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[Susan notes: . . . measures that are quantifiable and repeatable, but largely useless. He's right that the damage has been done.]

Published in New York Times
05/22/2004

To the editor

Skepticism over claims that computers can effectively grade student essays is justified. Good writing is not merely a matter of style, or even just of communication. At heart, it is a matter of knowledge and of reasoning about ideas, the twin pillars of understanding.



These are distinctively human skills, and if a computer can truly evaluate them, then a radical, yet unannounced, leap in artificial intelligence has occurred.



My first reaction, therefore, to the May 19 Education page article about Indiana's adoption of computer grading was that it is another move in education away from the spreading of knowledge and understanding toward the use of measures that are quantifiable and repeatable, but largely worthless.



Then again, if teacher-assigned grades are almost indistinguishable from those of the computer program, as a pilot program found, perhaps the damage has already occurred.



Andrew Raybould


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