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EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Announcing: Free Common Core Rubric Creation Tool!

We're super-proud to announce the release of our new tool that helps teachers create Common Core-aligned rubrics! Open to the public, totally free.

EssayTagger's Common Core Rubric Creation Tool

You are ahead of the curve and are working hard to align your curriculum to Common Core. But assessing and tracking your students' progress within Common Core is difficult -- and nigh impossible to do for essays.

I spent the whole dang summer wrestling with the standards, trying to figure out how to incorporate them into real-world, practical writing rubrics.

My initial approach was to try to coax the actual text of the standards into a more rubric-friendly format. But teachers shouldn't have to waste their time adapting the W.8.1a text just to be able to include "Thesis" on their rubrics.

Instead just evaluate "Thesis" like you normally would but add, "Oh, and by the way, 'Thesis' is part of W.8.1a." This is where the tool comes in to help you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On teacher accountability, pt1: The trouble with bad data

In Part 1 I lay out the case against teacher accountability measures via "value-added" analysis of standardized test score data. In part 2 I offer practical compromises.

Here in the Chicagoland area we are in the fourth day of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike that is making national headlines.

I did my Master of Education and teacher certification program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Not surprisingly, a lot of my former classmates are current Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers. I spoke with them last night as they returned from a day out on the picket lines.

They made it clear that this was about fighting a flawed teacher evaluation system that puts undo emphasis on their students' standardized test scores. They also have serious concerns about the push to privatize the public school system. Then are the more tangible things they're fighting for like reduced class sizes (raise your hand if you think 38 teenagers in one room can be productive at anything).

The media and the average Joe on the street think this is about money or benefits or the teachers stubbornly refusing any form of accountability. This is incorrect.

Let's talk about accountability. It's important.
Accountability matters. Teachers should be held to high standards and should be judged by the quality of their work.

Understand that teachers aren't fighting accountability; they're fighting a particular form of accountability that is of dubious value and may indeed be deeply flawed.

On teacher accountability, pt2: Possible compromises

In part 1 I laid out the case against the current method of teacher accountability via value-added analysis. Here I offer what I think are reasonable compromises.

This focus on quantifiable standardized test scores is not going to go away. Some form of accountability linked to test scores is unavoidable. Period. I leave it to the statisticians to refine the analysis and reduce that 53% margin of error.

But here are some practical solutions to incorporate this data while controlling for its flaws: