored in fuel cells, the energy ofmotion is a form of mechanicalenergy, and heat is released into theatmosphere.38%Incorrect:All other responsesThe student incorrectly matches theenergy types that occur when arocket is launched.62%

Question 19Benchmark: wave properties of light to explain reflection, refraction and the color spectrum.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesAIn a white object, all wavelengths of lightare reflected into the eye, but what causesus to perceive objects as different colors isthat only certain wavelengths are reflectedfrom the object into our eyes.11%BRefraction does occur to some extentwhen the light hits an object, but it is thereflecting light that makes the objectsappear different colors.8%Correct: CPeople perceive color by wavelengths oflight that are reflected off the object.67%Some wavelengths of light are refractedand some are absorbed, but it is thereflected light that makes an object appeara particular color.14%D

Question 20Benchmark: maps, satellite images and other data sets to describe patterns and makepredictions about local and global systems in Earth science contexts. For example:Use data or satellite images to identify locations of earthquakes and volcanoes,ocean surface temperatures, or weather patterns.DOK: 3Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Bar for 1980 goes to 12Bar for 2000 goes to 13Bar for 2020 goes to 14The student understands therelationship between the added volumeof water in the lake from the ice meltand the how the trend continues at aconstant rate.21%Incorrect:All other responsesThe student does not graph theinformation correctly or misunderstandshow the melting ice increases the lakewater volume.79%

Question 21Benchmark: a common engineered system and evaluate its impact on the daily life ofhumans. For example: Refrigeration, cell phone or automobile.DOK: 2Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesCorrect:Books and NewspapersThe student correctly choosesthe 2 items for which theInternet can provide the sameservice for humans.81%Incorrect:All other responsesThe student incorrectly choosesonly 1 item or selects more than2 items.19%

Question 22Benchmark: how the vibration of particles in air and other materials results in the transferof energy through sound waves.DOK: 1Answer optionRationalePercent of studentresponsesALight is also a wave and canmove through outer space, butsound does not rely on light.7%BSound waves can travel in theair, but there is no air outside ofthe atmosphere.5%Correct: CThe vibration of particles is whatresults in the transfer of energythrough sound waves.60%DSound waves are slower thansome other types of waves, butsound does not travel at all inouter space.28%

Question 23Benchmark: the trade-offs in using manufactured products in terms of features,performance, durability and cost.DOK: 2Answer optionRationaleCorrect:Similar: Shows whichdirection is northDifferent: Cost, Number offunctions, Includes a mapThe student understands that acompass has a limited butuseful purpose in displayingdirection. A GPS device is anengineered device that inaddition to showing direction,performs many more functionsthan a compass but costs moremoney.Incorrect:All other responsesThe student does notunderstand the similarities anddifferences between a compassand a GPS device.Percent of studentresponses71%29%

The MCA-III Science Test Specifications give a more detailed explanation of DOK levels used in the MCA-III assessments. If you have further questions concerning the MCA Science Assessments please contact the following MDE staff: Dawn Cameron,, 651-582-8551 Jim Wood,, 651-582-8541 . dawn.cameron .

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