Preparing for the alst andrew ratner and gail buffalo structure of the writing section



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PREPARING FOR THE ALST

  • ANDREW RATNER AND GAIL BUFFALO

STRUCTURE OF THE WRITING SECTION

  • Writing Task 2 (200 words; 20 min.)
  • Explain how specific information presented in tables/charts support or counter the claims, reasoning, and evidence in Passage B.
  • Writing Task 1
  • (200 words; 20 min.)
  •  
  • Read two opposing arguments on an issue (Passage A and B);
  • Critique arguments and make a case for which one is stronger.
  •  
  • Writing Task 3 (400-600 wds; 60 min) 
  • Present a fully developed argument that introduces and supports your own claim on the issue presented in the reading passages and graphs.
  • The Basics of Analyzing Arguments
  • You can assess the quality of arguments on three criteria:
  • Decide which argument that you read is more compelling by comparing strengths and weaknesses within and across each of these areas.

LOGIC

  • STRONGER WHEN
  • Reasons logically lead to the claim (“Sound”: 1+1=2);
  • Evidence clearly supports the stated reasons for the claim;
  • Ideas are consistent and build on each other.
  • WEAKENED BY
  • Insufficient evidence (not enough to support reasons/claims);
  • Logical Fallacies
        • Non-Sequiturs
        • Contradictions
        • False Dichotomy/False Choices
        • Hasty Generalizations
        • Correlation does not equal causality (Ad hoc).

EMOTIONAL POWER

  • STRENGTHENED BY:
  • Evidence that humanizes issue;
  • Author addressing ethical or moral dimensions of issue.
  • WEAKENED BY
  • Too many appeals to emotion (and not enough logic);
  • Personal attacks (ad hominem);
  • Appeal to fear/fear mongering.

Author’s Credibility

  • STRENGTHENED BY:
  • Clear and specific about sources of information and cited authorities;
  • Authors’ experience and qualifications match issue;
  • Author’s experience/qualification conducive to seeing all sides of issue;
  • Accurate presentation of opposing viewpoint.
  • WEAKENED BY
  • Lack of information about data sources and authorities;
  • Exaggeration;
  • Conflict of interest (author may have some stake in argument beyond stated reasons);
  • “Narrow” view of issue due to author’s background;
  • Appeal to false authority (name dropping);
  • Inaccurate presentation of opposing viewpoint.

ASSIGNMENT 1 WRITING STRATEGY

  •  Reviewing the passages.
  •  Step 1: Read title and first paragraph of Passage A to quickly identify and circle author’s claim and major reason (premise);
  • Step 2: Read rest of passage underlining (or mentally noting) lines that strike you as either particularly helpful or harmful to the author’s argument;
  • Step 3 Repeat step 1 and step 2 with passage 2;
  • Step 4 Choose which passage will be your “winner” and “loser” based on logic, emotional power, and credibility.
  • (Note: Don’t spend too much time deciding because you can make the case either way!)

ASSIGNMENT 1 WRITING STRATEGY (CONT.)

  • Writing Paragraph 1
  • Restate “losing” author’s position and his/her reasons for taking the position;
  • Quote a line from the passage that losing author uses as evidence of his/her premise; discuss why the evidence is not valid, relevant, or sufficient.
  • Quote another piece of evidence that the author offers as evidence in support of premise; describe why it is not valid, relevant, or sufficient.
  • Conclude with a sentence that states the general reasons that the passage is unpersuasive (e.g. “Due to the lack of evidence to support his major claim, author A/B’s overall argument is unpersuasive.” )

TRY PARAGRAPH 1 AND COMPARE YOUR RESPONSE:

  • Author A argues that readers should vote no on I-1240 because it will divert funds to the school system. She writes, “As a tax payer, I'm concerned because I-1240 creates an expensive new system of privately operated – but publicly funded – charter schools in Washington.” Later she posits that charters schools will “undermine the recent Supreme Court order to increase school funding so all students can succeed.” Because she never provides evidence or explanation to substantiate how funds will be “siphoned” from traditional public schools, her argument comes across as an “appeal to fear” rather than a reasoned position.

ASSIGNMENT 1 WRITING STRATEGY (CONT.)

  • Writing 2nd paragraph:
  • Paraphrase “winning” author’s position and his/her major reason for taking the position;
  • Quote a line from the passage and discuss how it demonstrates the author using evidence that logically supports his/her major claim or reason leading to the claim;
  • Quote another line from the passage and discuss how it demonstrates strength in another area of argumentation (e.g. emotional power; credibility);
  • Conclude with another comment or element in the text that demonstrates strength in a third area;
    • OR
  • Note what would have made one area more convincing/stronger and conclude with ;
  • “Despite this flaw, author B/A argument is the more balanced and compelling.”

TRY PARAGRAPH 2 AND COMPARE YOUR RESPONSE:

  • Author B argues that 1240 should be passed because it will provide Washington families options for finding the most suitable schooling for children. Her claims that “1240 will provide another option within our public schools to help more students succeed” and “as parents, that is something we can all agree is a good thing” carry both common sense logic and emotional resonance. By referring to specific elements of the legislation, for example, “1240 requires parent representation on the newly created state charter school commission,” Author B refutes some of Author A’s contentions and comes across as more authoritative and persuasive.

WRITING ASSIGNMENT 2

  • Use Passage B and the Graphic to respond to the following assignment.
  • In a response of approximately 100–200 words, explain how the information presented in the graphic can be integrated with the author's central argument for I-1240 in Passage B. Your response must:
  •  
  • explain how specific information presented in the graphic either supports or counters the author's claims, reasoning, and evidence with regard to the opening of charter schools;
  • and include examples from the passage and the graphic to support your explanation.
  •  Review the graphs/tables
  •  Ask: “What main points can we take away from the ‘data’ in regard to the issue? (If the graphic has a title, use it to help determine the main point);
  • Find a specific claim or information in passage B that is clearly consistent or inconsistent with the main point of the graphics. Underline it or make a mental note.
  • If possible, find a second claim or information in Passage B that may be consistent or inconsistent with the main point of the graphic or data within it.
  • Note: You don’t need to understanding everything about the graphics, just enough to support or counter a claim in Passage B.
  • ASSIGNMENT 2 STRATEGY (CONT.)
  •  Write the paragraph
  • State whether the graph supports or counters the specific claim or piece of information that you identified in Passage B;
  • Quote the specific claim or piece of information in Passage B that you identified as relevant to the graphic;
  • Discuss how a specific element in the graph/table supports or counters the claim or information in the passage.

TRY ASSIGNMENT 2 AND COMPARE YOUR RESPONSE:

  • Information in the graph counters Author B’s contention that I-1240 will result in high levels of accountability for charter schools. The chart indicates that on a national level only a small percentage of schools have been shut down between 2001 and 2010. Furthermore, the trend has been toward fewer charter closings over the ten years (3.75% in 2001 to less than 2% in 2010). Author B writes that under 1240 charter schools will be “subject to strict oversight and public accountability, overseen by a local school board or a newly created charter school” and “to annual performance reviews and an evaluation at the end of five years to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.” Even if charter schools have been generally successful in providing a better education for students than traditional public schools, it seems unlikely that 98% have met the accountability requirements of the state’s governing bodies. Because Author B has not discussed how Washington’s governance model will be different than other states, these statistics call into question her belief that charter schools in the state will be held accountable for their performance.

GENERAL TIPS FOR WRITING SECTION

    • Consider completing the writing sections first;
    • Note any identifying or clarifying content before beginning each of the the reading passages (e.g. Title, Information about author);
    • Conventions Count! Make last-minute spelling and grammar edits after completing the writing task;
    • Write in present tense. Only use past tense when presenting historical facts;
    • Don’t give up! Focus on what you do understand! You can pass the writing assignments without understanding or addressing every point in the passages and graphs.

TIPS (CONT.)

  • Practice! Use the available practice exams and take them under timed testing conditions. In addition to the CCNY ALST Practice Exams, you can access two others at the following web addresses:
    • http://www.nystce.nesinc.com/STUDYGUIDE/NY_SG_CRI_202.htm#perf2 (free)
    • http://www.nystce.nesinc.com/NY_PracticeTests.asp ($30.00)
  • Good website for learning more about and using logical fallacies for making and analyzing arguments: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38084455/Fallacies-of-Credibility-and-Context
  • Get personalized feedback on writing portions of ALST practice exams at the CCNY Writing Center: http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/writing/


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