Insightful article from District Administration...
"Can software spot a great essay?
Computers advance as writing assessment tool that saves teachers time
Three times each year, middle school students in Birmingham, Michigan, take a 30-minute, timed writing assessment online.
The test is done 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.
Remember, a computer tool, not the teacher, is doing this.
As Common Core standards require students to write extensively across the curriculum, such automatic assessment tools can help ease the grading burden for teachers. More districts are using online writing assessment tools to save teachers time and to give students writing practice that includes immediate analysis.
These programs bring the futuristic intelligence of machines to today’s classrooms, helping to achieve rigorous educational standards with high technology.
“Students learn best when they have immediate feedback on their writing,” says Deborah Gollnitz, curriculum coordinator at Birmingham Public Schools, who views Criterion as a learning tool more than a scoring tool. “It is a learning tool for students and a teaching tool for teachers.”
For instance, when 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. Teachers also might pull small groups of students out to work on certain skills.
Students nationwide need more effective, consistent training in writing. In 2012, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administered the Writing Computer-Based Assessment to about 13,000 fourth graders.
The assessment measured students’ abilities to develop, organize and express ideas to achieve a purpose and address a specific audience. About 14 percent of the responses demonstrated competent or effective writing skills—meaning the writing was fairly balanced, it reflected some awareness of the audience, and demonstrated proper grammar and mechanics.
In addition to more and longer writing assignments, the Common Core increases focus on writing on computers and includes computer-based writing assessments. While technology is no substitute for real, live teachers, the consistent use of online grading tools in the classroom is helping to improve students’ writing, says Luci Willits, deputy executive director at Smarter Balanced.
Following are case studies from three districts that use online writing assessment tools to build students’ writing skills..."
Read the full article at its source: http://www.districtadministration.com/article/can-software-spot-great-essay