Context: The essays below were randomly selected based on their scores, which range from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Scores were assigned by anonymous readers (not by the students’ instructor). Teaching note

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Sample graded essays

Researched argument

English 2000 semester assessment


The essays below were randomly selected based on their scores, which range from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Scores were assigned by anonymous readers (not by the students’ instructor).

Teaching note:

Asking students to read and evaluate sample essays against the scoring matrix can be an effective way to help them internalize the expectations of the task and gain a useful vocabulary for peer review and revision. Guidelines for the writing task can also be found on the website. In many cases, instructors allowed students to choose their own topics, while others assigned topics to students.

You will find seven sample essays here. It goes without saying that it would be tedious to review all seven with your students; instead we have included a range for instructors to choose from based on student needs and instructional strategies.


The rubric score of each essay is included as a headnote in each section. If this interferes with your teaching strategy, the document can be edited to remove those scores. The scores are as follows (by student initials):

Author initials

















English 2000

Researched Argument

Brainstorming Solutions without Guns

Would you feel safe sitting next to a fellow student in class who is legally carrying a concealed weapon? After tragic events such as the Virginia Tech massacre and the recent shooting at the University of Texas at Austin campus, many state governments are considering passing laws to allow concealed weapons on campuses. If passed, citizens with a state-issued gun permit who are over the age of 21 will be allowed to carry concealed weapons on university campuses. Though efforts need to be made to secure college campuses, allowing concealed guns is not the solution to eliminating violence. The federal government has already taken steps to deter violence by passing the Clery Act in 1990, but flaws within the act still exist today (Katel). Researchers have proposed different ideas to eliminate guns on campuses such as making the requirements to obtain a gun permit stricter, running a more thorough background check, and using emergency notification systems to alert students of imminent danger. While supporters believe that permitting guns will protect innocent bystanders from violence, but in reality, allowing guns puts more people in danger, will increase the crime rate, and creates situations that can spin out of control in a moments notice.

The federal government created the Clery Act in 1990 to help protect students from violence. It was created in response to the brutal rape and murder of Jeanne Clery at Lehigh University. The Act states that universities are required to submit their annual crime report to the Department of Education. Even though the federal government passed the Clery Act, major flaws in this Act do exist. For example, it gives no specific information on whether guns are legally allowed on college campuses. Peter Katel, an award-winning reporter for CQ Researcher, reports that statistics on whether the Clery Act improved campus safety are inaccurate (Katel). Furthermore, Clery Act only reports crimes on campus; leading to an incomplete representation of crime at universities where most students live off campus such as Louisiana State University (LSU). Mary Friedrichs, University of Colorado at Boulder Director of University Victim’s Assistance, states, “Most things that happen occur in residences. But what happens to students in neighborhoods in Boulder is not necessarily Clery-reported” (qtd. in Katel). Since the federal government does not investigate university crime reports, many colleges do not report all crimes committed on campus, which makes the law a failed attempt at making classrooms a safer area at public and private institutions. (Schulte).

Many states are attempting to pass legislation to allow private universities to independently decide if concealed weapons should be allowed at their university. New Texas legislation states that private universities would be given permission to allow guns on campus (Harnisch). If this bill is passed, one main way to prevent violence at private institutions is to educate students about the dangers of guns. Thomas Harnisch, a research associate for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, believes that concealed weapons on college campuses will be a hot topic in Texas legislation as Texas Governor, Rick Perry, is highly supportive of this topic (Harnisch). A USA Today editorial written on March 1, 2011, reports that Utah is the only state that allows concealed weapons on campus, but statistics support that religious and non-alcoholic cultural style have a positive impact on the bill (“Guns on campus”).

The main problem when states debate about allowing concealed weapons on campuses is their lack of thinking about alternative ways to prevent college violence. Lawmakers’ choices are either to prohibit guns or to legalize guns. Rarely do they brainstorm about other ways to improve campus safety without legalizing guns.

One way to eliminate guns is to create a more strict background check process. Two years before Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui Cho legally bought a weapon and killed fellow classmates and professors, he checked into an out-patient mental illness facility (“Beef up background”). If more thorough background checks were required, Cho should have never been allowed to purchase the gun because he was ruled mentally unstable.

Dr. Reginald Fennell, a Miami-Ohio University professor writing for the Journal of American College Health, suggests that colleges should provide counseling to students considering buying a gun (Fennell). This is a smart solution because colleges would be educating students on the importance of gun safety while determining their competency. Both the Virginia Tech shooter and the University of Texas at Austin shooter in 2010 were shown to be mentally unstable after the incident occurred (Fennell). This history of shootings underscores the importance of giving certified professional counselors the opportunity to determine the student’s mental stability.

Since these tragic events, most colleges have installed emergency notification systems (Schulte). Many schools, including LSU, have an emergency text message system to warn students of imminent danger on campus. Bret Schulte, a U.S. News & World Report writer, suggests implementing a text system or email solution because it is important for students to be aware of their surroundings. Steven Healy, the director of International Association of Campus Law Enforcements Administrators states, “As students move away from land lines…we need to have the capability to reach out to them” (qtd. in Schulte). However, one problem with the emergency text messaging system on LSU’s campus is that students are not required to sign up. When students are admitted to their school of choice, all students should be required to sign up for an emergency notification alert.

Besides providing emergency notification systems to students, campuses need to educate students on their specific campus security and police departments. Many people do not understand that campus police officers receive the same training as a regular city sheriff. Campus police also receive special training in bombing, sniper and murder situations (Schulte). It is the university’s responsibility to educate students about the special training campus police officers receive to handle serious violence situations. When educated about the competency of the law officials that surround them, students will feel safer and more comfortable about not buying a gun.

Guns on campuses pose more problems for college students than supporters actually think. Stressors such as classes, personal relationships, and family can draw a college student toward drugs and alcohol. The USA Today editorial written in 2007 after the Virginia Tech shooting says that if concealed weapons were legally allowed on campus, suicide rates would skyrocket, and there would be multiple accidents that could cause injury or even death (“Beef up background”). Science proves that even at the age of 21, the human brain is not fully developed, especially when influenced by alcohol and drugs (“Guns on campus”). Secondly, if guns were thrown into the picture, accidental gun injuries would increase as well as gun theft in dormitories. Allowing concealed weapons would keep campus police extremely busy monitoring all students’ behavior and making sure no harm is being done. Finally, if the bill were passed, legislators would need to specify certain areas in which the weapons would be allowed. Although the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to carry arms, there are certain areas where guns are not allowed such as churches and federal buildings (Harnisch).

Overall, guns are not safe in any environment that involves education, especially in the university setting. Even if a person is considered mentally stable, there is no way to ensure that he or she will not act out after receiving an unsatisfactory grade or simply having an overall bad day. Lawmakers need to consider student’s safety as a first priority when introducing a concealed weapon bill in state legislation. Most importantly, should legislation allow concealed carry, each student should be required to register their weapon with campus police to regulate the amount of guns on campus. College violence, unfortunately, is rare but does occur, with some incidents being more serious than others. Allowing guns on campus is not the solution to stopping this violence. Lawmakers need to stop and think about the consequences that come with allowing immature college students to possess a gun during school hours. Carrying guns on campus will not deter violence; it is not the best solution to a major issue concerning many state legislatures.

Word Count: 1527

Works Cited

“Beef up background checks; leave college gun bans alone.” USA Today. 23 Apr. 2007. Web. 11 Mar. 2011.

Fennell, Reginald. "Concealed Carry Weapon Permits: A Second Amendment Right or a Recipe for Disaster on Our Nation's Campuses?" Journal of American College Health 58.2 (2009): 99-100. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Mar. 2011.

“Guns on campus could cause more tragedy than they avert.” USA Today. 1 Mar 2011. Web. 12 Mar 2011.

Harnisch, Thomas. "Concealed Weapons On State College Campuses." American Association of State Colleges and Universities (2008). aWeb. 25 Apr. 2011.

Katel, Peter. “Crime on Campus: Are colleges doing enough to keep students safe?” CQ Researcher. Web. 12 Mar 2011.

Schulte, Bret. “Toward a Safer Campus.” U.S. News & World Report 142.15 (2007): 48-52. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Mar. 2011.


English 2000

Final Essay

Budgetary Blues

Higher education is a topic that looms heavily in the United States. It seems as though it is a subject that is perpetually being debated amongst the country’s legislators and government, both locally and nationally. The idea of receiving a college degree is something that is instilled in a majority of the country’s youth from the beginning of their educational experience. Children are urged to work tirelessly towards this goal, in the hopes that their future will be brighter and more prosperous than those of their parents. It is an unspoken myth that if one were to receive a degree from an Ivy League university such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton or Berkeley, they are set for life (Moore 132). But even at a more fundamental level, a college degree of any kind, no matter the source, tends to prove more beneficial than not having the degree at all. It seems to be relentlessly pounded into the heads of students that they have the potential to be much more successful in life if they obtain a college education, as opposed to those with just a high school diploma. Although this situation is ideal, receiving this ever-elusive degree is becoming more and more difficult. Obstacles that are not under the student’s control can hinder their educational experience. In the state of Louisiana, for example, budget cuts to higher education are causing the students within the state to suffer at the hands of the state government. The outcome of such cuts to an already struggling educational system is severely detrimental to not only the students, but also the faculty and staff that work at these institutions. Louisiana State University, arguably one of the state’s primary universities, is facing millions of dollars in cuts. This staggering amount will undoubtedly have a negative effect on not only the welfare of the students, but also on the economy of the state as a whole. The legislators and governing officials need to make this issue a top priority. The Louisiana State Government needs to reorganize the state’s constitution and strive for a more privately funded educational system in order to protect the welfare of the state’s students and administrators.

2009 saw what can be argued as the most severe economic recession in decades. It put pressure on both the individual, as well as states. There are still remnants of this crisis that can be found today. States, such as Louisiana, continue to “grapple with an ongoing budget crisis brought about by a national economic recession and subsequent declines in state tax revenues” (LAB 5). Since the beginning of 2009, LSU has seen it’s budget cut by over $45 million. As a result, the university has had to make changes to its curriculums and staff in order to accommodate such cuts. It has been reported that more than 140 faculty positions have been eliminated (LSU). Such losses have also resulted in the eradication of many programs of study, such as the Portuguese portion of the Foreign Language Department. Such a cut may seem minute, but to a student with a major in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America, for example, such a cut can be very severe. The Foreign Language Department has been hit particularly hard, with the cutting of multiple languages, but it is not the only department feeling the heat. Department’s campus-wide will see negative affects of the cuts, whether it is a degree in German or a class in business ethics. Cuts to staff will result in larger class sizes and students being unable to take a class required to graduate, which could result in a student being unable to graduate on time (LSU).

The cuts to LSU’s budget could also affect its Flagship Agenda and top-tier status. While the school is still Louisiana’s flagship university, the cuts severely obstruct the school’s “plan for national excellence” (LSU). For example, instead of adding over 100 faculty members, the university has been forced to lose 140. And while LSU is still considered a top-tier university, this distinguished status is at risk. Budget cuts put things that determine top-tier status at risk, such as faculty-student ratio and quality of faculty. The loss of top-tier status would make the university less attractive to prospective students, as well as to their families and the educational community as a whole.

LSU isn’t just meaningful to the students that attend it; it serves as an important factor in the economy of the state as well. The university provides a “steady stream of new residents for the area each year” with the incoming freshmen class (Barnes 7). This new pool of residents spends a sizeable amount of money while residing in the city, further boosting the economy. In 2010, the university brought in revenues of $825 million. This amount of money can safely be said to “constitute a very large rock dropped in the Baton Rouge economy” (Barnes 9). Continuing budget cuts will further lower the standards of the university, which will in turn reduce the number of qualified students that choose to attend. If prospective students see a university that is continuing to eliminate degree programs a faculty, they will more than likely choose to pursue their education elsewhere. Not only will prospective students wish to go elsewhere, but qualified teachers will also. No instructor would look twice at an institution that is perpetually eliminating its faculty. Continuing cuts to higher education will just drive the qualified teachers within the state to seek employment elsewhere, where they can find stable and reliable schools. Without quality professors, the university is lost.

In order to combat these growing worries, the state government needs to immediately take action. First, they need to reorganize the state’s Constitution so that budget cuts do not come primarily from higher education, as they do now. A “budgetary framework that places the burden of budgetary shortfalls on higher education” should not be tolerated, as the results will be disastrous (LAB 19). Such an unsteady institution should not have the weight of the budget cuts entirely upon its shoulders. Secondly, the state government needs to strive towards a more privately funded educational system. TOPS is proving to be a black hole for the government’s budget, with far too many students depending on the free ride that it offers. To correct this large budgetary error, the state government could “reduce the total amount of TOPS awarded, increase the academic requirements to qualify for TOPS, or provide TOPS based on financial need” (LAB 19). It should be kept in mind that education is a privilege, not a right granted to everyone. These adjustments could easily begin to close the budgetary gap, and would help to correct the large budget deficit.

The budget cuts to higher education within Louisiana are nothing short of a tragedy. They are some of the state’s most pressing issues, and are slowly ending the long-standing tradition that comes with a LSU education by abolishing programs and faculty. If, as is widely believed, one’s future depends on the education they receive, the government is “cutting America’s future by cutting the budget” to the higher education institutions (Magruder). These cuts should be dealt with immediately, as the fate of the state’s higher education system is at risk.

Works Cited

Barnes, Stephen R, and Dek Terrell. "The Economic Impact of Louisiana State University on the Baton Rouge MSA." Louisiana State University. Louisiana State University, February 2011. Web. 2 May 2011.

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