My second grader brought a test home from school, some sort of comprehension test, reading and vocabulary. I noticed she got a couple of questions wrong, so I wanted to look them over to see what exactly she was not comprehending, not understanding. What follows is the actual conversation I had with my 8-year-old regarding a question she got "wrong":
1. Which one might be a hazard if found on a road?
A. a branch that has fallen
B. a frog hopping across the road
C. a small rock
My daughter chose B. a frog hopping across the road.
"Looks like this answer is marked wrong."
"I know! And I don't know why! A frog hopping across the road is a hazard! You would swerve away to avoid hitting it right? And maybe hit another car? And if you didn't swerve it would be a really big hazard for the frog!"
"Yeah, you're right. I'm thinking they are asking if it's a hazard from the driver's perspective not the frog's."
"Well, it doesn't say that does it? Anyway I'm too little to drive so what would I know about the driver's perspective? I was thinking how it felt to be the frog."
"You are right about that, but even so, I think the answer for this question is the branch."
"I thought about the branch, but how big is it? It doesn't say, and the size of a branch can be really little, or really big. If it's little, a car could just roll right over it right? That wouldn't be a hazard."
"You're right about that too. I don't know. Maybe the rock? But it does say small rock..."
"I know! A SMALL rock! At first I thought for sure that wasn't the answer, but then can't something small poke a hole in the tire if it's sharp? So couldn't that be a hazard too?"
At this point my eighth grade son, who is all knowing because he has been walking around on the planet for 14 whole years steps in.
"Let me see that. I've taken a million of these tests. I know exactly what these guys are looking for. Hmm. Yeah, I would say the frog is the hazard too, although depending on the size of the branch... hey wait, the question says, "might be a hazard" MIGHT! That means it really could be any of them. A rock, a branch and a frog all MIGHT be a hazard. There should be an "all of the above" for this one. What a stupid question. These guys don't know what they're talking about. She should have gotten this right."
The "hazard" as I see it, is putting too much stock in tests that claim to assess a kid's comprehension but are not clear on the questions. Sometimes a kid is actually a sharper, more critical thinker than the galoots who make a living writing the tests.
My 8-year-old girl ended up happy though. It's not often her demigod older brother sides with her on a question of academics. She wasn't stupid... it was those guys who wrote the test.