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"Writing is very time and labor and cost intensive to score at any type of scale," Wilson said.Those who have participated in the traditional method of scoring standardized tests know that it takes a toll on the human assessor, too.
The benefits of automation are great, from an administrative point of view.
If computer models provide acceptable evaluations and speedy feedback, they reduce the amount of needed training for human scorers and, of course, the time necessary to do the scoring.
" Some students were asking that question at Anna P.
Mote Elementary School, where teachers were testing software that automatically evaluates essays for University of Delaware researcher Joshua Wilson.
In earlier research, Wilson and his collaborators showed that teachers using the automated system spent more time giving feedback on higher-level writing skills – ideas, organization, word choice.
Those who used standard feedback methods without automated scoring said they spent more time discussing spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar." To find out, he distributed free software subscriptions provided by Measurement Incorporated to teachers of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Mote and Heritage and asked them to try it during the 2014-15 school year.Teachers don't dismiss the idea of automation, he said.The software Wilson used is called PEGWriting (which stands for Project Essay Grade Writing), based on work by the late education researcher Ellis B.Page and sold by Measurement Incorporated, which supports Wilson's research with indirect funding to the University.The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation's Report Card, first offered computer-based writing tests in 2011 for grades 8 and 12 with a plan to add grade 4 tests in 2017. Other standardized tests also include writing components, such as the assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment, used for the first time in Delaware this year.Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are computer-based tests that will use automated essay scoring in the coming years.These computer deficiencies are among the reasons many teachers – including the National Council of Teachers of English – roundly reject computerized scoring programs.They fear a steep decline in instruction, discouraging messages the soulless judge will send to students, and some see a real threat to those who teach English.Researchers have established that computer models are highly predictive of how humans would have scored a given piece of writing, Wilson said, and efforts to increase that accuracy continue.However, Wilson's research is the first to look at how the software might be used in conjunction with instruction and not as a standalone scoring/feedback machine.