By Nalini Lasiewicz, BOL, Registrar, Crossroads of Learning
Earlier this year a discussion on protesting the trend towards machine scoring of essays drew significant interest among members of the WPA-L Listserv, an international e-mail discussion group intended primarily for professionals in writing program administration at universities, colleges and community colleges. Their postings quickly moved from the theoretical to a call to action, generating hundreds of posts and perspectives. Within a few weeks, members of the list collaborated on, and launched, an online petition against machine scoring of high-stake tests.
The “Human Readers” petition and website delivers an urgent appeal to all stakeholders to temper the rush in implementing this still controversial technology. They urge policy makers to remain committed to the use of human readers in evaluating and critiquing student essays. They are also asking their own institutions to stop buying or accepting machine scoring of essays until the process is proven to be “valid, equitable, and worth stakeholders’ money.” (http://humanreaders.org)
Evolving since the early 1960s, education and technology companies have developed software and data base management systems to support the collection of student data, including the delivery and grading of high stake products such as the SAT. In recent years, and with both public and commercial funding, an economic engine has exploded in the education field, with technology and service providers playing a major role.