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SAT Essay score 3/3/3: Learn why this student received a medium score
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SAT Essay Prompt
As you read the passage below, consider how Dana Gioia uses
- evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
- reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
- stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
Adapted from Dana Gioia, “Why Literature Matters.” © 2005 by The New York Times Company. Originally published April 10, 2005.
[A] strange thing has happened in the American arts during the past quarter century. While income rose to unforeseen levels, college attendance ballooned, and access to information increased enormously, the interest young Americans showed in the arts—and especially literature—actually diminished.
According to the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a population study designed and commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts (and executed by the US Bureau of the Census), arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured. . . . The declines have been most severe among younger adults (ages 18-24). The most worrisome finding in the 2002 study, however, is the declining percentage of Americans, especially young adults, reading literature.
That individuals at a time of crucial intellectual and emotional development bypass the joys and challenges of literature is a troubling trend. If it were true that they substituted histories, biographies, or political works for literature, one might not worry. But book reading of any kind is falling as well.
That such a longstanding and fundamental cultural activity should slip so swiftly, especially among young adults, signifies deep transformations in contemporary life. To call attention to the trend, the Arts Endowment issued the reading portion of the Survey as a separate report, “Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.”
The decline in reading has consequences that go beyond literature. The significance of reading has become a persistent theme in the business world. The February issue of Wired magazine, for example, sketches a new set of mental skills and habits proper to the 21st century, aptitudes decidedly literary in character: not “linear, logical, analytical talents,” author Daniel Pink states, but “the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative.” When asked what kind of talents they like to see in management positions, business leaders consistently set imagination, creativity, and higher-order thinking at the top.
Ironically, the value of reading and the intellectual faculties that it inculcates appear most clearly as active and engaged literacy declines. There is now a growing awareness of the consequences of nonreading to the workplace. In 2001 the National Association of Manufacturers polled its members on skill deficiencies among employees. Among hourly workers, poor reading skills ranked second, and 38 percent of employers complained that local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension.
The decline of reading is also taking its toll in the civic sphere. . . . A 2003 study of 15- to 26-year-olds’ civic knowledge by the National Conference of State Legislatures concluded, “Young people do not understand the ideals of citizenship . . . and their appreciation and support of American democracy is limited.”
It is probably no surprise that declining rates of literary reading coincide with declining levels of historical and political awareness among young people. One of the surprising findings of “Reading at Risk” was that literary readers are markedly more civically engaged than nonreaders, scoring two to four times more likely to perform charity work, visit a museum, or attend a sporting event. One reason for their higher social and cultural interactions may lie in the kind of civic and historical knowledge that comes with literary reading. . . .
The evidence of literature’s importance to civic, personal, and economic health is too strong to ignore. The decline of literary reading foreshadows serious long-term social and economic problems, and it is time to bring literature and the other arts into discussions of public policy. Libraries, schools, and public agencies do noble work, but addressing the reading issue will require the leadership of politicians and the business community as well. . . .
Reading is not a timeless, universal capability. Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent-minded. These are not the qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.
Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.
In Dana Gioia's "Why Literature Matters", he uses comparisons as well as facts and statistics to assert why "advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors."
Gioia uses study-based statistics to support his thesis: "While income rose to unforeseen levels, college attendance ballooned, and access to information increased enormously, the interest young Americans showed in the arts - and especially literature - actually diminished." Gioia states that literary readers are more "civically engaged than non readers" and that they are two to four times more likely to participate in charity work, visit museum, or attend a sporting event. Of course, these are all positive characteristics for a person to have. Using this study-based fact, Gioia aims to alert people to the personal benefits that come with reading regularly. Also, Gioia lists traits that employers may desire in a potential employee such as: imagination, creativity and higher-order thinking. By doing this Gioia sends a message that having literary knowledge goes beyond literature and that it can be helpful in a workplace environment.
Gioia also uses comparisons between people who don't read and people who do. He states that poor reading skills ranked second among hourly workers and that 38 percent of employers complained that local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension. Those statements may accomplish two things: scare any parent reading this passage in that their child may not be getting a good education, and inspire his audience to not be one of the people that their employer is displeased with. Just from that statement, Gioia has captured the attention of parents and any other individual that is insecure about their literary skills as well.
In conclusion, Gioia uses study-based statistics as factual proof to portray to his audience how America's literary education is slowly failing. Gioia also uses comparison and constrast to depict to his audience what a desirable literary education provides as well as what the lack of literary education can result in.
This paper scored a 3/3/3.
Reading - 3
This response demonstrates effective comprehension of the source text by illustrating proficient understanding of the central ideas and important details in Gioia's piece.
- The writer appropriately uses textual evidence in the form of direct quotations to convey the central idea in the text ("....the interest young Americans showed in the arts - and especially literature - actually diminished").
- Furthermore, the writer accurately paraphrases some of the important details that support Gioia's main ideas ("Also, Gioia lists traits that employers may desire in a potential employee such as: imagination, creativity and higher-order thinking").
- The writer's understanding is further demonstrated throughout the remainder of the essay. In the concluding paragraph, for example, the writer succinctly summarizes the main point of the passage ("America's literary education is slowly failing") and aptly interprets Gioia's goal in writing: "to depict what a desirable literary education provides as well as what the lack of literary education can result in."
- The response is free of errors of fact and interpretation, and, on the whole, demonstrates proficient reading comprehension.
Analysis - 3
This response offers an effective analysis of Gioia's argument, demonstrating proficient understanding of the analytical task.
- Following the basic thesis that Gioia "uses comparisons as well as facts and statistics to assert why "advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors," the writer competently evaluates these elements of Gioia's text.
- In the second body paragraph, for example, the writer notes that Gioia's comparison of readers and nonreaders "may accomplish two things: scare any parent" and "inspire his audience". In this example, the writer explains the effect of Gioia's argument on the reader and, in so doing, demonstrates an understanding of how the comparison serves Gioia's argument.
- Although the writer occasionally provides unsubstantiated assertions ("Of course, these are all positive characteristics for a person to have; Just from that statement Gioia has captured the attention of parents"), this does not substantially detract from what is overall a proficient analysis of how Gioia builds and structures his argument.
Writing - 3
This response is mostly cohesive and demonstrates effective use of language.
- Although the introduction is only one sentence long, it contains a clear central claim (Gioia "uses comparisons as well as facts and statistics to assert why "advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit...").
- The essay follows this basic stucture, albeit in reverse order: the first body paragraph is centered on Gioia's use of "study-based statistics" and facts ("Gioia states that literary readers are more "civically engaged than non readers" and that they are two to four times more likely to participate in charity work"), while the second body paragraph is focused on Gioia's use of comparisons in the passage, such as his comparison "between people who don't read and people who do."
- There is a clearly signaled conclusion, which summarizes both the main ideas of Gioia's passage and the writer's preceding analysis.
- Each paragraph in the response remains on-topic and demonstrates a clear progression of ideas.
- The response also provides a variety of sentence structures and precise word choice and is free of significant language errors.
- Overall, this response demonstrates proficient writing.