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Bots Grade Your Kids’ Schoolwork—and They’re Often Wrong

Bots Grade Your Kids’ Schoolwork—and They’re Often Wrong

Some parents might be in for an unpleasant surprise when report cards come out this fall: lower-than-expected grades. But that might be less an accura

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Some parents might be in for an unpleasant surprise when report cards come out this fall: lower-than-expected grades. But that might be less an accurate reflection of their children’s work than a glitch in the automated systems many schools are using to check schoolwork.

Unless parents and teachers review students’ tests, the problem can be easy to miss. I discovered the problem only when my fifth-grader bombed a science test for which I knew he was prepared. I opened the test online to see what he had missed and found some of his typed-in answers were correct but marked wrong. The “error”? They contained capital letters. I figured I’d better go through every test he had taken, and when I did I found several more examples.

Auto-grading promised to save teachers time but now has many of them spending hours poring over answers to their students’ every assessment and exam—if they’re aware of the grading problems at all.

The root of the failure is in the simplistic design of many grading bots: They try to match a student’s response to a teacher’s answer key. If the two aren’t identical, the response is often marked wrong, even if a human could easily see it’s correct. It is yet another headache for teachers, parents and students brought on by the sudden shift to remote learning.

The makers of such educational software acknowledge the problems with auto-grading and say many teachers didn’t have enough time to properly train on how to use the online platforms.

This post first appeared on wsj.com

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