Author Archives: brittanygage4

Students Aren’t Always the Cheater

According to an article written by Motoko Rich for the New York Times, it seems that students are not the only ones in the school system that cheat to gain success. A former Memphis school district assistant principal and guidance counselor, Clarence Mumford, has been caught running a test cheating ring. What I found so astonishing about this particular occurrence was that the cheating ring spanned three states: Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. I’ve heard of teachers helping students cheat in order to boost test score reports, but this is the first time I had ever heard of teachers cheating in order to become teachers.

Mumford was creating false identification for test takers so that they could hire another person to take their test for them. In this case, the individuals involved with Mumford were cheating on the Praxis Exams. Rich explains that the Praxis Exams are, “are taken by people who want to obtain a teaching license or to acquire additional credentials in a specific subject.” These exams are comparable to the MTEL’s that Massachusetts requires of licensed teachers.

So what does all this mean when it concerns students? I found it shocking that individuals who wanted to become an educator, people who shape young minds, were taking such a deceitful route that, hopefully, they would never encourage their students to take. Sarah Almy, the director of teacher quality at Education Trust, sees this as a concern as well: “‘The fact that there were folks who felt like they needed to bring somebody else in in order to meet a very basic level of content knowledge is disturbing, in particular for the kids those teachers are going to wind up teaching.'”

I also find this very troublesome. Not only were these people involved in the cheating ring acting less than honorably, they required someone else to take the test for them because they didn’t know the information required to pass. If these basic requirements are now a major concern for future teachers, so much so they are willing to go outside the law, what does this mean about the quality of teachers nowadays? Hopefully more of these cheating rings can be brought to justice. Mumford ran his reportedly from 1995 until at least 2010. There is really nothing more detrimental to a students education than an unqualified teacher.



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iPad Evaluations

As recent as last year teachers were still using the old standby evaluation techniques. Teachers would take to pencil and paper and jot down what they observed of the students capacity. However, with technology on a fast paced evolution track, teachers are now presented with new opportunities in evaluating their students. At the beginning of 2012, educators in Connecticut were presented with the new evaluation of using iPads to track the students progress. Instead of having pages upon pages of raw data with no end result the iPad offers student portfolios and ways to process and learn from the teachers observations.

Erica Forti, the district of East Haven’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction says that this method has, “opened up the doors for different types of teaching and learning.” Now the teachers were able to go back to the processed data and be able to more thoroughly aid a struggling student. However, it isn’t just the students that need assistance, it is the teachers as well. In order for this new system to work nationally, training needs to be put in place for the new evaluations. Each instructor would need to know how to operate the software and how it works so that the full benefits can be taken advantage of.

Personally, I am in favor of this kind of technological advancement in the evaluation of students. Some may argue that we are becoming a too technologically dependent generation, but I disagree. I believe that this kind of use for the iPad really shows that we can grow further and smarter as students and teachers. If there are ways that we can better our teaching then we should take those steps. Katie Ash, the writer of this article “Rethinking Testing in the Age of the iPad,” writes a statements from Reshan Richards, the director of educational technology at Montclair Kimberley Academy, that “most schools are hesitant, however, to jump into assessing with mobile devices.”

This hesitancy should be surpassed by the benefits that this new system can provide. When evaluating students, what is most important is using the best resources that we have available so that they can get the most detailed feedback. Only then can we show greater improvement.


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Is The “Five Paragraph Essay” Structure Crippling Creativity?

The article I’ve chosen to discuss in this blog post was one written by Nancy Flanagan entitled, “Should We Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay?” She highlights not only her own opinion on the structure, but also those who think it’s ruining the creativity of students. When writers find themselves stuck in one rigid format it can be claimed that they will cut and compromise their writing in order to follow a formula. Two writers, David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephens, that Flanagan mentions say that the five paragraph format, “handicaps young writers by teaching them a method that “runs counter to virtually all of the values and attitudes that they need in order to grow as writers and thinkers.”

Flanagan doesn’t necessarily agree with such a strict outlook on this particular piece of the high school curriculum. She sees the inherent benefits that the five paragraph outline offers. Upon reading this article I found myself thinking, what is the point of teaching something that college professors want their freshman to throw away? As stated in the article “College writing teachers hate the five-paragraph essay.” Should this be the case? Along with Flanagan I see the benefits behind the age old method. In my own writing I find that my transitions, thesis and topic sentences are stronger having learned writing in this way.

What I found interesting however, was her agreement that it needs to be taken out. While long paragraphs and cutting chunks of creative material out to stick to the structure can damage a writing style, I think that the five paragraph structure has it’s own place in higher education. Even though some of my professors have told me that they hate this method, I found myself subconsciously writing the way I was always  taught, five paragraphs, and still being able to discuss everything I needed to address. I think that it’s possible that students think you need to go over and above in explanation. However, when you need to get right to the point nothing could suit you better than the five paragraph outline.

There are different structures to be used when the time calls for it, but if you want to get to the point, stick to the five. In my opinion, nothing works better than setting an outline, using your strongest arguments and getting right down to the nitty gritty. Who wants to wade through the muck just to get to the point? That’s when a teacher finds your writing long and daunting and you could even be scored lower because of it and who really wants that? In all I think you just need to use your best judgement and allow for the five paragraph to be your resource when you know it will assist you in your writing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, consider your options and stem your creativity from that.


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