Study Guide

Field 017: U.S. History/Oklahoma History/
Government/Economics 
Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

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Test Directions for the Constructed-Response Assignment

This section of the test consists of one constructed-response assignment. You are to prepare a written response of approximately 300–600 words on the assigned topic. You should use your time to plan, write, review, and edit your response to the assignment.

Read the assignment carefully before you begin to write. Think about how you will organize your response.

As a whole, your response must demonstrate an understanding of the knowledge and skills of the field. In your response to the assignment, you are expected to demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the content area through your ability to apply your knowledge and skills rather than merely to recite factual information.

Your response to the assignment will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

 start bold PURPOSE: end bold  the extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
 start bold SUBJECT MATTER KNOWLEDGE: end bold  accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
 start bold SUPPORT: end bold  quality and relevance of supporting details
 start bold RATIONALE: end bold  soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

The constructed-response assignment is intended to assess subject matter knowledge and skills, not writing ability. However, your response must be communicated clearly enough to permit valid judgment of the scoring criteria. Your response should be written for an audience of educators in this field. The final version of your response should conform to the conventions of edited American English. Your written response must be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work.

Be sure to write about the assigned topic. You may not use any reference materials during the test. Remember to review what you have written and make any changes you think will improve your response.

Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

subarea roman numeral 1 U S and Oklahoma History

 start bold Read the information below; then complete the exercise that follows. end bold 

In the spring of 1861, longstanding differences between the Northern and Southern sections of the United States erupted in a civil war that would cause widespread damage, claim over 600,000 lives, and transform U S society.

Using your knowledge of U S history, write an essay in which you:

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

 start bold Please note: The sample response provided below is for review purposes only and should not be used in a response on an operational exam. Use of the exact words and phrases presented in this sample response will result in a score of "U" (Unscorable) due to lack of original work. end bold 

The northern and southern sections of the United States had differed in significant ways since the colonial era. These differences became even greater in the six decades prior to the Civil War. One factor that contributed to this development was the much larger proportion of European immigrants who settled in the northern states, where their presence was a major reason why the population of the North grew at a faster rate than the population of the South during the period. In a government where population determined the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives and the composition of the Electoral College, this disparity had disturbing implications for southern political leaders. They recognized that it would only be a matter of time before the North dominated the lower house of Congress and began electing presidents who represented northern political and economic interests. These concerns provided an important context for their response to mounting intersectional tensions after mid-century. As northern political majorities gradually increased, southern political leaders feared that northern politicians might enact laws that prohibited slavery or otherwise transformed southern society. At the very least, northern politicians would not permit the expansion of slavery into the territories. This meant that as new free states entered the Union, the political position of the South would become all the more tenuous.

Another major difference between the two sections was that the North had a much more industrialized economy than the South. During the first half of the nineteenth century, as factory production came to play an ever more prominent role in the northern economy, the South remained a largely agricultural society that was heavily dependent on the sale of cash crops in foreign markets. These differences led to bitter intersectional disagreements about the role of the national government in the economy. The best example was the tariff. Where northern manufacturers wanted high tariffs to protect their struggling, infant enterprises from foreign competition, southern planters strongly opposed such measures. In addition to increasing the prices southerners paid for manufactured goods, high tariffs could conceivably initiate a trade war that might prompt foreign customers to look elsewhere for the cotton, tobacco, rice, and other goods that they purchased from southern agricultural producers. Conflict over the issue came to a head during the "nullification crisis" of the early 1830s, when South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union if Congress did not repeal the so-called "tariff of abominations." Although leading politicians from the two sections managed to defuse the tariff debate in later decades, memories of the earlier struggle lingered and contributed to the growing animosities between the North and the South.

The greatest and most troubling of the differences between the two sections was slavery. The institution had never taken firm root in the North, and where northern states gradually abolished slavery in the period following the American Revolution, human bondage remained a central feature of southern society. In the two decades before the Civil War, intersectional conflict over slavery centered increasingly on the question of whether southern planters should be allowed to carry their slaves into the western territories. Most northerners believed they should not, and as more and more of them came to embrace the slogan of "free soil, free labor, free men," southern political leaders viewed the campaign against slavery in the territories as an assault on southern rights that would ultimately lead to the complete abolition of slavery. Just how strongly people from both sections felt about the issue can be seen in the disputes surrounding the Mexican War, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott decision. Disagreement over the matter also split the Democratic party in 1860, ensuring the election of Abraham Lincoln. Once in the White House, Lincoln knew that preventing slavery in the territories was the one issue on which he could never compromise if he was to retain the support of the northern Republicans who had elected him. Southern leaders knew this as well. Soon after Lincoln's election, they began organizing state secession conventions throughout the region. From there, it was a short step to the firing on Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War.

Rationale for the Sample Strong Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The response fulfills the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by describing three differences between the Northern and Southern sections of the United States between 1800 and 1860 (i.e., population size, the economy, and the issue of slavery) and by analyzing how each of the differences identified contributed to the intersectional tensions that resulted in the Civil War. This response reflects a substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge. The writer uses professional language, terminology, and examples (i.e., the Electoral College, tariff of abominations, nullification crisis, etc.) throughout the response. This response demonstrates sound supporting evidence complete with high-quality, relevant examples. For instance, the writer clearly has a sense of time and place and uses examples such as "the Mexican War, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott decision" in order to analyze how the issue of slavery deeply divided the Northern and Southern sections of the United States. Adding specific examples to the first identified difference (i.e., population size) would have made this response even stronger. For instance, the writer could have identified where European immigrants came from and why they settled in the North and not the South. However, the writer does show a solid understanding of the importance of population size in relation to the "composition of the Electoral College." In addition, the writer provides an ably reasoned analysis of why each of the three identified differences contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. Overall, the response reflects a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

The United States Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865 and it cost the United States over 600,000 lives. Between 1800 and 1860, there were many differences between the Northern and Southern sections of the United States. The Civil War occurred as a result of these differences.

One of the biggest differences between the Northern and Southern sections of the United States during 1800 to 1860 was their stance on slavery. The North and South disagreed on whether slavery should be legal or not. The South felt that slavery was a states' rights issue and that each state should determine whether they should be allowed to have slaves or not. The North felt that slavery was cruel and should be stopped. When Abraham Lincoln was elected to office in 1861, the South feared that Lincoln would get rid of slavery. With this fear in mind, the South decided to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America.

A second difference between the Northern and Southern sections of the United States was their economic systems. The Southern states believed that slavery should remain legal as it was essential to their way of life. Most Southern states had an agrarian lifestyle and the economy in the South was based on agriculture. For the most part, "King Cotton" dominated the economy in the South. Cotton was a very intense crop and required many laborers. The South feared that if slavery was abolished, there would not be enough manpower to keep the cotton industry alive. The South feared this would drastically hurt their economy and many feared that without the cotton industry the economy in the South would collapse altogether. The North was based on industry and had a bigger population than the South. From 1800-1860, the Northeast had a large influx of immigrants arriving from Europe. These immigrants fueled the labor force and allowed the manufacturing plants to be successful in the North. The North did not need the institution of slavery to keep their economy functioning because they had enough people to work in their manufacturing plants. Meanwhile, the Southern states population remained fairly constant, but the demand for workers in the cotton fields never ceased. It was because of the economic system in the South and its need for slave labor that eventually lead the South to secede from the United States. The South wanted to maintain the right to keep the institution of slavery alive, in order to keep their economy running.

Because of these economic differences and the different views on slavery, the North and South eventually clashed in 1861 in what would become known as the United States Civil War.

Rationale for the Sample Weak Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The purpose of this assignment is only partially achieved. Although the writer attempts to address both bullets (refer to the instructions for the assignment), the writer only describes two differences between the Northern and Southern sections of the United States (i.e., slavery and economic systems), instead of describing three differences as indicated by the prompt. The response provides limited supporting evidence with few relevant examples. The response only gives two specific examples: the election of Lincoln and "King Cotton." Moreover, this response shows a limited application of subject matter knowledge, as the response focuses primarily on the issue of slavery. The first difference described by the writer is the issue of slavery. The second difference described is the economic system in the North compared to the economic system in the South; however, while the writer states that the South had an "agrarian lifestyle" the writer's response focuses on the need for slavery to support this lifestyle. Thus, the response demonstrates a poorly reasoned understanding of the topic, as the analysis is weak and discusses little outside of the issue of slavery. Overall, this response reflects a limited understanding of the intersectional tensions that resulted in the Civil War.

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the constructed-response assignment.

Characteristics that guide the scoring of responses
Purpose The extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
Subject Matter Knowledge Accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
Support Quality and relevance of supporting details
Rationale Soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

Scoring Scale

Scores will be assigned to each response to the constructed-response assignment according to the following scoring scale.

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4  start bold The "4" response reflects a thorough knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is fully achieved.
  • There is a substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is sound; there are high-quality, relevant examples.
  • The response reflects an ably reasoned, comprehensive understanding of the topic.
3  start bold The "3" response reflects a general knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is largely achieved.
  • There is a generally accurate and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence generally supports the discussion; there are some relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a general understanding of the topic.
2  start bold The "2" response reflects a partial knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is partially achieved.
  • There is a limited, possibly inaccurate or inappropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is limited; there are few relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a limited, poorly reasoned understanding of the topic.
1  start bold The "1" response reflects little or no knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is not achieved.
  • There is little or no appropriate or accurate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence, if present, is weak; there are few or no relevant examples.
  • The response reflects little or no reasoning about or understanding of the topic.
U The response is unscorable because it is illegible, not written to the assigned topic, written in a language other than English, or lacking a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B There is no response to the assignment.