Colin Harris Contributing Writer
With books, homework, tests and quizzes piled high on already strenuously busy education majors, why not add more? The mandatory Praxis exam seems to be the answer.
The four and a half hour long test, composed of a reading section, math section and two essay prompts, seems almost unbearable for some education majors. It measures students’ capability with these subjects and must be completed before they start their student teaching.
Without passing the Praxis, education students may not be able to take certain higher level courses. In the special education department, students must pass the exam in order to take classes above the 200 level, according to special education major Heather McDonald.
The Praxis requires a minimum score of 156 in reading, 162 in writing and 150 in math. If these scores aren’t met, the student must retake the exam again until the benchmarks have been reached.
Brooke Valentin, a second-year rehabilitation service major, has mixed feelings about Praxis. “I was an [early childhood special education] major but I just recently made the switch over to rehabilitation services. I realized that being in the classroom isn’t for me and I like more one on one with children,” Valentin said.
She struggled with the Praxis exam and it impeded her progression through the education program. “I took math and writing twice. I’ve never been good at math so the math test was really hard for me and caused lots of anxiety and worry.” Valentin said. “I felt like I was stuck.” She attributes part of her struggle to her issues with standardized testing and the “high stakes” of these exams.
Valentin made an effort to improve her scores through serious study but was still challenged. “I bought a book designed for Praxis Core and met with a tutor in the Learning Commons,” she said. “It definitely helped, but it’s hard to teach all that math in just a month.”
“I think the Praxis should be re-evaluated,” Valentin said. “It should be more of a test about the learning standards and developmentally appropriate practices. The test should focus on what an educator is actually going to be teaching in their classroom, rather than general overall knowledge.”
Ripley Biggs, a third year early childhood special education major, has taken Praxis a total of four times as of now. “I took my first Praxis test at the beginning of sophomore year. I was able to pass two out of the three sections, but kept tripping up on the math section,” Biggs said. “I feel like I’m just repeating this test over and over again.”
Biggs has spent copious amounts of money preparing for the exam. “I bought the big textbook to get ready [and] I bought the online study service that is around $60 a month to study for Praxis.” She’s found these resources to be helpful, but not enough to bring her scores up where they need to be.
On top of expenses related to study materials, the Praxis Core costs $90 for each subtest or $150 for the combined test, according to the Praxis website. The high cost becomes a serious burden on students in financially unstable positions who are already struggling under tuition, fees and living expenses. To have to repeat the test in order to continue with their education only heightens this stress.
Biggs agrees with Valentin’s sentiment on the importance of Praxis as well as critiques on the content it tests. “I believe that Praxis should be required for education majors, however, the test needs to be fixed,” Biggs said. “The test should be focused more on what I need in the field.” For instance, Biggs must answer exam questions on statistics and probability even though the highest math she would be teaching is counting due to her concentration.
Ripley Biggs Contributing Writer
As applications for new Community Assistants (CA) open up for the spring semester, students should know there is more to the job than meets the eye.
“I would say that [students] should know that being a CA is a 24/7 job, even when we are not in the office we are technically ‘on duty,’” said Sierra Tarbox, Scott Hall CA and junior liberal studies major.
Being “on duty” is the most visible part of being a CA. “Duty is when you sit in the office and take care of things like paperwork, hanging up posters, filling out things, and checking on residents,” said Tess Gioia, Stone Hall CA and sophomore with a currently undeclared major.
Other CA job responsibilities include making bulletin boards and door decs as well as going to meetings and ensuring a healthy, safe and thriving dorm environment. Additionally CA’s are the first ones to arrive in the fall and after breaks and the last ones to leave after checking everyone else out.
CA’s have to participate in training before each semester, both to refresh themselves and to meet and work with new staff. As they are also mandated reporters, CA’s engaged in more difficult training as well, preparing for instances, “like if a resident were to come to us saying that they’ve been sexually assaulted or how we would handle a mental health/suicidal ideation situation,” said Tarbox.
Cait Davidson and Sierra Tarbox (Photo courtesy of Sierra Tarbox)
Training also includes guest speakers, such as staff from the Health Center, Public Safety or Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services (SAPARS), according to Tarbox. “We also have presentations from our Area Coordinators and other residential life staff members and sometimes even other Community Assistants, we also do group activities,” she said. “They really try to change it up and keep us engaged with the stuff we’re doing, as everything we’re learning is incredibly pertinent to the job that we were hired to do.”
To help build a community in their residence halls, CA’s put on a variety of programs. The programs must fall under one of five categories: community building, diversity and support, health and well-being, personal development and all areas. “We use these programs to educate residents, bring fun into the hall, and build a sense of community,” said Tarbox.
People who want to be a CA go into the job for many different reasons. Tarbox said, “I am a Community Assistant because I am the kind of person who takes joy from helping other people, and to have a job that allows me to act as a support system for people who need it. It is something I really value.”
Being a CA comes with many challenges. “The biggest challenges of this job I would say are the time commitments,” Tarbox said, “and sometimes if you aren’t careful and practicing self-care you can burn out pretty easily.”
But the job also comes with many rewards. “Actually being able to help someone when they need support is the best possible reward. Helping residents be happy and successful is an incredible feeling,” said Tarbox.
“This job is important because we have to help maintain order and safety within the halls so that everyone can be their most successful and authentic selves during their time here,” Tarbox continued. “I would also mention that we are students and people too, we can get overwhelmed and tired just as easily as anyone else so please take it easy on us, we are just trying to keep you all safe, that’s our top priority.”
For people who are interested in applying to be a CA, Erica Crawley, graduate student and Area Coordinator for Scott Hall, recommends, “evaluat[ing] if being a CA is really what you want to do, make sure you have the time, talk to a CA.” Crawley also asks students, “Do you have the ability to relate to people? If you can strike up a conversation with people you don’t know, that is huge.”
“If you are thinking about applying, my advice is to just go for it! This job isn’t meant for one specific kind of person. For example, I’m super introverted but I’m still able to do this job. We thrive most when there are many different kinds of people on staff,” said Tarbox.
“My advice is to be yourself. If you act any differently, you aren’t being true to who you are, which is a big part of the job. Just be yourself and relax,” said Gioia.
According to the University of Maine at Farmington work-study job opportunities list, there are 37 CA positions on campus. Interested applicants must have a GPA of 2.5, but if someone who is interested has a lower GPA there can be a probationary period to allow the GPA to improve. The application process involved is somewhat different for spring versus fall semester. Both require a resume, cover letter, and recommendations from both current CA’s and staff or outside sources. Applicants will shadow a CA while on duty and write up a reflection on the experience. Lastly, there is an in-person interview.
If any interested student would like to apply to become a CA, student life has started the process of hiring for next semester. Applications are being accepted until Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. More information about the application process and the application form can be found at https://sites.google.com/maine.edu/community-assistant-app/
Ripley Biggs Contributing Writer
Recently the University of Maine System (UMS) announced that they are unveiling a new initiative called “Maine Values You,” to bring more students to UMS institutions. This will proactively reach out to members of the graduating high school classes of 2020 who will be attending a UMS institution, aiming to cover all tuition and fees for more than 1,200 of these students, according to a recent UMS press release.
The message, which will be seen on television and social media, is coming from UMS newly appointed Chancellor Dannel Malloy, formerly the Governor of Connecticut, who outlines the work the System has been doing over the past six years to make Maine’s Public Universities affordable to everyone. This affordability has been attained by tuition and fees being capped for the past six years, with increases only being made to keep up with inflation.
In addition, more financial aid has been made available to Maine students to help make paying for college less of a burden if they attend a public university. By attending a state-supported school, students owe about $4,000 a year less than their peers who chose to attend one of Maine’s private universities or who choose to go out of state.
The deal is even better for those attending the University of Maine Augusta, Fort Kent, Presque Isle or Machias. Through the tuition guarantee program of each of these four UMS locations, qualified and eligible in-state, full-time, first-year students will not pay any out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and fees.
According to UMS Executive Director of Public Affairs, Dan Demeritt, “The gap between the cost of higher education and the student’s ability to pay for that education using full financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships has gotten smaller.”
In fact, the high school class of 2018 saw 1,142 freshmen, which was 40% of the incoming freshman class to UMS schools, receiving a high-quality education free from all tuition and fee charges. The “Maine Values You” initiative was formed in order to formally build on the success that UMS has seen for the students with the most need.
Last year $11 million in scholarship money was collected from alumni, civic organizations and other Maine businesses.
In the aforementioned press release, Jack Ryan, President of Wright-Ryan Construction in Portland as well as University of Southern Maine (USM) Foundation Board member and UMS community donor, stated, “Education is the best investment money can buy. . . initiatives like USM’s Promise Scholarship [helps] underserved young achievers from Maine the chance they deserve to attend and graduate college with little or no student debt.”
UMF President Edward Serna is supportive of the “Maine Values You” initiative, as he said, “The commitment to cover tuition and fees for 1,200 new Maine students next fall is another important way we can put the power of a UMF education — and all the benefits it provides — within reach of Maine students and their families.”
As the money from this initiative will be going only to the incoming class of Fall 2020, current UMS students will not be able to access this funding. However, the younger siblings of current students may be able to take advantage of this program.
The first step to receiving this aid is filling out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) which is the form completed by current and prospective college students in the U.S. to determine eligibility for financial aid.
According to the Finance Authority of Maine, as cited by the UMS press release, 2,595 Maine students did not complete the FAFSA which resulted in over $10 million in Pell Grants left unused (Pell Grants being federal student loans that don’t require a repayment from the student).
The UMS hopes the “Maine Values You” program will encourage every Maine student to at least fill out the form even if they don’t think they are college-bound. “We hope to meet the need for as many students as we can, for as long as we can,” said Demeritt.
Ripley Biggs, Contributing Writer
Whether you want food that is close to home or you have a more global pallet, Farmington is the place to be. With roughly 30 restaurants in the area, ranging from fast food to fancy, homemade to chain food, and local to global, there really is something for everybody.
“There is a pretty good variety in terms of ethnic food,” said junior Jacob Bishopp. Of the roughly 30 restaurants in Farmington, around 13 of those are within walking distance of campus, which for many college students can be a lifesaver if they do not have access to a car.
“The places to eat are all fairly close to campus, which is both smart and nice. Smart because tired college students can easily get to them and nice for said, tired students,” said recent UMF graduate Caitlin Hession.
For some students, the food right around campus is not exactly what they are craving.
The Mantor Library Cafe is a great spot to grab a quick cup of coffee and to study (Photo courtesy of UMF).
That’s where delivery comes into play. Students can use the downtown delivery app to get food right to their doorstep.
Word began to spread that Pizza Hut now delivers, and students were thrilled. “Pizza Hut is great for broke college students and it’s nice they finally deliver,” said fifth-year student Rowan Burns.
One thing that is very near and dear to most college students is coffee and with the many different options, each student is bound to find their favorite spot to get a cup of that delicious brown bean juice. Some students find Dunkin Donuts to be a nice, quiet place to study. Others may like what Mantor Cafe has to offer. On snow days, some even make the pilgrimage to Java Joe’s.
One thing that students miss the most when they come to college is a good, old-fashioned home-cooked meal, but once they get to campus they discover that they may be able to fill that need easier than they thought they would. With restaurants like Soup For You and The Downtown Press students can feel right at home with friendly atmospheres and even friendlier staff. There are plenty of healthy alternatives for those that want to focus on nutrition like Determined Nutrition.
With all of the restaurants in town, some students wish there were some more affordable options “The food is good but most of it is quite pricey for broke college students,” said Burns. “Especially if you get food delivered,” added Hession. One thing that students wish that they could have to make dining downtown even better would be student discounts.