New Jersey Considering Automated Grading on PARCC Tests

PARCC

While standardized tests in New Jersey will be graded by hand this year, the state is considering using automated scoring for the new Common Core-related exams in the future.

The automated scoring would include grading completed essays for the English portion of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams, which are now taken online.

The exams this year will be graded by hand, but 10% of the online essays will also be subject to a “second read” by computers as a test run of the automated system.  The additional review will not be subject to grading, writes Leslie Brody for The Wall Street Journal.

Jeff Hauger, the department’s director of assessments, said the state is currently researching how much of the testing should be automated for future exams, but no decision has been made on the issue as of yet.

The contract the state currently holds with PARCC requires an eventual transition to computer grading on most exams.  A small portion of tests will be allowed to remain hand graded, which will include those being reconsidered due to a challenge on the grade.  However, the option will only be considered if it proves to be cost effective and accurate.

Hauger said the automated grading would be beneficial for the state, as it allows for scores to be given to students and schools quicker than if they had been hand graded.  In addition, he believes it to be less expensive.

Currently, the state spent $28 million on testing this year, a 10% increase from last year.  The majority of this increase is due to the state’s contract with Pearson Education Inc. for the administration of the PARCC exams.

However, the state still needs proof of these benefits before it can move forward with the new system.  Critics of the new system believe that an automated system could not possibly grade exams that handle complex writing as well as human scorers are able to.  All scorers hired to grade PARCC exams hold degrees in mathematics, reading, education, or a related field, reports Adam Clark for NJ.com.

“We would not go full automated scoring without having some information for us to believe that actually it does just as good of a job as human scores,” Hauger said.

Scores that will be considered passing for this year’s exam will not be determined by the PARCC consortium until the summer, so students will not receive their scores until October.  About 40% of the test questions will be released in conjunction with the scores.

PARCC officials report the transition to automated testing to be the plan for all states who participate in the testing.  Currently, 11 states as well as the District of Columbia are administering the tests this spring to 5 million students.  That includes around 900,000 students in New Jersey.