Grade 8 Reading - 2010 Released Test


Directions: Read the story before answering questions 1-11.

A Woman of Courage and Conviction

1 With a satisfied smile, Keisha finished writing the last sentence of her English essay. She had written about one of her heroes, Rosa Parks, an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Keisha felt inspired by Rosa Parks’ actions, and in her essay she had tried to depict the courage and conviction Rosa Parks had shown the world.

2 “Keisha,” her mother shouted from downstairs. “It’s almost 4:15. Have you finished your homework?”

3 “I finished a minute ago, Mom,” Keisha answered. “Don’t worry, I won’t be late getting to the assisted living center. I just have to put some things in my backpack.” Keisha pulled down a collection of Maya Angelou’s poetry as well as a book of funny anecdotes from her bookshelf. She liked to be prepared with a selection of literature to read to the center’s residents. On an impulse, she added her English notebook as well.

4 Keisha ran down the stairs, poked her head into the kitchen, and said, “I’ll be back by 5:45, Mom. See you later.” Keisha grabbed her jacket and ran out the door. She had to jog the three blocks to the center to make it by 4:30, when her hour of volunteering began.

5 As Keisha came running in the door, Mrs. Ellis, the assisted living center manager, told Keisha, “We have a new resident this week. She’s still adjusting to her new surroundings, and I think you’ll be able to make friends with her.”

6 “What’s her name?” Keisha asked, nervously wondering what this new woman was like.

7 “Her name is Ruby Watson, and she’s lived in Alabama all her life until now,” Mrs. Ellis explained. “Her only daughter lives here in the city and wants her mother to be near. You’ll find Mrs. Watson in Room 28. And by the way, Keisha, good luck.”

8 Keisha walked down the hallway to Room 28 at a quick, determined pace. She knocked on the door and heard a strong voice ask what she wanted. As Keisha walked into the room, she met the gaze of two piercing brown eyes staring at her suspiciously.

9 “I’m Keisha Jackson, a student volunteer,” Keisha explained as she walked over to Mrs. Watson and sat down in the chair beside her. “I come here every Thursday afternoon to help pass the time with residents, or read to them, or, or . . .” Keisha started to stumble over her words as Mrs. Watson continued to stare at her with an almost belligerent gaze.

10 “I didn’t request anyone to keep me company,” Mrs. Watson interrupted. “I’m alone most of the time, and that’s how I prefer it.”

11 “But it must be nice to see your daughter,” Keisha said, hoping to give the conversation a more positive turn.

12 “My daughter has to work two jobs, so she seldom comes here to visit me,” Mrs. Watson said. “And my two grandchildren are so involved with their school activities that they hardly have time to come to see me.”

13 Keisha decided that a change of subject would be beneficial. “I brought along some books to read,” she said, pulling the books out of her backpack. “I have Maya Angelou’s poetry and a book of funny stories.”

14 “I don’t like poetry, and I’m not in the mood for funny stories,” Mrs. Watson retorted. “What else do you have?”

15 Nervously, Keisha pulled out her English notebook and opened it to her essay. She read the title aloud: “Rosa Parks: A Woman of Courage and Conviction.” She glanced at Mrs. Watson to see what kind of reaction she might have, but to her surprise, Mrs. Watson’s face had relaxed and her eyes shone with anticipation.

16 “Read to me about Rosa,” Mrs. Watson said.

17 Keisha started to read the essay haltingly, but she soon fell into the natural, dramatic rhythm of her narrative. She read how Rosa Parks had staunchly refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white passenger in 1955; then she read how Rosa’s action had inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest that became a turning point in the struggle for civil rights.

18 After Keisha read her last sentence, she looked at Mrs. Watson’s face. It was lit by a radiantly happy smile.

19 “I marched in Montgomery too, you know,” Mrs. Watson said with pride. “I walked with Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther Kiing, Jr. The march was the greatest moment of my life because . . . ” Mrs. Watson paused, seemingly overwhelmed by her memory of the event.

20 Keisha finished the sentence for her. “Because . . . you were a woman of courage and conviction too.”

21 “Yes,” Mrs. Watson said, sitting up straighter. “Yes, I was a woman of courage and conviction too, and I still am. Thank you for reminding me, Keisha.”

22 “Mrs. Watson, I’d like to see you again next Thursday, if that’s okay,” Keisha asked, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking with the emotions she felt.

23 “Next Thursday will be fine, Keisha, just fine,” Mrs. Watson said with a warm smile. “And next time we see each other, I’ll tell you some of my stories.”

24 “I’d like that,” Keisha answered. “I’d like that very much.
Directions: Read the story before answering questions 12-21.

Elephant Refuge

image1.png1 Elephants may be the largest land mammals on Earth, but they have little chance of holding their own against human progress. In both Africa and Asia, where elephants live in the wild, herds are being threatened by changes in their natural habitats. People are moving into the elephants’ territories and endangering their survival. In the country of Sri Lanka, there is one place where elephants are not only protected but also respected. It is called the Elephant Transit Home (ETH), in Udawalawe National Park. The ETH was established in 1995.

People Versus Elephants
2 Sri Lanka is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 20 miles off the southeastern coast of India. It is a small country, only 274 miles wide and 725 miles long. In 1900 there were 12,000 wild elephants living in Sri Lanka’s tropical environment. Now that number has dwindled to fewer than 6,000. What caused this devastation? The primary cause has been the increasing competition between people and elephants for land and

3 Today, the human population of Sri Lanka has surpassed 20 million. People are bulldozing forests into farmland. They are building highways over centuries-old elephant migration routes. Elephants are being squeezed out of their habitats. This change causes turmoil, resulting in an increased number of conflicts between elephants and humans.

Endangered Baby Elephants
4 The ETH’s mission is to protect and nurture baby elephants that are found injured or living without their mothers in the wild. In most cases, the baby animals have been separated from their mothers and their herd. Without the protection of other elephants, the calves are in danger of perishing.

5 Every year about 30 baby elephants in Sri Lanka need refuge. As many as possible are brought to the ETH. After what is often a long and difficult journey, the elephant calves arrive at Udawalawe. There they are given food, shelter, and medical care. Most importantly, they are given the opportunity to be with other elephants and become part of a herd. There are normally between 15 and 30 elephants at the home. They range in age from three weeks to four years old.

A New Home
6 A day at the refuge begins early in the morning when the baby elephants are given their first feeding of milk. During the course of the day, each baby will drink an average of 13 gallons of milk. Older elephants are fed mostly coconut leaves as well as other native plants. Then the elephants are released to roam on the preserve’s land, grazing on the grass and forming a herd.

7 The cost of caring for the baby elephants is high, especially by Sri Lankan standards. The ETH spends approximately $125,000 each year on powdered milk for the calves. To help pay for food and medical supplies the elephants need, the ETH has a foster parent program. Anyone, even schoolchildren, can become a benefactor by donating money to care for a baby elephant. While some foster parents are too far away to visit the baby elephant being cared for at the ETH, local schoolchildren are also participants in the program. Foster parents can name their adopted elephants, take photographs of them, and even help release them into the wild.

Return to the Wild
8 At the refuge, workers try to minimize human contact with the elephants. They also try to maximize bonds between the elephants. The goal of the orphanage is for the elephants eventually to return to the wild. It usually takes three years for a baby elephant to be released into its natural habitat. The elephants are released together with other orphans with whom they have bonded. This program helps them return to the wild as members of a herd that will communicate with each other and take care of each other.

9 The ETH is considered one of the best animal protection sites in the world. Not only are the elephants cared for, they are treated with respect and dignity. Most importantly, these magnificent mammals go back to live in the wild, where they belong.
Directions: Read the story before answering questions 22-31.

Waiting on Progress

1 Waiting for Pa to bring home our new truck, Mama dressed Billy and Claire as if they were going to a party. When Mama finished, she brushed her long hair, tied it in a knot, and removed her apron. Usually, Mama took off her apron only for weddings or funerals. She wanted me to wear my dress shirt and tie, but I didn’t. We had a big order of lumber going to Mr. Heger the next day, and I was working harder than usual because Pa had been gone for two days. Putting on my good clothes just didn’t make any sense to me.

2 About one o’clock, while finishing our lunch, we heard honking like a hungry goose. We all jumped up and ran outside to greet Pa and the new truck—the first motor vehicle owned by the Singleton family.

3 I’m not sure if the truck really was beautiful or if I just wanted it to be, but as far as I was concerned, its deep red glow put Grandma’s ruby ring to shame. The headlamps shone the same as our best china, and the wooden sides gleamed so brightly that they hurt my eyes. I had never seen anything so exquisite.

4 Billy and Claire climbed on the running board and reached through the window to hug Pa’s neck. He’d never been away for two whole days before. Then Billy spotted the bag of licorice in Pa’s pocket, and he and Claire rushed off to divide the pieces between them.

5 “Do we have to share with Joe too?” Billy shouted.

6 I shook my head “no” toward Pa, and he called out, “No, it’s all for you two kids.”

7 I tried not smiling, but I did. Candy was for kids; trucks were for grownups. Pa and I were thinking alike for once.

8 “The truck’s real nice, Ed,” Mama said, but Pa couldn’t hear her over the motor. He turned off the motor, and the chugging sound sputtered, whispered, and then stopped.

9 I walked around the truck twice and then climbed into the passenger seat. Pa was in no hurry to give up his seat. We sat in satisfied silence for several minutes before Pa said we had to finish sawing the lumber for Mr. Heger. He started the motor again, and I rode with him while he pulled into the barn. We hadn’t owned more than a single milk cow and a pair of work horses for several years, so the barn was mostly empty.

10 The next morning I woke earlier than usual to help load the lumber, but I didn’t beat Pa outside. He was already hard at work. With the strength and grace of a prizefighter, he lifted four boards at a time and slid them into our old gray wagon.

11 “What about the truck?” I asked, stunned that Pa wasn’t loading the new vehicle.

12 “It’s in the barn,” Pa said.

13 “Why aren’t we loading it?

14 He didn’t answer. He just kept bending down and picking up lumber.

15 “Pa?”

16 “We have a big load to deliver. Real heavy. We’ll use the wagon.”

17 I was disconcerted and didn’t know what to say. I remembered how Uncle Ray and I had spent a full year talking Pa into buying a truck. Uncle Ray finally convinced Pa that big companies he was submitting bids to would feel better giving contracts to a man with a truck. “It’s all about progress, Ed,” Uncle Ray said. “A truck says something about a business. A truck shows you know where things are heading, and you’re heading there too.”

18 I wasn’t sure about Uncle Ray’s thinking, so I worked on Pa from another direction. “The truck can carry twice as much as our wagon,” I said. “We’ll finish much quicker.”

19 That’s the logic that came out of my mouth, but I had a different logic in my head. I was thinking that fewer trips meant more free time. Boys my age were heading into town in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons, and I never could go because of the workload. I imagined joining my friends now that we owned a truck. Maybe I’d even be driving into town.

20 Pa never slowed. He kept sliding thick boards into the wagon.

21 “I’ll hitch the team,” I finally said, “unless you want me to load.”

22 “Go on,” he said.

23 I walked quickly toward the barn so that I could stop and admire the truck. When I poked my head inside the barn, I swear that truck smiled, just barely, like Mama when she knew something about me that I hadn’t even told her.

24 Because for generations our family had struggled and worked hard, I half expected that truck to talk to me.

25 I think it might have said, “Don’t rush him. I’m in no hurry.
Directions: Read this letter before answering questions 32-45.

The Perfect Speaker

Ms. Rilla Wells
President, Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
1234 Constitution Ave.
Fairfax, VA 22610

October 23, 2009

Dear Ms. Wells:

1 In last week’s PTA bulletin, I read that the school is still seeking a speaker for this year’s eighth-grade awards ceremony. As an eighth-grade student at Eastwood Middle School, I would like you to please consider asking Ms. Ellen Jackson to give this important address. I realize that the PTA usually asks a local politician or successful business owner to give this inspirational talk, but I think Ms. Jackson would be better than any of our past speakers.

2 Ms. Jackson has many fine qualities that make her an excellent choice to speak at the ceremony. She not only meets the requirement of being a former Eastwood Middle School student, but she is also a longtime teacher at our school. In fact, Ms. Jackson has been associated with this school for much of her life. During that time she has learned many valuable lessons that she passes on to students whenever she can.

3 Eastwood Middle School has many fine teachers, and Ms. Jackson is one of the best. Although she teaches English, she is a genius at social studies and math too. Her tutoring sessions are not limited to assignments she has given in her own classes. Ms. Jackson will help with any assignment for any subject. She has, however, one firm rule: when she helps, students must work. In other words, Ms. Jackson does not simply supply the answers; she teaches students how to find the answers for themselves. She can make difficult concepts seem easy. She patiently explains complicated formulas or confusing procedures one step at a time. Ms. Jackson’s homework sessions last as long as necessary. She never ends a session until all students have been helped.

4 Ms. Jackson is more than just a great teacher, though. She supports the students of Eastwood Middle School in everything they do. She attends band, orchestra, and choir concerts, and she can be found cheering the Knights to victory at all the school’s athletic events. When Ms. Jackson is absent from one event, it is because she is attending another one. Ms. Jackson also volunteers to chaperone school field trips and outings, including those held during the summer break.

5 She is also a very effective speaker. She knows how to say things in a way that is both elegant and easy to understand. When she talks to students, Ms. Jackson earns their respect, even when they do not like what she has to say. She knows how to make people think and act for themselves. Just as she does in her homework sessions, Ms. Jackson does not simply tell her students what they should do. Instead, she helps them to make their own decisions. The respect she shows students makes her a very popular teacher. Ms. Jackson is tough but fair. All students know her expectations.

6 The eighth-grade awards ceremony is an important event for Eastwood Middle School students. The ceremony symbolizes the end of our days in middle school and the promise of a bright future. The speaker at this ceremony should be someone who understands both where the students have been and where they are going. I can think of no one more qualified than Ms. Jackson. She has had a positive impact on every student in this school. She has taught our friends, our brothers and sisters, and in some cases, even our parents. I hope you will consider asking Ms. Jackson to speak at this year’s ceremony.


Nick Ryan
8th grade student
Eastwood Middle School