English Teachers Reject Use of Robots to Grade Student Writing

Critics of standardized tests argue that the written portion of those assessments can short-circuit the process of developing ideas in writing. Using machines to grade those tests further magnifies their negative effects, according to a statement adopted last month by the National Council of Teachers of English.

As high-school students prepare for college, the statement reads, they “are ill served when their writing experience has been dictated by tests that ignore the evermore complex and varied types and uses of writing found in higher education.”

The statement is unlikely to quell controversy over the use of automated grading tools to assess a new wave of standardized tests of writing that are being developed for students at elementary and secondary levels.

The intent of the statement, which was passed unanimously by the council’s executive committee, is to prompt policy makers and designers of standardized tests to think more fully about the pitfalls of machine scoring, said Chris M. Anson, director of the writing-and-speaking program at North Carolina State University. Mr. Anson is also chair of the committee that drafted the statement for the council, a 35,000-member organization that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of English at all levels of the education system.

Chief among the council’s concerns, said Mr. Anson, is that machine grading tends to recognize, and therefore encourage, writing that may appear superficially competent, but lacks meaning or context. <Read more.>

Via Dan Berrett, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.