By: Steve Gratz
Nearly 34 years ago, I started my career as a teacher of agriculture. One of the foundational instructional units all teachers of agriculture taught was “soils.” While teaching the soils unit, I would have students bring in a soil sample from their fields or gardens, and we would determine the soil texture of the sample. Soil texture is the fineness or coarseness of a soil—it describes the proportion of three sizes of soil particles: 1) sand—large particle; 2) silt—medium-sized particle; or 3) clay—small particle. Soil texture is important because it affects water-holding capacity—the ability of a soil to retain water for use by plants; permeability—the ease with which air and water may pass through the soil; soil workability—the ease with which soil may be tilled and the timing of working the soil after a rain; and the ability of plants to grow (for example, some root crops, like potatoes and onions, will have difficulty growing in a fine-textured soil).
Once we determined the percentage of sand, silt and clay, we would use the Soil Texture Triangle to determine the type of soil the student sampled. For example, if a student’s sample was 75 percent sand, 15 percent silt and 10 percent clay, the soil would be a sandy loam as determined by the Soil Texture Triangle. The Soil Texture Triangle might seem a bit difficult to read initially, but once you are instructed on how to use it, it becomes rather simple.
This blog post is not designed to teach you how to test soil or determine soil types, but rather to illustrate an example of a question that could be included on WorkKeys—an assessment that measures workplace skills. The WorkKeys assessment combined with an industry-approved, in-demand credential will result in a pathway to graduation for students.
The WorkKeys Locating Information assessment includes four levels of difficulty (3, 4, 5 or 6). According to ACT’s website, Level 3 is the least complex and Level 6 is the most complex. The levels build on each other, each incorporating the skills assessed at the preceding levels. For example, Level 5 includes the skills used at Levels 3, 4 and 5. At Level 3, examinees look for information in simple graphics and fill in information that is missing from them.
The soil texture triangle question is a Level 6 question because the question is based on very complicated, detailed graphics in a challenging format. Examinees must notice the connections between graphics, they must apply the information to a specific situation and they must use the information to draw conclusions.
Characteristics of Level 6 Locating Information items:
- Very complicated and detailed graphs, charts, tables, forms, maps and diagrams;
- Graphics contain large amounts of information and may have challenging formats;
- One or more graphics are used at a time; and
- Connections between graphics may be subtle.
Skills required of Level 6 Locating Information items:
- Draw conclusions based on one complicated graphic or several related graphics;
- Apply information from one or more complicated graphics to specific situations; and
- Use the information to make decisions.
Recently, I have been engaged in conversations with school administrators about the rigor of the WorkKeys assessment since it can result in a pathway to graduation for students. Through conversations, I find that most school administrators are unfamiliar with the WorkKeys assessment since it is new to the graduation pathway conversation. The WorkKeys assessment has been around for more than two decades and is supported by data from 20,000 job skills profiles and rooted in decades of workplace research. The WorkKeys assessment is based on situations in the everyday working world. It requires students to apply academic skills to correctly answer questions. WorkKeys can certify that students are ready for career success by measuring their skills, which will then help employers find, hire and develop quality talent.
I first took the WorkKeys assessment in 1996 and I received a composite score of 18. A score of 13 is required for students to qualify for graduation for the classes of 2018 and 2019. For the classes of 2020 and beyond, students will need a composite score of 14 or higher. The composite score is unique to Ohio and isn’t used by WorkKeys or other states. The composite score was established to not only ensure students are prepared for career success, but also so they can advance within their chosen pathways where advanced skills will be necessary.
I would encourage all educators to take the WorkKeys practice assessment to become familiar with the test. The practice test is free through OhioMeansJobs. Make sure you review the instructions prior to taking the assessment. On the official assessment you will be allowed to use a calculator and will be provided with a formula sheet of conversions similar to the one found by clicking here.
By the way, you can access numerous videos on the internet if you really want to learn how to determine the soil texture in your garden. You also can try your hand at answering a Level 6 Locating Information question using the Soil Texture Triangle.
Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.
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