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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

2014, High School Biology

  Question 32: Open-Response  
An elephant shrew and a shrew are pictured below.
The elephant shrew is a small rodent covered in fur. It has two ears on the top of its head, two large eyes near the top of its head, and a long nose that droops down. It has four legs with toes on each foot and a long, thin tail. The shrew is a small rodent covered in fur. It has two ears on the sides of its head, two small eyes near start of the long pointy nose. It has four legs with toes on each foot and a long, thin tail.
For many years, scientists had classified elephant shrews in the same family as shrews. In the 1990s, however, scientists gathered evidence for the evolutionary tree below and reclassified elephant shrews into a different family from shrews.
The evolutionary tree starts as a single line at the bottom and splits into two each time it divides. The names of the organisms in the evolutionary tree reading from left to right are: hyraxes, manatees, elephants, elephant shrews, aardvarks, golden moles, rodents, shrews.
  1. Describe the most likely reason why scientists originally classified elephant shrews with shrews.
  2. Using the evolutionary tree, identify the groups to which elephant shrews are most closely related.
  3. Identify and explain the evidence scientists most likely used to build the evolutionary tree and reclassify elephant shrews.
  4. Identify one other type of evidence that scientists use to determine evolutionary relationships and build evolutionary trees.

Scoring Guide and Sample Student Work
Select a score point in the table below to view the sample student response.

ScoreDescription
4 The response demonstrates a thorough understanding of how evolutionary relationships are demonstrated by evidence from molecular biology and other sources. The response provides a valid description for why scientists originally classified elephant shrews with shrews, correctly identifies the groups to which elephant shrews are most closely related, clearly identifies and explains the evidence scientists used to build the evolutionary tree, and correctly identifies one other type of evidence that scientists use to determine evolutionary relationships and build evolutionary trees.
4
3 The response demonstrates a general understanding of how evolutionary relationships are demonstrated by evidence from molecular biology and other sources.
2 The response demonstrates a limited understanding of how evolutionary relationships are demonstrated by evidence from molecular biology and other sources.
1 The response demonstrates a minimal understanding of how evolutionary relationships are demonstrated by evidence from molecular biology and other sources.
0 The response is incorrect or contains some correct work that is irrelevant to the skill or concept being measured.

Note: There are 2 sample student responses for Score Point 4.

High School Biology

Question 12: Ecology
Question 23: Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Question 32: Evolution and Biodiversity
Question 44: Genetics
Question 45: Anatomy and Physiology

Return to the MCAS 2014 Student Work Directory



Last Updated: November 16, 2017
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