Hate grading long compositions for hours? Not anymore, my friends. My district, Chelmsford Public Schools, adopted the Holt McDougal Literature series aligned to the Common Core, and with it comes the most fabulous invention known to man (move over, Thomas Edison!): “Holt Online Essay Scoring.” For all you English teachers out there, it’s a dream come true.
In the past, I’ve taken days (or weeks) to correct papers to give feedback to students. By that time, they have lost interest in the prompt, and the collective groan is enough to make me want to put a pencil in my eye. It’s not that I don’t want to read students’ papers. I do, and always will. It’s just that sometimes the amount of grading impacts how much revision instruction I can provide, and since the best writing is re-writing, my students suffer. Now, I can provide mastery-oriented feedback while students are working, and help them to revise using the instant feedback they get on the computer.
You may be skeptical. I was too. On my “Holt Online Essay Scoring” maiden voyage, I graded students’ papers traditionally on the program’s rubric so I could correlate results. Their rubric assesses content and development, focus and organization, effective sentences, word choice, and grammar, usage and mechanics using Common Core language. In each strand, student writing is identified as advanced, competent, limited, or emerging. The rubric then translates this information into a six point scale. Compared to my 15 hours, the computer graded all 97 essays in a nanosecond. The grade correlation? .92 If you’re not a statistics person – that means that the computer generated a score equal to mine more than 90% of the time. Also, the computer provided analytic feedback for students, which I used to inform future writing instruction and RTI.
Students are obsessed with the program. They treat it like a video game. If they submit their essays and don’t like their scores, they have the opportunity to use the analytic feedback to revise and repost for a higher grade. One student called me over today and said, “Hey Doc, I need you to stand here, because I’m just about to submit and I know I’m gonna get a 6. I want you to be here when I do.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
Now, I let the computer do the heavy lifting, while I am free to actually teach writing, provide 1:1 writing instruction, and provide students with the writing intervention that is most relevant to them. It’s a game changer.