Ericsson, Patricia Freitag & Haswell, Richard H. (Eds.). (2006). Machine Scoring of Student Essays: Truth and Consequences. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.*
A compilation of seventeen original essays by teachers of composition discussing the assessment methodology and educational impact of commercial computer-based essay-rating software such as the College Board’s WritePlacer Plus, ACT’s e-Write, ETS’s e-rater, Measurement, Inc.’s Project Essay Grade (PEG), as well as essay feedback software such as Vantage Learning’s MY Access!and ETS’s Criterion. Addresses many issues related to the machine scoring of writing: historical understandings of the technology (Ken S. McAllister & Edward M. White; Richard Haswell; Bob Broad); investigation into the capability of the machinery to “read” student writing (Patricia F. Ericsson; Chris M. Anson; Edmund Jones; William Condon); discussions of how students have reacted to machine scoring (Anne Herrington & Charles Moran); analysis of the poor validity in placing students with machine-produced scores (Richard N. Matzen, Jr. & Colleen Sorensen; William W. Ziegler; Teri T. Maddox); a comparison of machine scores on student essays with writing-faculty evaluations (Edmund Jones); a discussion of how writers can compromise assessment by fooling the computer (Tim McGee); the complicity of the composition discipline with the methods and motives of machine scoring (Richard Haswell); writing instructors’ positive uses of some kinds of computer analysis, such as word-processing text-checkers and feedback programs (Carl Whithaus); an analysis of the educational and political ramifications of using automated grading software in a WAC content course (Edward Brent & Martha Townsend); and an analysis of commercial promotional material of software packages (Beth Ann Rothermel). Includes a 190-item bibliography of machine scoring of student writing spanning the years 1962-2005 (Richard Haswell), and a glossary of terms and products.
Wilson, Maja. (2006). Apologies to Sandra Cisneros: How ETS’s computer-based writing assessment misses the mark. Rethinking Schools 20(3).*
Wilson tested Educational Testing Service’s Critique, the part of Criterion that provides “diagnostic feedback,” by sending it Sandra Cisneros’s chapter “My Name,” from The House on Mango Street.Critique found problems in repetition, sentence syntax, sentence length, organization, and development. Wilson then rewrote “My Name” according to Critique’s recommendations, which required adding an introduction, a thesis statement, a conclusion, and 270 words, turning it into a wordy, humdrum, formulaic five-paragraph essay.
Sandene, Brent, Horkay, Nancy, Bennet, Randy Elliot, Allen, Nancy, Braswell, James, Kaplan, Bruce & Oranje, Andreas. (2005). Part II: Online writing assessment. Online assessment in mathematics and writing: Reports From the NAEP Technology-Based Assessment Project, Research and Development Series. NCES 2005–457). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
While not a traditional peer-reviewed publication, the NAEP research report is considered a high-quality scholarly source; it describes the results of the 2002 Writing Online study of a national sample of eighth graders writing online and compared the results to those students taking the traditional pencil-and-paper format of the test. The report is a comprehensive comparison, which includes the machine scoring of essays using e-rater 2.0, with one subsection on the AES (pp. 37-44). Results of the study “showed that the automated scoring of essay responses did not agree with the scores awarded by human readers.” Moreover, AES “produced mean scores that were significantly higher” than those awarded by human readers and that the human readers “agreed with each other” at higher rates than the agreement between the AES scores and those produced by the human readers. In rank ordering essay, again human readers and AES did not agree at the same rates as human readers did with each other.
Penrod, Diane. (2005). Composition in Convergence: The Impact of New Media on Writing Assessment. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.*
Argues that since writing and writing assessment are intertwined, and since writing and writing standards are rapidly changing under the impact of digital technology, machine scoring cannot keep up: “The current push for traditional assessment standards melding with computer technology in forms like the Intelligent Essay Assessor, E-rater, and other software programs provides a false sense of establishing objective standards that appear to be endlessly repeated across time and space” (p. 164). Continue reading