model writing sample

The troubling
part here is that
while I’d avoid
this teacher at all
costs - as a
student, parent
or administrator -
the state of New
York uses them
as a model.

Content grade: D;
Writing grade: C/C-.

Overall grade: C-.

Responses to "Please
Grade the Following
Essay, Part 2"
RSS 2.0 RSS Feed for
comments on this post.
You can leave a
response, or trackback
from your own site.

July 25th, 2007 at 10:40
Did I read correctly?
This specific essay is a
model one? They use
others, too, I hope?

July 25th, 2007 at 1:10
You read it fine, Jungsun
- New York State uses
this response as a
model. They use two:
this one, which is labeled
“Stronger Response,”
and another - and yes, it
is worse - that they call a
“Weaker Response.”

I’m waiting on a call back
regarding some stats for
the test. As soon as I get
a little more concrete
information, I’ll write up
the details of this
question’s context and
why it’s such a travesty.

Teacher Writing Sample
Where's the direct teaching?  Why is this teacher so passive?  
That's what she learned in education school, I suppose.  

How about teaching grammar and reading and writing skills
through the career lessons?
Following are two
strategies I’d use to
promote my students’
career awareness and
understanding of the
world of work. 1. Make
every other Friday a
“career-focus day” in
the class, and 2.
Implement language
arts activities on an
ongoing basis that
relate clearly and
directly to the
development of skills
students will need to
succeed in the work

Career-focus days: I’d
start by dividing the
class into groups to
brainstorm lists of jobs,
companies, and other
job-related information
that students would
like to know about,
offering them examples
to get them started.
Based on these lists, I’d
have groups of
students compose
letters to send to
employers, workers,
and others in the
community asking
them to come talk to
the class about
different jobs, their
requirements, etc. I’d
also ask someone from
a local community
college to come
discuss the role of
further education in
students’ career plans.
I’d urge all speakers to
use hands-on activities
and materials and to
provide practical,
useful information in
an informal setting. To
help speakers prepare,
I’d also give them
student-generated lists
of questions so their
presentations would be
relevant to students’
concerns. As the year
proceeds, the career-
focus days would also
include other activities
besides speakers (e.g.,
visits to local
workplaces, computer
research into available
jobs), depending on the
needs and wishes of
class members. The
career-focus days
should be effective
mainly because the
activities would be
very student-centered
and organized to
address students’ own
questions, interests,
and concerns. In
addition, they’ll give
students access to
many different
“voices” and
perspectives. The
students know they’ll
be graduating soon
and needing to think
about work, so they
should be especially
motivated once they
realize that they really
control the agenda of
the career-focus days.

Ongoing instructional
activities. I’d regularly
incorporate into my
language arts
instruction various
activities to help
students develop
language and
interpersonal skills
that will be helpful in
their future work lives.
For example, I’d have
students work in
cooperative learning
groups to conduct
research and develop
group presentations on
topics of interest to
group members,
including perhaps
some topics that
specifically address job-
related areas of
interest. These
activities would help
students develop
practical workplace
skills (e.g., locating,
using and organizing
information, writing,
organizing complex
tasks). I’d ensure that
students see how the
skills used in the
activities relate to
success in the world of
work by having them
reflect on and discuss
these connections. I
could address
immediate career
needs and motivate
students to improve
their work-related
skills by helping them
see how what they’re
doing in school links to
their needs in the

UPDATE at 7.24.07, 5.15

You can read my critique
of the writing and
content at “Please
Grade the Following
Essay, Part 2.“
Published by Matthew

June 8th, 2007
Florida A&M University,
Florida Education

Though I consult
occasionally on academic
subjects/media [usually
history and its variants],
my primary vocation is
school admissions
consulting. I help students
elucidate their goals,
identify the best schools
that fit and get them in.
Occasionally a school
commits such an
egregious misstep that I,
as an admissions
consultant, cannot in good
faith recommend that a
student apply to that
particular school. Such is
the case with Florida A&M
University Law School

The St. Petersburg Times
reported this week on the
incompetence of Florida
A&M Law School’s legal
writing instructor. Victoria
Dawson, hired at a salary
of ~$105,000/yr., has
trouble writing coherent
sentences. This is not a

Dawson submitted a paper
to several journals
[through a distribution
service] and the peer
review process ate her
alive. Why? Poor
grammar, misspellings
and unreadable
sentences. In short, it is a
total embarrassment for
one charged with teaching
law students - our future
legal scholars - how to
research and write.

Peer review can
sometimes be unkind, but
criticism here is
warranted. Here are a few
examples of Dawson’s

“Environmental Dispute
Resolution: Developing
Mechanisims [sic] for
Effective Transnational
Enforcement of
Standards.” [This mistake
appeared in the title.]

“He consulted with
government officials and
he sent his general
manager of asset
representative repeatedly
crossed the creek to
negotiate with village
leaders of Ugborodo
during the women’s 10-
day occupation.”

“Borrowing from the
environmental dispute
strategy of the local
threats and the focus of
Agenda 21 with the
sustainable development
flavor it is dispute
settlement that is one of
the key elements to
ensure that the
environmental dimensions
of security can be

You can view more
throughout and at the
bottom of the article. If
you’d like to generate
your own, I suggest giving
a 30-pack of Pabst Blue
Ribbon to an 8th grader,
forcing him/her at
gunpoint to write a legal
brief and then laughing -
or crying? - at the result.

It is difficult to know
where to begin when
analyzing a situation like
this. Regardless of the
reasons for Dawson’s
problems with writing, the
conclusion is the same:
those charged with
preparing law students to
conduct necessary
research and expressing
the results of that
research clearly and
coherently must
themselves be expert
practitioners. Students’
future jobs, not to
mention the fates of their
clients, will depend on
those skills.

If Dawson can’t write, she
should not serve in her
current capacity - this
should be clear. FAMU is
doing a disservice not only
to students who aren’t
getting the education they
need, but also to alumni
whose professional
reputations will suffer.
Staff associated with
FAMU will also experience
the fallout from this
embarrassment. And
FAMU Law, which currently
operates with provisional
accreditation from the
American Bar Association,
has not strengthened its
case for full accreditation
in the future.

Regardless of the reasons
for Dawson’s hiring -
though also a contentious
point, as her ties to Texas
Southern University
invoke thoughts of
favoritism in hiring - the
University’s response to
Dawsongate is appalling.
Apparently, many
students have submitted
written complaints to the
University with little result
aside from a typically
bureaucratic stall. We will
see in coming weeks
whether FAMU’s
administration, including
Interim Law School Dean
Ruth Witherspoon, will
respond appropriately to
restore both quality and
dignity to a troubled

The school’s mission
statement includes the

“To provide a law program
with high academic
standards that produces
excellent legal
professionals who
professionalism, provide
public service, enhance
justice and promote

Until they align their
practices with their
theory, I cannot consider
FAMU Law a viable option
for any student.

UPDATE at 6/09/07, 4.29

PrawfsBlawg has a
different take on

A few years ago,
Professor Dawson posted
on bepress [ed. - The
Berkeley Electronic Press,
which “produces tools to
improve scholarly
communication. These
tools provide innovative
and effective means of
content production and
dissemination”] a draft of
a paper — still in need of a
proof-read — as it was
being circulated to law
reviews for publication.
The paper later appeared
in the Missouri
Environmental Law and
Policy Review. Nothing too
unusual there, right?

Well, some FAMU students
are “now using [the draft
paper] to help build a case
that Dawson is not
qualified to teach and was
hired primarily on the
strength of her personal

The Prawf who authored
this post is quite kind,
possessed with a charity I
must lack, for describing
the paper as “still in need
of a proof-read.” Any
sensible scholar, amateur
or professional, should
recognize that a paper
written this badly might
net them a C in 8th grade
and is unacceptable
anywhere beyond.

After throwing some
snark toward the St. Pete
Times, the Prawfs

And so because someone
posted a shitty first draft
on bepress, she is facing
questions about her
competence to teach. I
understand that legal
writing may be part of her
responsibilities and I
understand that FAMU’s
law school has had various
serious problems, but I’m
quite worried now that
articles of the sort run in
the St. Pete’s Times will
undermine the goal of
getting “tomorrow’s
research today.” If this is
the flimsy evidence of
incompetence used to
shame someone publicly,
we can thank the St Pete
Times — for now even
more scholars, especially
junior ones, will be worried
about what their local
paper will publish when
there are incomplete or
somewhat mangled drafts
up on SSRN and bepress.

Yes, you’re right - that’s
exactly why she’s facing
these charges. I could go
on and on about how
putting up such a rotten
draft with total disregard
for professionalism
reflects poorly on herself,
the institution and all
scholars, but I won’t. I’ll
let commenter “miss
grammar” take it away:

This is more than a “shitty
first draft”. It is an
incomprehensible first
draft that reveals
consistent (rather than
merely episodic)
grammatical problems
(based on the select
excerpts) and someone
with solid writing and
thinking skills would not
have produced it or posted
it online. I just looked up
the “polished” version,
which was published, and
it is still very poorly
written and hard to follow.
Even based on the
published draft, I am
confident that my law
school would never hire
someone with these
subpar writing skills into
any profesional position,
let alone a professorial or
legal writing director
position and under the
circumstances I think the
St. Petersburg Times is
justified on reporting on
this. The bigger story for
me is how the law school
and university seem ill
equipped to deal with the
problem of students who
have lost confidence in
their legal writing
program. No one at the
law school or university
seems to be reassuring
their students, which sets
off major alarm bells for
me about the
management of this

I am also not sure how
highlighting an extreme
example of a law school
hiring a person who is
obviously a terrible writer
and sloppy thinker to
direct their legal wiriting
program in any way
undermines the incentive
for faculty who can write
in complete sentences and
think logically to post their
works on SSRN or
BEPRESS before
publication, even where
that work may contain
epidosodic errors or be
subject to criticism. Don’t
we want to subject our
works to vetting by our
peers before publication?
Even if this means the
occassional typo is
brought to our attention?
(Look and youi will find a
number of typos in this
work even after
publication, and I doubt
you will be able to follow
the argument the author
seems to be trying to
make.) Maybe I am
missing something?

Well done, miss grammar.

And, since I am confident
in what the evidence
shows [which is indeed
more solid than “flimsy”],
I have no trouble with
shaming someone
publicly, especially when
their actions are a
detriment to the
education that many work
hard to get. FAMU is a fine
institution that need not
be marred by
students come to FAMU -
and everywhere else, for
the most part - to get an
education, not to be
burdened with parsing
their professor’s child-like

You hit the nail on the
head when you said that
scholars might be worried
about the consequences
of their actions. In the
adult world, we call that
“accountability,” and
those of us who care
deeply for
and have pride in
ourselves and
communities have no
trouble doing what it takes
to satisfy that metric.

Please Grade
the Following

Published by Matthew July
19th, 2007

I’d like some opinions on
the following essay - just a
sentence or two and a
standard letter grade [A
down to F] in the
comments will suffice,
though feel free to post
more if you’re inclined.
You can comment on the
writing or the content. [If
you’ve already read the
essay, you can jump
directly to “Please Grade
the Following Essay, Part

I’ll post information about
what this essay is and
what it means after a few
readers have weighed in.

Background: The writer is
a prospective educator
and the essay is meant to
be read by a group of
educators. It is
reproduced verbatim, with
the exact structure,
punctuation, etc. of the

Question: After identifying
what subject/level you will
teach, explain the
importance of helping
students develop career
awareness and an
understanding of the
world of work;
describe two strategies
you would use to achieve
this educational goal; and
explain why the strategies
you describe would be
effective in achieving this
educational goal.


I plan to teach high
school English. In this
essay, I will discuss how
I’d work with “non-
students. Many such
students have very
limited horizons in terms
of thinking about what
jobs they’d enjoy and be
qualified for upon
graduation, so it’s
especially important to
increase their career
awareness and
understanding of the
world of work. An
important part of my role
would be to help them
recognize what their
career options might
include. I’d try to help
them overcome
insecurities by
prompting them to
consider the world of
work available to them
and working with them
to develop skills for
different kinds of jobs.
Most students respond
positively to learning
that they believe will
help them in their future
lives and careers. A
wise teacher takes
advantage of this
motivational factor by
integrating into subject
matter career-related
information and skills
that enable students to
be successful in the
world of work. Such
integration is especially
important at the senior
high level because of
the immediacy of career-
related decision making.
Teacher Writing Sample
Education Reform Report
San Diego Education
Education and the Culture
Wars Blog
San Diego Education
Report Home
Education Reform
Talking to Kids
Book Boondoggle?
Nat'l Board Certif
Ordinary People
Writing Sample
SD Education Report BLOG
Getting rid of democracy
Schools and violence