By Jennifer Roland
Essays have long been considered the gold standard for measuring students’ understanding of a subject. But because multiple-choice tests have been graded by machines, making them easy and relatively inexpensive to administer, these sub-standard assessments are primarily what schools use for standardized test.
But is it possible to combine the more nuanced understanding that essays give us with the ease of automated grading? The Hewlett Foundation would like to find out. Last month, the organization announced a $100,000 prize that will go to the software designer who can best create an automated essay grader. The goal, they say, is to find an efficient tool that will encourage schools to use essays more regularly for assessments.
“[High cost and slow turnaround] typically mean that many school systems exclude essays in favor of multiple-choice questions, which are less able to assess students’ critical reasoning and writing skills,” Hewlett Foundation wrote in its announcement. “Rapid and accurate automated essay scoring will encourage states to include more writing in their state assessments. And the more we can use essays to assess what students have learned, the greater the likelihood they’ll master important academic content, critical thinking, and effective communication,” said Barbara Chow in the release.
But there’s valid skepticism around robo-graders. Les Perelman, director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at MIT, who’s a noted critic of these types of tools, believes automated essay Continue reading