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Can Computer Tools That Grade Student Essays Replace Teachers?

Can Computer Tools that Grade Student Essays Replace Teachers?

Can a computer program stand in for a teacher when it comes to reading and grading student writing assessments? Online publication District Administration looks into the benefits and disadvantages of using an online assessment tool to grade student essays in place of or in supplement to teacher grading.

According to, tool is used in a Michigan middle school where students are given a 30-minute timed assessment "through Criterion, an ETS online writing evaluation service.Student writers receive immediate feedback on their grammar and mechanics, as well as links to exemplary writing that displays techniques the test-takers need to work on."

Proponents of the technology argue that the advanced tools ensure alignment with increased Common Core standards, ease the burden of grading for teachers, and provide students with instantaneous feedback.

"[W]hen students are regularly reminded to use active voice or avoid sentence fragments, they will eventually internalize those techniques. And teachers can see where students are tripping up on grammar and can create a lesson on problem areas for the very next day," the article said.

The article considers several different case studies using results and feedbacks from online writing assessment programs. Though teachers in Placentia Yorba Linda, Orange County, CA do not believe the programs will replace teachers, they generally agree they are a useful tool for the school.

"[T]he tool provides students and teachers with graphs showing the frequency of common mistakes, and this data can guide a teacher’s instruction. Teachers can set the assessments to focus on specific skills, such as spelling, time and whether students are allowed to use a thesaurus on the assignment," the article said.

In Portland Public Schools in Connecticut, teachers compare their online assessment tool, PEG Writing, to a living, breathing teacher and continue to use it despite the fact it was free and now costs money.

But educators in the Portland school district insist that teachers have the final say, and must use their analysis to "score essays for textual evidence and content accuracy using a 0-to-3-star scoring system" in the PEG Writing program.

In other words, though many educators seemingly appreciate the support that online writing assessments provide, the feedback, guidance, and touch of a teacher cannot be replaced.

Read the full article here and comment below. Does your school district use a computerized essay assessment tool?

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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